Why doing what you love is not enough

Choosing a business to start

Have you heard statements such as “Do what you love and the money will follow” or “Be passionate and you will be successful” ?  I think they are misleading. Not because they are not true, but because they are only a third of the truth.

Here are the things I think you should keep in mind when choosing a business to start (or a career):

  1. Do something you love – Ok, I’m not messing with your head here!! 🙂 I do think it is important to do what you love. The reason for this is you want your work to give you life, not to feel like it is taking away your life. This is particularly true if you are a startup owner – because your business will be a big drain on your energy, time, relationships, wallet and almost everything else in your life. So take the time to find out what you really love to do. (By the way, what you love might be building a business  – you don’t have to be in love with your product.)
  2. Do something you are good at You might love lots of things but not be terribly good at them. Lots of psychological research over the last 20 years has shown that we are happiest and most motivated when we are doing something we feel we are good at. So since you are going to be spending a lot of time working on it, you might as well swing the odds of satisfaction in your favour – pick something you are good at.
  3. Do something that people will pay you for – Make sure there is a market for this thing that you love and are good at, or else you won’t be doing it long. This one comes from personal experience. My first career was as a composer- I loved to compose orchestral  music and was reasonably good at it. However, there is not much of a market for orchestral composers so basically, I didn’t make much money doing this. Fortunately, I also loved and was good at teaching music and there was a market for that – so that kept body and soul together for me. Now if I had worked hard, networked, learned how to market myself and persevered for long enough, I may have made a career as a composer, however the odds were not in my favour. Starting a business is hard enough – make sure you choose something that has a market
Choosing a business to start

Choosing a business to start

I also think there is also a fourth thing you need, that is, the skills to start and run a business.

Just because you love creating web apps, are good at it and there is a market for it, doesn’t mean that you will have a successful business doing it. There are skills you will need to make it work such as evaluating your opportunity, finding the right business model, marketing, financing and many more.

I see lots of people who have the first three factors but startup without business skills. They then struggle or give up and can’t work out why their business is not working. This is a shame, because everyone can learn the skills. But this sounds like the subject for another blog post…

What do you think? Join in the conversation in the comments.

(Acknowledgement: I am indebted to Tina Seelig’s book What I Wish I Knew When I was 20 for the 3 factors to consider. She was talking about careers, but I think they apply to businesses too. By the way, this book does an excellent job of outlining attitudes that are extremely helpful for entrepreneurs.)


  1. Mehul Pithadia says:

    I would say, Start with what you have on hand, what seems possible to do, no matter how tiny it may seem. Do not try to figure how it is going to expand. Seed does not know how it is going to be a flower. It just open itself and becomes flower. Be open to opportunity. Keep looking, keep pushing.

    • There is much wisdom in what you have to say Mehul. I like to combine your approach with strategy, research and critical thinking. Using the two give me a good basis for decision making I think.

      • Emily says:

        Great post!

        I completely agree Susan, especially about research. By conducting in-depth research into your business idea and target market can help to strengthen any business and marketing strategy.

  2. Great read! I believe a lot of companies struggle to “hit the sweet spot” that you demonstrate in your diagram.


  3. Great posts! The region halfway between passion and market could be named: “Scratch Your Own Itch”. For me, it is by far the most important element in that graph. If you use your own product and are developing features for yourself, chances are others will be willing to use and pay for said product.

    In the past, I have started companies building software tools for other people/professions (medical, law enforcement, gaming) and it didn’t work that well. Using my own product makes me more critical (bad — project takes longer) bu also makes me more focused on a finite set of features (good — product is simple & easy to explain).

    Obviously, it works better when you have other passions outside of building the business itself.

  4. I absolutely agree with this. It’s important to do something you love, but too many businesses start out thinking that’s all they need. And then they either fall down on the business skills they don’t have, or they have a wake up call when they realise that they don’t actually get to spend all their time doing the thing they love. I actually just published an article on my blog on this very point which I hope you won’t mind me sharing here


  1. […] may be great, but you don’t have the skills and resources to implement them. The idea has to be a good fit for your skills, passion and experience as well as being a good solution for your target market’s […]

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