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‘The End Is Near’ — May Just Be a Good Thing for Your Company

Don’t let your passion get in the way of your progress

Screenshot of a series of New Yorker cartoons by David Diprass including many variations on the theme “The End Is Near.” Edited by Author.

A recurring cartoon by David Siprass in the New Yorker pops up now and then. I always find it funny. It pictures the stereotypical old guy with a beard, wearing a robe, standing on a street corner holding up a sign that says, “THE END IS NEAR!” He’s approached by a person asking, “Is that a GOOD THING or a BAD THING?”

The reason I find this humorous is because sometimes when we are faced with “the end” we have to decide if it’s good — or bad.

Entrepreneurs face a common dilemma. Is it a GOOD THING to quit? Or is it a BAD THING? When is it time to call it quits, shut down the business, pivot, or start over? How do you make that decision?

Is it better to just keep going? Or is it foolish to continue to struggle? A lot of factors and data points go into a decision like this, so let’s look at the options — and ramifications — to understanding “the end.”

The fallacy of ‘pursuing your passion’

First, make no mistake, some people will tell you to keep persevering, stay the course, never give up, and, my favorite phrase, “never stop pursuing your passion!”

But in my teaching days, I presented some students with this concept in the form of a question: “If my passion is eating ice cream, how should I pursue that in an entrepreneurial sense?”

I got a lot of “expected” answers: “Oh, you should open your own ice cream shop, or you should get an ice cream food truck! (I’m pretty sure most of those students were too young to remember the “Good Humor” truck.)

Some came up with novel concepts, such as becoming an “ice cream chef” to develop new ways to enjoy the frozen treat, or developing an “ice cream research lab” to develop new flavors, formulas, and concepts for ice cream. (I think Ben & Jerry’s has this covered.)

But the student who really got my attention was the one with a two-part answer: a) don’t open anything with ice cream, because you’ll eat all the profits (probably true); and b) find another passion!

This illustrates the fallacy of “just follow your passion and you’ll make it!”

Find another passion

I have a close friend who, at a young age, had someone very close to them die of cancer. This friend was DRIVEN to find a cure, raise money to find a cure, do SOMETHING meaningful that could make a difference. This was, no doubt, her passion.

That’s fantastic — and certainly worthy of admiration — but she also knew in the meantime she had to make a living and do something else. She was terrific with numbers (very, very good at math) so she became an accountant because that was also something she enjoyed. She’s been very successful with this business for several years.

Can you have MORE than one passion? Of course. Do you have to follow your primary passion no matter what? No, absolutely not. Again, I know of many examples where individuals literally felt obligated to follow their passion to the point of distraction, defeat, and disgust.

So what’s this got to do with “The End”? (Yes, I know it’s also the title of an oddball 1978 comedy film, starring Burt Reynolds.) What does following your passion have to do with “The End”? Everything! Knowing WHEN it’s the end is a key to success. If we’ve learned anything over the past 50 years, it’s “failure is okay.” In fact, many gurus urge us to “fail fast” and then move on to the next thing.

Don’t confuse passion for success

Life can be full of “eureka!” moments, but few people seem to be able to recognize “the end.” Lots of people want to start a company — build a product, provide a service — but not many seem to understand when it’s time to quit. Even when I’ve told people directly, “You should probably consider closing down your business,” some were mortified and responded, “But this is my PASSION!”

There’s nothing wrong with having passion. In fact, many would say it’s an essential ingredient for being an entrepreneur. There’s nothing bad about being super-excited about your idea, how it will improve life for others, how you will save the world from hunger.

In fact, I daresay people who are NOT excited don’t succeed often (just from my own personal experience). But successful people also know the time to stop when progress is not being made (and not being made — and not being made — you get the picture). It’s difficult when you’re deeply involved in a business concept and you truly believe in it, to listen to advice and call a halt to your dream.

Fail fast and learn from it

But you need to listen — and listen — and listen. Get the best advice possible from many experienced individuals; step outside your “passionate self” and look critically at your business. Just hit the “pause” button, and look at past performance and future obstacles. Is it time to pivot? Or is it “the end”?

In the end, passion is not enough. It’s fantastic to have a job you love. (I’ve had several; it IS possible!) But it’s foolhardy to think just because you love something so much it will succeed. It takes many factors to be successful — financing, management, a market, and much more.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you should continue to chase the dream when the dream is over. Understand that sometimes, it’s “the end,” and the best thing about understanding that is collecting the knowledge and benefitting from the experience you gained during the effort.

It is indeed a good thing to recognize the end in advance, rather than be forced to acknowledge your business is unsuccessful. So when a trusted advisor, mentor, employees, or others say, “The End Is Near,” maybe it’s time to listen and look for the good things in that.

After all, the end could be the beginning of something new, awesome, and productive! So full speed ahead, but remember to “stop, look and listen,” and quit when it’s time to quit. Good luck!

Mark S Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues. UF Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the lab to the market, making the world a better place.

Originally published at http://incubatorblogger.wordpress.com on November 2, 2021.

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