I often get asked why I left the SEAL teams in 2013 after 13 glorious years. My response is always the same: it got boring. The first reaction is typically one of perplexity, confusion and bewilderment all mixed into one as they try to imagine how jumping out of planes and blowing things up gets stale, but it does. In fact, without challenge or passion, doing anything repeatedly -- no matter what industry you’re in -- will tire even the most high-strung thrill seeker.
Having a purpose -- a why -- for what you do is great, but without passion, purpose turns into that tiny little square on your to-do list that you checkoff every day (or some days) and mark as “complete.” Without passion, nothing else matters because nothing is worth pursuing.
Sustaining passion in entrepreneurship isn’t easy. The uncertainty of the market, the uphill battles with investors, and the constant search for top talent can feel overwhelming. Without so much as a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, the thought of slugging along yet another day can seem boring in itself, but this is why entrepreneurs are cut from a different cloth. It requires a special type of person to endure the start up world. It takes not only time, money, and mindshare but also clarity in purpose and passion to persevere.
Don’t let the routine of overwhelm slow your roll. Here are four ways to keep passion firing on all cylinders:
1. Post your passion everywhere.
Use notecards or post-it notes to, well, post in every corner of your dwelling -- inside the cabinet, on the refrigerator door, on the mirror, everywhere. Having this sort of prompting keeps your pursuit at the forefront of your mind and serves as a constant reminder for what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
2. Don’t expect “perfect.”
What I mean here is to manage your expectations. Expect to win, but be ready to adapt when plan A doesn’t work. Some people advise to “not get your hopes up” when it comes to realizing a goal or desire. I say those people lack the confidence to pursue what they’re passionate about when the unexpected happens. Every mission we went on in the SEAL Teams, we expected to win. There was no alternative. At the same time, no mission ever went as planned. Not one. They went as intended -- which was to win -- but not as planned. Your passion will be tested when current reality (what actually happens) conflicts with your ideal reality (what you want to happen). When this happens, refer to your mental post-it notes.
3. Replace “mission” with “intention.”
As alluded to above, the word choice used to describe the ideal end state you’re passionate about pursuing is important. The word mission connotes an irrevocable assignment that, if not achieved, indicates failure. The word intention, however, infers a general desire to succeed but provides enough space to adapt along the way. Be intentional about your purpose and passionate in its pursuit.
4. Ask “what if?”
The question of pursuing passion isn’t “why?” (that should be clear) or “how do I do it?” but “what if I don’t?” Regret is a strong motivator. Nobody wants to look back on their life when they’re old and gray and say, “If I had only…” Leverage the power of regret for the positive through mental visualization by imagining what life would be like if you didn’t at least attempt to pursue your passion. Research studies indicate that “positive emotions broaden peoples’ momentary thought–action repertoires, widening the array of the thoughts and actions that come to mind.” What this means when translated out of nerd-speak is this: the more positive you feel, the more options you’re willing to consider for next step solutions as a means to perpetuate that positivity.
Passion is the key to sustaining individual and organizational competitive advantage. Without passion, routine sets in. Routine -- not to be confused with process -- is the enemy of creativity, curiosity, and everything else that sharpens the competitive edge. Disrupt routine and keep the fire alive.