The 4 Levels of Passion, and Why Your Passion-Based Business Failed

By: Chase Neely and Robert Lucas

Step 1: Find your passion.

Step 2: Build a business around it.

Seems simple enough, right?

But that’s the problem. Passion isn’t simple. And neither is a passion-based business.

The idea that entrepreneurs should only do things they’re passionate about or that the only businesses worth pursuing are the ones that deal directly with their passion is bad advice.

I had an identity crisis as a young entrepreneur because this advice played on repeat in the back of my mind.

Passion isn’t bad. In fact, it’s necessary. But using passion as a means to measure business viability or success can be dangerous.

Now, I know exactly where my passion fits into my business — and I’ve been able to turn that passion into multiple profitable companies.

And in this post, I’ll reveal the 4 different levels of passion and give you some practical advice on how you can turn your passion into a legitimate business (but it might not happen like you’re expecting).

As a disclaimer, if you want this post to be as helpful as possible, you should at least have a vague idea of your passion, even if it’s just “I want to help people.”

The Hard Truth About Your Passion

The truth is—

Your passion may not be a viable business.

Let’s say you’ve identified your passion as “sharing my message with the world.”

The reality is that there are very few people who have been able to turn that passion into a sustainable business.

Some would tell you to pursue that passion at all costs.

I’d tell you to ignore those people, because I don’t think you’ve dug deep enough into your passion.

The 4 Levels of Passion

If your passion is “sharing my message with the world,” you need to dig deeper. You’ve identified your Perception but not your Mission…

Which brings me to a good point:

What are the 4 Levels of Passion?

  1. Manifestation: An outward expression of your Deeper Passion
  2. Perception: What you think your Passion is
  3. Mission: What your real Passion is (this takes digging)
  4. Vision: The result of fulfilling your Passion

Think of it like this:

Picture your Passion as a grapevine.

Your Mission is the roots.

Your Perception is one of the branches.

The grapes are a Manifestation of your Passion.

And a glass of wine is your Vision.

Let’s break that down with a real-life example.

How the 4 Levels of Passion Work Together

Whatever you say when someone asks you…

“What are you passionate about?”

…is your Perception. It’s what you think your passion is. And it’s also likely a Manifestation of your Mission.

If your Perception is something along the lines of “sharing my message with the world,” I’d push you to dig deeper. Get to the roots!

(I’ll work through this hypothetical example to illustrate my point.)

Why is sharing your message with the world important to you?

“Because I know that my message can change people’s lives.”

How?

“It can help them overcome their fears and finally give them the courage to build the life they want.”

Why is that important?

“Because everyone only gets one life. To me, it’s imperative that we all make the most of it.”

Boom. There’s your Mission

Helping people make the most of their lives.

Speaking and sharing your message was simply a way of expressing that—

It was a Manifestation of that passion.

Your Vision, then, would be something like:

“I want to motivate over 1 million people to face their fears and create the lives they truly deserve.”

The major flaw I see with all the talk around “passion” and passion-based business in today’s entrepreneurial environment is this:

People have the misconception that there’s only ONE way to pursue your passion. ONE particular passion-based business that is the singular vehicle for achieving your Vision.

They mistake their Perception or a Manifestation of their passion for their Mission, when in reality, their Perception is just a single Manifestation of their Mission.

As I’ll explain in a moment, my Mission has manifested not as one, but multiple businesses — all pointing toward the single goal of fulfilling that Mission.

But if you’re reading this, you probably want to know how you can turn your passion into a business. So let’s talk about that.

How to Turn Your Mission Into a Passion-Based Business

Often, the Manifestation of your passion you find most interesting is not a viable business.

For example, let’s say you’ve been trying for years to replace your full-time income with writing projects and speaking gigs, but it’s just not happening.

So what should you do?

There are two main ways to tackle this:

1. Persevere

Stonyfield Farm was founded in 1983.

