The Role of Passion in Entrepreneurship

I’ve talked a lot about the many ingredients that make for successful entrepreneurship. Business planning, customer exploration, and technological innovation are all topics that I think warrant mention in a conversation on starting a new business. However, one component that I think often gets overlooked is the role that passion plays in the success of such a venture. Since I believe that this can be a critical part of the entrepreneurial journey, I wanted to take some time to discuss it in greater depth.

The Big “Why”

When an entrepreneur receives advice on how to start a business, they’re often instructed to begin by asking themselves some fundamental questions. One such question is what problem a potential business could help customers address. This line of thought cuts to the core of what businesses do. By innovating solutions to common problems, a business is helping satisfy a need or demand that is present among large populations. Ideally, customers would then utilize the business’ products or services, and the entire enterprise would result in positive outcomes for all parties.

However, the focus placed on solving problems, while important, glosses over another big question that an entrepreneur would do well to ask themself: “Why do I want to start this business?” When I say that, I’m not referring to the problem that you think you can potentially solve or how you can rise above your competition. Rather, I’m speaking to your actual motivation to engage in your business venture. I’m talking about the thing that pushes you to keep moving forward, even when the going gets tough. I’m talking about passion.

Why “Why” Matters

You might be scratching your head right now and asking why I’m making such a big deal about passion when it comes to business. After all, if you look at a textbook flow chart for starting a business, you often won’t see passion mentioned. Instead, you’ll see the logistical actions needed to start a business. You’ll likely see a lot of focus on “how” to accomplish your goal in a step-by-step manner. Although this perspective can be helpful, such narrow focus overlooks a big detail: Starting a business is hard.

Starting a business is so hard, in fact, that you’re almost guaranteed to encounter a fair amount of headwinds as you move from the start line through to your end goal. While logistical details can help you navigate these challenges, they can’t necessarily give you the drive to push through tough times. They can’t make you keep going when you possibly hit wall after wall and your hard work seems to be wasted. They can’t turn you from someone with a “big idea” into a successful entrepreneur by themselves. To navigate that aspect of the journey successfully, you need passion.

Leaning on Passion

Passion is more than what develops from a vision of what a business venture could be. It comes from an idea about how the world itself can be different. It stems from our ability to look at the way that things are and see the potential of what could be. It can be driven by the success you envision and what that can mean to you and your family. For some, it’s an idea about how you want to give back to society that you can revisit even when times are difficult. Whatever is underneath the motivation to “go for it,” passion can provide fuel for your fire to continue your quest to succeed, regardless of the obstacles you encounter.

I’ll pass along a piece of advice that I got when I was first wading into the entrepreneurial waters that I think taps right into the root of this idea. The advice centers around our tendency to lose our way while working on large and complex projects. What can seem so simple and directed at the start can become murky and difficult to continue when you’re a year or two in.

To avoid this, the advice that I received was to write a letter to myself at the outset of a large project. In the letter, I was to put everything that was exciting to me about the project, everything I hoped to accomplish. In essence, I was advised to identify my “why” for engaging in this journey. Then, I was to seal it up and set it aside. When I needed motivation on my journey, I could open the letter and reconnect with what I found so enthralling about the idea in the first place.

I still stand by that advice to this day. In my work with LifeWave, what has kept me going all these years later since I started LifeWave, are many things, including the real, positive changes that I know we are making in the health and wellness of people around the world. For your project, it may be something different. If you can create a reminder and stay in tune with your passion for why you are working so hard to succeed when the events of the day blur your clear vision, you’ll be that much more likely to succeed in the long run. In my experience, passion is an important emotional driver that can help ensure any entrepreneur’s success.

David Schmidt is the CEO of LifeWave, a leading health and wellness company he founded in 2002. More about David Schmidt at