ENT (601) – Passion; to dream or to do, that is the question.

As human beings, we’re passionate about many things; from animals, food and relationships, to sports and hobbies. There may even be a few of us who are passionate about our work. After all, isn’t the passion for different things what drives us and helps us get out of the bed every morning. For entrepreneurs, it’s only logical to have a passion for the inventions or startups; why else would one engage in such endeavors with sleepless nights and no paycheck.

Passion, like ego, may be a very common trait among entrepreneurs, and, therefore, should be limited and balanced. Instead of relying on passion alone, entrepreneurs should practice reason, purpose, and realism in order to stay focused and achieve long term goals. Passion, in the business sense, could be defined as the unbridled enthusiasm, our willingness to pounce on what’s in front of us with the full measure of our zeal, the bundle of energy that “gurus” deem as our most important asset. (Holiday 2016).

As history proves, countless entrepreneurs, authors, politicians, and business owners have fallen into this trap and managed to sink their ship before it left the harbor. They had passion but lacked everything else. The author, Ryan Holyday, gives a great analogy and defines the reality of such people; we hear what we want to hear. We do what we like doing, and despite being incredibly busy and working very hard, we accomplish very little (Holiday 2016). On the contrary, when coupled with reason, purpose, and realism, passion should help us overcome such tragedy and become successful. The purpose is a form of passion but with defined boundaries. The reason and realism should be a guide and give us perspective and a sense of detachment.

Take as an example Eleanor Roosevelt, perhaps the most important First Lady and an influential female activist who was known for her grace, dignity, and sense of direction. It took her years to become who she was known for. Instead of being driven by excitement and passion, she accomplished greatness through the process of accumulation (Holiday 2016). Similarly, the author gives an example of a famous UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, who won ten titles in twelve years, not by passion but by developing a system for winning and working with his players to follow it. When asked to describe his former coach, a six-time NBA champion, Kareem Abdul Jabbar described coach Wooden as “not passionate” and lacking inspiration (in terms of speeches and hype). Rather, his philosophy was about being in control and doing your job and never being “passion’s slave” (Holiday 2016).

As aspiring entrepreneurs, we should learn to control our ego and passion; plan for contingencies and take smaller, attainable steps, seek guidance and surround ourselves with mentors and SMEs rather than shooting for the stars immediately without a plan an end up crashing before the take-off.


Graham Hicks, Edmonton S. “Hicks on Biz: Reason VS Passion in Business.”ProQuest, Jul 03, 2015, http://proxy195.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/2169741751?accountid=14968.

Holiday, Ryan. Ego Is the Enemy. Portfolio, Penguin, 2016.


  1. Hi Semir,

    Another great post. In the last decade or so, “passion” has become one of those catch-all buzzwords that people throw around as the answer to almost any question. Why do you want a certain job? “I’m passionate about…” Why will you be successful? “I have the passion to overcome any obstacle…” Why did that person fail? “They simply lacked the passion to…”

    And I’m just as guilty as the next person when it comes to grand statements about passion. While I 100% believe that passion can be a very helpful, and in some cases necessary, ingredient to success, your point that it’s only an ingredient is terrific. Maybe passion is sort of like baking soda? A critical component of many successful recipes but by itself only good for blowing things up…

    I’m also a big fan of the real-world examples you use in your posts such as General Sherman in the past and Eleanor Roosevelt and John Wooden in this one. I had never really thought of Eleanor Roosevelt as the product of accumulation but that allows me to look at this unquestionably incredible woman in a whole new, and important light. As for Wooden, demonstrated by his principals including the Pyramid of Success, you’ve identified a perfect counterpoint to the typical picture of the successful coach buoyed to great heights through their passion. As you may be aware, Wooden was the Head Coach at UCLA for a full 15 years before he won his first championship. If passion had been at the center of his philosophy it’s likely he would have flamed out or been relieved of his duties before having the opportunity to win 10 championships in 12 years.

    Thanks for another opportunity to think and process on a valuable topic!

    1. Hi Trip,

      As always, your feedback and comments are very insightful and elaborate. I am really grateful for the time and dedication you put into reading the post, analyzing it, and writing up a response. I am glad that you’re finding it useful. I agree with your point that passion has become overrated lately. As a hiring manager, I heard those exact phrases during the interviews many times; mostly among the younger crowd.
      On the side note, when I first started reading the book I thought it was going to be dry but turns out, after the initial 10-15 pages, the content inspired me to keep going and dive deep into the examples he provides. I think you’ll enjoy the next segment I am putting together. Stay tuned.

      Best regards

  2. Hi Semir,

    This was a great post! It is the third one I have read in the course cautioning ego. As an entrepreneur both passion and ego (to some degree) are useful and needed. As with anything, too much can be harmful. It is important to have a clear vision and out action behind things one is passionate about. Especially as it relates to an entrepreneurial endeavor. You have provided very useful examples for the discussion as well, Thank you for sharing!


    1. Hi Shay,
      Thank you for actively reading the blog. I am happy to see that my reflections are useful. The book itself is comprised of numerous mini-chapters that are further divided into three sections that build off of each other. I would highly recommend obtaining the book if you’re interested in learning more about ego and how it can be effectively managed.

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