Recently, my friend and informal mentor, Larry Winget, posted a fairly controversial blog post entitled, “Passion Has No Value.” When I saw that post, I knew that once again, Larry was going to light some fires. And indeed, after a week and a lively debate on Larry’s site, it seems I was right.

I might have opted into the dialogue on Larry’s site, but I wanted to spend some time with this one, rolling it around in my brain.

My initial gut reaction to Larry’s post was that indeed, passion itself isn’t enough for success. As Larry and I have always agreed, it takes expertise (and other things) to be successful. Ultimately, you’ve got to have the goods to back up whatever you promise, there’s no way around that. If you’ve got passion but no expertise, you can look forward to a short business life, leaving a lot of unhappy clients and customers in your wake.

But…the whole “passion has no value” thing…that’s got me feeling like a doorknob snagged my sweater: I can’t shake it loose.

I admit, I’ve evolved over the last year. I don’t really talk much about “passion” these days. I admit, I have talked about passion’s role in the micro-entrepreneurial business, but I never really felt quite settled about it. Passion is a word that has been overused and misunderstood.

These days, instead of “passion,” I talk about “fervor,” which the dictionary defines as “great intensity of feeling or belief.” Why fervor? Because just about every mega-successful person I know is intense in his or her own way, including (and perhaps especially) Larry. Passion, though, as Larry suggests, is a word that refers to an “uncontrollable” emotion, that frankly,  doesn’t have a place in business.

Emotion in general certainly has a role- it’s how we connect with people. After all, people do business with people and emotion plays a role in relationship-building. But uncontrolled emotion (passion) often gets in the way of an open, evolving, questioning mind, a necessary ingredient for success.

I do love working with entrepreneurs and I love helping small businesses grow. But I love the results I get more…and so do my clients.

And even if fervor and intensity are different from passion, they still aren’t enough for success. You can never exclude expertise from the equation. Without the “chops” to back up your fervor, you’ll never be successful (or at least, not for long). Successful business lies in the “sweet spot” that’s found in the cross-section of what you’re fervent about, what you’re really good at, and what sets you apart (the “power triad”).

I assume that Larry would agree with me that even if you’re great at what you do, you still have to find something that sets you apart, something that distinguishes you from the rest of the world (whether you’re an employee or an entrepreneur). Why do I assume Larry would agree with me? I mean…have you seen his boot collection alone? Larry himself has build a successful brand that fuses his unique personality (and fashion sense) with what he’s fervent about (cutting through the nonsense) and what he’s really good at (communicating that “straight shooter” vibe through multiple mediums).

I’ve worked with micro-entreprenuers who set up shop solely under the premise of turning their “passion into profits” and failed before looking for help. I’ve worked with small business owners who focused only on what they were good at, but didn’t enjoyed it and didn’t find much success before deciding to make a change.  And I’ve worked with folks in both of those categories who never packaged their business in a way that set them apart from everyone else in their industry, couldn’t reach their audience, and didn’t understand why.

Fervor, expertise, and packaging (or branding) are the first keys in success. They’re not the only keys, but they’re a good place to start.

And as for passion…as Larry suggests, that uncontrolled emotion is perhaps best left to the personal realm. Passion is what you feel about the things you want to create in your life- the ultimate outcomes like more time with family or creating a feeling of stability, safety, and security.  Passion about what you’re working towards is what keeps you motivated…and that does have value.

It’s just not enough for mega-success.

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