Passion is Bullsh#t, This is What it Really Takes to be Successful

 In Leadership

You have all seen the motivational quotes, tweets, and slides.  

  • You need to think big.
  • You need to be determined and have passion.
  • You need to go against the grain.  
  • You need to believe when others don’t believe.

Yes these are all true, but these things do not describe the reality of making a startup successful. I was watching a video from C100 48 hrs in the Valley with Chris Albinson, a serial entrepreneur and now venture partner at Founders Capital Circle.

At the start of his session he said that “passion is bullsh#t” and it is something else that really drives your startup. And to explain he referenced what Drew Houston (founder and CEO of Dropbox) called the “dog-ball”.

Drew Houston gave a commencement speech at MIT in 2013. During the speech he addressed how to drive success at a startup and it is still the best description I have seen of what it takes to build a great business.

“I was going to say work on what you love, but that’s not really it. It’s so easy to convince yourself that you love what you’re doing — who wants to admit that they don’t? When I think about it, the happiest and most successful people I know don’t just love what they do, they’re obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them.

They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball: their eyes go a little crazy, the leash snaps and they go bounding off, plowing through whatever gets in the way.”

– Drew Houston, MIT Commencement Speech June 2013

 

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A Dog Chasing a Tennis Ball

You have all either had a dog who did this, or thrown the ball for a friend’s dog. And you soon realize that you could keep on throwing that tennis ball, and the dog would never stop. They would just keep running off to find that tennis ball, and bring it back, only hoping you throw it again.

That’s it, that is what it takes to be successful at a startup. You need to go out and get that ball, no matter how many times it is thrown. And each time you come back, you need to be just as eager to go get it the next time.

Our “Ball” is Helping You Grow the Right Relationships

Drawing on my past two startup experiences (14 years at Eloqua, and now 2 years at Nudge) I could not agree more with this analogy. There isn’t one defining “breakthrough” moment, but rather a thousand small improvements, working tirelessly with customers and users to get it more right than wrong.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 4.16.20 PM

At Nudge have been working on our modern networking app since May of 2014. Everyday, we are getting closer and closer to unlocking the true power of your network. But being in the game of helping grow relationships is hard work, and there are no magic bullets.

What we have had to do is painstakingly add little chunks of value everywhere you interact with people, and to do that we also have to remove the “network noise” from the connections you don’t care about. We still have some work to do, but are seeing the bright light at the end of the tunnel.

So the next time you see the great anecdote on how the founders believed, when others didn’t, of how they learned the most through their biggest failures. Remember that underneath the romanticized and brilliant hindsight, was an unrelenting (and maybe boringly consistent) need to just go get a ball every minute, every hour, every day, every month. 

‘Nuff said, now time to go get that ball.

A great question for you is, what ball you are chasing?

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Co-founder and CEO of Nudge.ai, a modern sales platform that uses artificial intelligence to provide sales teams with actionable insights on their target customers. Passion for building great teams and products that help customers grow their businesses.
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