If you’re unfamiliar, Stonyfield is an organic yogurt company. And 1983 was the height of the McDonald’s imperial age…

Not the best time to own an organic food company.

And Stonyfield had the finances to prove it. At one point, they were $1.9 million in debt.

At the same time, they were facing a potential hostile takeover of the company.

It was clear Stonyfield would never be a viable company. Right?

Not quite.

Stonyfield believed in a vision of organic food hitting the mainstream, so they stuck with it. And it’s a good thing they did…

Because the company eventually sold for $875 million.

So, what did Stonyfield have that thousands of other failed businesses don’t?

Belief.

They believed their business would one day be successful—they just had to stay afloat until the market was ready.

That belief gave them the perseverance to continue amidst the challenges they faced.

So, if it seems your favorite Manifestation of your Passion isn’t a viable business, maybe it’s just not viable yet. It may simply be an ill-timed product/market fit.

If you have an unshakeable belief in what you’re doing, you can use perseverance to hold strong until the market is ready.

(For more examples, listen to the How I Built This Podcast.)

2. Move On

Sometimes, you get an early sign your business isn’t going to work.

And deep down, you know it will probably never work…at least not the way it looks now.

But this is where entrepreneurs can do their best work—

Taking their Mission and pushing themselves to discover another Manifestation of it that will work as a business.

Sometimes we call this a pivot. And other times (perhaps unfairly) we call it a failure.

I’ve even experienced this in my own business.

My Mission is to help as many people as possible to fulfill their potential.

When I didn’t know how to do that, I asked those around me how I could help them.

I used their answers to develop my business management company and to build my law firm. While I was doing that research, I taught a class at a local college to support my family and to help those students reach their potential.

Now, I’m continuing to expand that vision to the online space.

My passion manifests itself in many different passion-based businesses. And that’s okay.

If you decide it’s time to move on from your business, you haven’t experienced failure, you’ve just found one Manifestation of your passion that’s not a viable business.

Maybe it’s time to find another that is.

How to Use Your Mission and Vision to Decide What to do Next

Some people have identified their Mission as something like…

Helping people make the most of their lives

…but they don’t have an idea for how to Manifest that Mission as a business yet.

Or they have a Vision for the future like…

“I want to motivate over 1 million people to face their fears and create the lives they truly deserve.”

…but they have no idea where to start.

I call this “The Entertainment 720 Problem.”

If you’re unfamiliar, Entertainment 720 was a fictional business built by Tom Haverford and John-Ralphio in the TV Show Parks and Recreation.

Here’s their mission statement:

Entertainment 720 is a “premiere, high-end, all-media entertainment conglomerate”.

It’s so broad that it’s meaningless.

Tom Haverford’s Vision was to become a mogul, so he started a company a mogul would own.

Unfortunately, he forgot all the smaller steps it takes to build a successful business and actually become a legitimate mogul.

So, the company ends up generating no money and closes its doors in less than a year.

Why did that happen?

Tom let the Vision (being a mogul) determine the immediate action.

Tom would have been more successful if he had found a specific, actionable next step that fit his end goal (a Manifestation), and then taken that step — which would then become a stepping stone on the way to fulfilling his Vision.

So, what does that mean for you?

If you know your Mission or your Vision, but don’t have any ideas for how to Manifest those things into a business—

Just start somewhere.

If you have a lofty goal, it’s easy to become paralyzed into inaction or to try to tackle everything all at once (like Tom did).

Instead, focus on one step at a time.

Find one way you can start turning your Vision or Mission into a reality, then go.

Remember—

You can’t do this all at once. And doing nothing will get you nowhere.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Find that step, and take it.

Solving the Passion Problem

Passion can be a tricky topic for entrepreneurs. And, to this point, I don’t think the entrepreneur culture has explored it deeply enough. We’ve certainly wrestled with it, even in writing this post, because it’s such an all-encompassing part of your business.

So, if you’re building a passion-based business, take the time to understand the 4 levels of Passion and how they operate.

And then, take action.

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