I sold my company while sailing in the British Virgin Islands, negotiating the terms via satellite phone while my husband caught that evening’s lobster with his bare hands. It sounds like the start of a great business story: “Executive Sells $235 Million Company From the Middle of the Ocean, Driven By Passion.” But executives of all stripes, including me, use passion to justify extreme work ethics that prioritize business over all other aspects of our lives.
While it’s not always easy, there are benefits to being obsessively passionate about your business. I’ve learned that when leveraged correctly, the dark side of passion can help you be a better leader and grow your business. Here are three ways to use your all-consuming passion to grow your company:
1. Stick to Your Goals
Loving what you do is one thing, but making a profit from it is another. Just because you can paint doesn’t mean you’ll succeed as an artist. Learn from each rejection. Refine your strategies until you generate demand for your product or service. Identify opportunities to marry your passion with market needs, and then set your goal as your guiding light. Before you settle on an idea, however, ask yourself this: Am I willing to suffer for this company? Figuring out what you love is easy. What you’re willing to suffer for? That’s much harder.
When I moved to Hawaii to build my business, people told me I was crazy. They warned me that there were no jobs, that the digital market was weak, and that I should stay where I had more opportunities. I went anyway. Yes, I worked extreme hours, but I built a $100 million company and loved every minute of it. While other people are going to parties or jetting off on vacation, you’ll be in the office, making one more product adjustment or perfecting the hundredth version of your pitch. When your peers head to happy hour, you’ll be prepping for international calls you have to take well into the night.
2. Say No
Prepare yourself to disappoint people as you decline invitations to attend birthday brunches or join in on weekend getaways to work more. Fortunately, saying “no” becomes easy when you’ve tapped into your truest passion. Connecting to your vision will help you overcome feelings of guilt and doubt when you’ve missed the third New Year’s Eve party in a row. I physically write out my top priorities each week to keep them fresh in my mind. When I’m working toward major goals, I write those down, too, and post them where I can see them each day.
In the months leading up to the sale of my company, I taped that goal to my bathroom mirror so it would be in my face every day and night. I didn’t let myself forget it for a minute, which is why I was able to lovingly ignore my husband’s grumbling and take those calls from our boat.
3. Optimize Your Time
There are only 24 hours in a day. Before diving into the startup process, you need to decide who and what is going to take up those hours. I reserve days off for my close friends and family. I’ll get up early or work late so I can be fully present when I’m home.
Maintaining a million friendships, a family, and a business is impossible. Decide which aspects of your life are priorities, and scale back on the rest. Hand off tasks that drain your energy, and be sure to leave time for essentials like sleep. I advocate for work-life integration instead of work-life separation. If you truly love what you do, it’s not a chore to take a 7 a.m. call on the weekend or devote some of your vacation time to business. The key is to prioritize correctly so that your energy always goes toward people and projects you love.
Finding your passion empowers you to stretch yourself as an entrepreneur and ensure your business’ growth. Passion is a force of nature that can be harnessed for incredible success, as long as you don’t venture too far into the dark side.