“Do what you love, and you never work a day in your life.” Every successful entrepreneur and every single book on the topic of ‘what’ to start your business in will recite this quote—and they’re right. The problem for me was that I never really knew how to filter what I loved to do. I did not know how to get below the surface and comb through the mirage of answers that appeared. I’d spend time making lists of what I loved, thinking about what I loved, but it was like putting your finger on Jell-O—every time I thought I had it, it moved and remained elusive.
After some thinking and soul-searching, I came up with three filters you need to harmonize to help you find what you love to do and the resulting business idea:
When you are going to do it, you cannot wait to get started.
When you are actually doing it, you lose track of time.
When someone interrupts you while you are doing it,you get angry!
Let’s look at these three finding-what-you-love filters, one at a time:
1. When you are going to do it, you cannot wait to get started.
What is the thing or activity that, when you see it coming up on your calendar or your to-do list, you cannot wait to get started? Maybe it is an activity, a sport, a discussion topic, a TV show, an event, a hobby… making wine, or surfing? What do you clear your calendar or to-do list to make time for? The point of this filter is that you need to reflect on what gets you excited—really excited—no matter what it is.
A quick word on “no matter what it is.” You might be asking if this soul-searching is totally open ended and can truly mean anything. I would proffer yes, anything! Even if what you love is something as nuts as watching TV, analyzing stocks, mowing the lawn, organizing your garage, cooking, or working out … you get it. You have to search for those one or two things that you cannot wait to do! Now, maybe you need to filter out things that are a) really not too good for you (“I like drinking vodka, so I will ‘drink’ vodka for a business”), or b) there is really no way to turn into a business, unless making vodka is something you might be passionate about (and moderate your drinking of). The point is this: Do not let this filtering of the ideas be constrained right now.
2. When you are actually doing it, you totally lose track of time.
When was the last time you were totally engulfed in something and said, “Oh, crap, where did the time go”? When is the last time you said, “The heck with it, I’m turning the phone off and taking my watch off?” When is the last time you went to a quiet space (for me, it is the local university library) and just got lost in the work or activity?
Once again, you need to reflect on this filter and see where it takes you. Maybe you need to ask your spouse, your partner, and/or your parents for their observations? You may be too close to what you do and should be open to turn to others for their thoughts and observations. Who better than a parent or relative to provide observations on what you love to do?
3. When someone interrupts you while you are doing it, you get angry!
These are the times you locked your office door (at home or work) or found someplace in the basement to do the work, and then someone started pestering you. When that happened, you said to yourself, “Why can’t they just leave me alone for a few hours?” That angry reaction is a marker for you doing something you love. This is when the phone rang, and you got angry that someone had the audacity to call you! To accentuate this marker, you did not answer the phone call and they kept calling—that’s when you blew your top. Argh!
Just to clarify, the interruption has to make you angry because you love doing what is being interrupted, not because you are trying to get it over with and are being slowed down.
For example, if you love doing yard work and get interrupted, and it bothers you because you love doing it, then you have it: it’s yard work (landscaping). You might want to start a landscaping business or open a plant nursery or something in that area. If you are angry, though, because you just want to get the yard work over with to move on to something else, then you do not have what you love.
These three filters should provide a useful guide to determine what you love and should then be a starting point for a business venture. Better yet, these filters can be confirmation for what you were going to start the business on anyway. In any case, make sure you are embarking on something you love and that it is authentic to you, because it is going to get difficult!