Donovan Bailey, the Olympian sprinter from Canada, once said, “Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams.”
Certainly, there have been many highly productive and successful people who have talked about the importance of passion in their work. From the comedian Bernie Mac to the singer Josh Groban, people who are at the top of their game in their respective industries often point to their passion for their work as a noteworthy key to their success, leaving many with the impression that a strong desire to accomplish something is at the core of achieving it. Certainly, there is something deliciously romantic about the idea that loving something fervently somehow wills it miraculously into being.
But what is often overlooked is the second part of Bailey’s statement, “…be prepared to work hard and sacrifice.” Very few people who reach celebrity status or find themselves at the pinnacle of their career have acquired the trappings of success, wealth, and fame, without working hard and making sacrifices along the way, in addition to suffering setbacks and failures along that journey. The unseen hours of preparation, the thankless jobs accomplished, and the gritty hands that completed them are generally hidden from view. They are the backstory, and people are often completely unaware of what more is required to reach the height of success.
Passion is certainly the impetus for most would-be entrepreneurs. Whether it is an overwhelming desire to work for oneself, or a commitment to a particular industry or product, or a personal experience that leads them to embrace a lifelong goal, most people who start a business have a passion for what they are about to embark on. But a willingness to work hard, make sacrifices, and invest oneself completely is definitely as important, if not more significant, in the long run.
What does preparedness for entrepreneurs really mean? You may think we’re talking primarily about education, the development of a business plan, and the process of fundraising; in other words, the detailed aspects of “work behind the scene” for starting a business. But preparedness, like passion, is far more than the sum of its parts and involves the personal characteristics of an entrepreneur, as well as the steps inherent in building a business. Before embarking on that business, it might be a good idea to ask yourself how “prepared” you are in these areas.
Commitment. How committed are you, both in the short- and long-term, to see this business through to fruition? Fear of failure can deter even the heartiest of minds, and since the threat of failure is ever-present when working toward the achievement of your goal, it’s important to be realistic about your fortitude in the long run. There will be limited instances where your hard work and dedication are appreciated, and even fewer where the rewards are commensurate with the effort you are putting in. Staying focused, continuing to work on your business, and doing so with the same enthusiasm and vigor that made you want to start the journey to begin with equates to commitment.
Strategic Thinking. As an entrepreneur, you are the master strategist for your business. You are the maven planner who is responsible for determining the goals of your business, designing the plans that will help you meet those goals, and facilitating all of the little details that plan requires. Strategic thinking will be critical in making business decisions, evaluating trends, choosing marketing strategies, hiring effective help, and building collaborative partnerships. Developing, maintaining, and growing the skills of a problem-posing and problem-solving mind is critical to your business’s long-term success.
Leadership and Team Building. Being a strong leader who can motivate others is an important piece of preparedness. Having an understanding of your employees, your colleagues, and others in the industry means that you understand their strengths and weaknesses, and find the means and methods to capitalize on this knowledge to build your business. Being a good “manager” of people and processes is part of that, but there are other, less tangible skills associated with leadership. From the ability to maintain an objective perspective to a willingness to praise employees in public and address problems in private, being a leader generates employee buy-in and a willingness to follow the plan.
Passion and preparedness are not equals. Passion might be the spark that ignites the fire, but the preparedness is the fuel that sustains that fire over time. Successful businesses, like successful people, have both.
What are some elements of preparedness you have found important to success?