Why I won’t start a business unless…


“Any business you start that is not out of absolute love, is doomed to fail.” ~David Soto Jr.

“I still have the studio, and I’m teaching photography classes now,” he responded my obligatory question people ask each other after reuniting — “So what are you up to these days?” It had been several years since I saw him last. It must have been the last wedding I was in. Don, was a photographer, one of the most popular photographers in my shitty little hometown and maybe the only one. I didn’t really care for him. Not that he was a bad person at all, I was just in a lot of weddings and hated being told what to do. Things like, take the sunglasses off please, look over here please, stand her please, and of course, smile. Fuck off, Don!

Being as I was not wearing a tuxedo when I saw him at Starbucks, it felt like he was an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long time instead of some annoying wedding photographer.

“What about you,” he said. “What have you been up to these days?”

I told him how I just got back from living in Mexico for a while and that I was getting my real estate license. I don’t know what it was; maybe he could see my future, a future that involved tight khakis and polo shirts. A future that involved me grimacing every time my phone rang and sending clients straight to voicemail. But Don decided to give me, a guy who has kind of been a dick to him for several years by now, some really good advice that I completely ignored.

I’m not sure exactly how he said it, but he basically told me that any job, career, or business that I pursue that is not something that I absolutely love, was a waste of time. He insisted I trust him. He had tried all different kinds of ways to make money from owning a gas station to real estate investing and they all failed because they weren’t something that he loved. He practically begged me to listen to him. I didn’t.

This wasn’t the first time I had heard something like this. “Do what you love, and the money will follow… blah blah blah!” What Don didn’t know was that I was a good business and salesman. I was going to make a shit ton of money, prove him wrong, and head off to Italy for my own sex-infused, male version of Eat Pray Love.

Isn’t it Alanis.

So here I am, six years later. After God knows how many failed attempts at money-making endeavors, finally doing what I love and not making a dime doing it but the happiest I have ever been. The irony, I find myself giving the very same advice Don gave me to a young man thinking of getting into real estate.

I feel like I have covered this in two previous articles, Why everything in your life should be there because of love and more recently, Take the money out. So I’m going to try to hit it from a different angle. But before I tell you why you shouldn’t start a business in something you don’t love, I want to tell you something else first.

Go ahead and do something you don’t love!

There is nothing wrong with getting a job in a career or skill you’re not really in love with. (Speaking of Eat Pray Love, I have to thank Liz Gilbert for giving me permission in her book Big Magic to do work I don’t love.) My advice it to make sure the job depends on you, not the other way around. I have known people who have gotten into work they don’t love, but the money was good. Unfortunately, their cost of living went up along with their income. When the realized they hated their job, they were forced to stay because they couldn’t find a job that paid them as well. Then there are the people in the very same situation, but instead of being miserable for years in their well-paying job, they get laid off. And then they’re fucked.

What I propose is this: get a job, make some money and then get the hell out! The process is simple. Live below your means, get out of debt, save some money. This is not as uncommon as you would think. It’s done quite often by travel bums and rock climbers. You find these dirtbags living on the cheap, working at Whole Foods only long enough to save some money and hit the road. Some of these guys or gals are such hard workers that they have a job waiting for them when they come back. That’s having your job depend on you. Let’s say you’re not a dirtbag but a suburbanite who has a family and corporate gig paying close to six figures. The process is the same, live below your means, get out of debt, save some money. It’s just spanned over years, instead of months.

You don’t have to be saving up for a month-long rock climbing trip to Utah. It could be for the simple reason that you never want to need your job. Or never want to be afraid of getting fired or laid off. Or your unsatisfied and hope to someday be able to do something that you love.

I often hear, “I envy your lifestyle” or “I envy your freedom.” Do you want to guess what I did to get in this position? Lived below my means got out of debt, and saved some money. Actually, I didn’t save that much I’m still working on it. This is why I may have to get a job doing something that I don’t absolutely love.

It’s perfectly okay to get a job in something you don’t love to make a living but whatever you do, do not start a business for this reason, unless you absolutely love it.

Continue to Part 2.


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