The Value of Turning Your Soul’s Passion and Purpose into ProfitPublished: September 14, 2006 in Knowledge@Emory
“Everyone has a soul purpose,” says Maria Dowd, motivational speaker and author of the books, Journey to a Blissful Life and Journey to Empowerment. “The difficult task for many is finding out what it is,” she continues.
Dowd brought her inspirational message of the power of pursuing one’s passion to the Ninth Anniversary of the National Black Herstory Conference held recently at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. The annual conference, sponsored by the National Black Herstory Task Force, is designed to explore and chronicle historical, literary, social and artistic, environmental and economic issues affecting women of African descent worldwide.
Dowd told the diverse audience that “walking on purpose is a powerful thing,” as she took each woman present on a personal journey to self- discovery using one of the exercises from a book entitled Inspire learning, that encouraged participants to identify five of their most valued talents as well as acknowledging five things that they wanted to accomplish in this lifetime. “Let’s not go to our grave thinking, I shoulda, woulda, coulda,” advises Dowd.
For Dowd, her own epiphany came in 2003 after the African American Women on Tour, (AAWOT), which highlighted empowerment, came to an end after 13 years. “Budgets were reallocated during corporate ‘merging and purging’ and organizations that once funded the tour” were no longer contributing. The situation became “an ever-present challenge that began to take its toll on my well being, and I found myself walking a hypocritical line,” states Dowd. “The 3:00 a.m. panic attacks that I found myself suffering were signs that something had to change, and that it was time to start a brand new chapter in my life.”
Parlaying lessons learned from AAWOT, today Dowd travels the country promoting her message about financial and emotional freedom as a successful executive for Warm Spirit, a self-care products company. “I realize what it’s taken for me to transform my life. I’m experiencing far more ease and grace these days and I’m thankful,” she says.
Is passion really important when trying to transform a business into a profitable enterprise? Many of today’s prolific entrepreneurs and scholars from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School emphatically say yes. “Passion is a key ingredient in success,” declares Monica Worline, assistant professor in organization and management at Goizueta and the co-founder of a successful Silicon Valley software firm, which she left before coming to Goizueta. “Passion is the thing that fuels resilient responses to obstacles—starting a business or growing an organization is difficult and littered with obstacles. Overcoming them and thriving despite adversity requires the ability to draw on one's passion and to use it in a determined way.”
“Passion is the only way to turn an idea into a profitable venture,” declares Andrea Hershatter, Senior Lecturer in organization and management and associate dean and director of the Undergraduate Program at Goizueta. “In fact, it is the only thing that sustains it.”
Edward Hess, adjunct professor of organization and management, Executive Director, Center for Entrepreneurship and Corporate Growth, and Executive Director of the Values-Based Leadership Institute at Goizueta, agrees. “Passion is very important because it drives persistence and resiliency, the ability to overcome obstacles to success and to overcome setbacks and rejection.”
“Passion, enthusiasm, and a positive attitude are infectious,” Hess contends. “It impacts others’ willingness to work toward your success as well as others wishing to do business with you.”
Although passion is often a term teamed with creativity, one Goizueta scholar says its root go farther. “I see passion as an intrinsic motivation, which is an inner directed interest in work due to good feelings that arise, and this is a very important source of motivation that can help individuals persist and do excellent work,” states Jill Perry-Smith, assistant professor of organization and management at Goizueta, whose research focuses on creativity and work/life balance initiatives in today’s corporations. “In particular, intrinsic motivation is theorized as being critical to creativity. So for jobs that require critical and complex thinking, intrinsic motivation can be very important,” contends Perry-Smith.
Companies are founded on a specific purpose; mainly to meet some need. Too often, many lose sight of the initial ideas that sparked their venture, and financial performance becomes its only focus. Thus when passion is missing, several things can happen Emory experts say. “A person becomes driven by other factors, such as money,” notes Perry-Smith. “Money is an important motivator. However, companies tend to have a limited supply of monetary resources for rewards.”
“Without passion and/or a deep commitment to your venture, you may quit or toss in the towel too early,” observes Hess, adding “although it is important to keep in mind that there is a fine line between persistence and stupidity.”
Hershatter who teaches entrepreneurship and consults with many start-up companies strongly agrees, “A new venture requires an initial leap into the unknown that is often met with skepticism. Entrepreneurs need to be receptive to experienced voices, but in order to succeed, they cannot allow themselves to be dissuaded or discouraged by others who have less faith in the idea.” Further, she explains, as the business matures, the initial vision of the founders must be transmitted to everyone in the organization if the company is to realize its goals. “Additionally, most venture capitalists place the passion of the founding team very high among the criteria they use in selecting the ventures in which they will invest,” she adds.
Indeed even when persistence is applied correctly, keeping the passion for a business can be a challenge. Many question whether passion can be renewed when entrepreneurs are forced to address the business side of business, such as taxes, scheduling and payroll. “Passion dies when it isn’t fed a diet of regular restful times or when it isn’t fueled by the input of new activities,” says Worline.
“Unfortunately, the process of organizing may lead to inadvertently stifling intrinsic motivation and creativity,” notes Perry-Smith. The trick, she contends, is to provide systems and cultures that allow for individuals and organizations to thrive.
Hess suggests setting aside quiet time each day to remember why you are doing what you are doing and why you feel so strongly about it.
Ultimately, contends Dowd, harnessing one’s passion can be the catalyst to beat the odds whether it’s for a work project or creating a new enterprise. Many entrepreneurs, ranging from Sam Walton to Donald Trump, have said if their businesses folded and they had to start all over again, they could. "That's not about experience, or capital or anything tangible," explains Hershatter. "It's about unwavering drive and the kind of passion that builds empires."