in entrepreneurship

What Would You Do for Free?

There’s a plethora of people out there who throw out the “follow your passion” line out again and again. And we eat it up, again and again – because it sounds so sexy. So irresistible. 

It’s an easy sell because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to love what they do? Who’s going to disagree with living a happy and personally fulfilled life?

But what I’ve found challenging myself, and with most of the folks I’ve shared beers, coffees, or emails with – isn’t about following passion – it’s discovering it. 

It’s answering, “I don’t know” when someone asks, “What do you want to do?”

It takes critical thought to discover what drives us. What excites us. What makes us feel creative and useful. What we want our contribution to the world to be.

And it’s because we get hung up on one thing: Money. We’re afraid of it. We’re downright terrified of it. And it warps us into believing that “fun” and “passion” are lightyears away from “profit”. 

But that line of thinking is out of order. If you’re stifling your ideas and passions based on the potential paycheck, they’ll likely never see the light of day.

Instead, when it comes to starting something new – when it comes to realizing your potential and tapping into what matters most – think about and embrace what you’d do, if you could, for nothing.

If money were no object – what would you create? Who would you help? What would you contribute? What would an ideal day look like?

We’re driven by our contributions – and that drive to contribute something great. To matter. To leave a legacy, exists within us all.

Yes – money matters, but a funny thing happens when you realize what your passion is – what you’d do for nothing – what you’d give away if money grew on trees. What you’d work tirelessly to create.

You get paid. You get paid dividends. Monetarily, and maybe most importantly, emotionally.

What would you do, if you could, for free?

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12 Comments

  1. Matt, you’re speaking my language! Thanks for the Monday morning clarity and passion!

    One thing that I know you’ve talked about is also understanding what you need (in terms of money) to live. When you sit down and really crunch the numbers of your most vital needs it’s never what you really think. Tim Ferriss alludes to this in The 4 Hour Work Week, but with regards to those who have travel dreams. So many people think “It’s just so expensive, I could never afford to backpack in Europe for a month!” But, the real figures, when Tim crunched the numbers, are much more attainable than the imagined figures.

    I’m guilty of making the numbers much larger in my head than they really are. Frankly, I think it’s an excuse because stepping out and doing your life’s work is scary and vulnerable. Money is an easy excuse to keep you in line with your status quo!

    • The numbers matter – without a doubt – but like you just said – we struggle with the numbers, more often than not, way more than we should. We get stuck thinking that we need so much to get by – when really, we need very little, if we’re willing to make sacrifices  If we’re willing to work how no one else would for a little bit so we can live like not many can for forever – that’s what defines an entrepreneur. It’s all about putting a real, tangible figure in your head and working toward that.

  2. I definitely think that you hit the nail on the head in terms of discovering your passion. What would you do for free? What makes you smile like an idiot and speeds up your heartbeat? Definitely telltale signs. However, I would also note that, unfortunately, money is a major factor for some people, and it’s not as easy as discovering your passion and going after it.  

    • Of course. I’m sure you know, knowing me as long as you have, that I’m not naive enough to disregard that money matters. I’m about as “real” and understanding as it comes with that. But, I’ve found that more often than not, it’s not in figuring out how to make money doing what you love that holds people back – it’s having trouble discovering what it is that you love in the first place. Most people, including myself, at times, really struggle with defining what there passion is – which is why the empt “pursue your passion” advice leaves so many wondering where to begin…

  3. Love this post because this is what I try to do everyday in my job (as you know). It’s so important to learn and explore and get to know ourselves before making these tough decisions (at such a young age!). It can be scary and overwhelming but the intrinsic (and sometimes extrinsic) awards are outstanding and completely worth it! There is a way to get to LOVE what you do… it just takes some reflection, thought, and experiences to determine it.

  4. I’d do what anyone could do, be nice. Moving to NYC has opened my eyes a bit on how silo’d people view the world *ahem* THEIR world. 

    Case in point, last week I thought I could beat a storm via the subway. It wasn’t raining when I left, the news said it was in NJ, no problem – no umbrella needed.

    Came out of the subway and the skies were armed with super soakers. After retreating to a Dunkin Donuts that was 20 feet away I had already looked like I took a head first dive down a slip and slide (no exaggeration: front soaked, back dry). 

    I was 3.5 blocks away from my destination. LOTS of people had HUGE umbrellas. I had my gym bag, which I put over my head in a sad attempt to look like I wasn’t giving into the skies. It failed.

    In 3.5 blocks I easily passed over 100 people making their way to work holding umbrellas, giving me looks as I ran from awning to awning. Thanks for offering your personal space folks. 

    Two weeks ago the same thing happened but not to me (I’ve since never left the house without an umbrella). Exiting the subway I saw a young woman trying to cover her head with a newspaper. I walked over with my umbrella, asked which was she was walking and joked that no one should start a Friday soaking wet. We had a laugh. We ended up going to the same destination. Turns out she was someone who was well connected within my institution. Nice people FTW! 

    Case in point, same thing happened this week. Only (for those of you thinking “oh you only did that because it was a young woman you sly dog you”), this time it was a young man walking towards my institution. To give you a sense of how unusual this is, I tapped him on the shoulder held my umbrella over his head and his response was “Oh sorry” and he ducked out of the way of my umbrella. I laughed and said, “No no no get over here” he was grateful. It was his first day of summer school. 

    Simply put, your passion doesn’t have to be to be a nice person it should just be your life goal to leave this world better than you left it. You don’t need to invent something, cure something, or do anything extravagant. 

    Sometimes all you have to do is carry an umbrella. 

  5. Well I spent six months working on Code Academy for free, so I guess I would do exactly what I am doing now for free! Although it is a nice bonus to get paid :)

  6. I’m loving this post – I’m a huge believer in following your passion and also that it will lead to success. I believe happiness fuels success and not the other way around. Hence if you do what you love, success will follow in some shape or form.

  7. I definitely think that you hit the nail on the head in terms of
    discovering your passion. What would you do for free? What makes you
    smile like an idiot and speeds up your heartbeat? Definitely telltale
    signs. However, I would also note that, unfortunately, money is a major
    factor for some people, and it’s not as easy as discovering your passion
    and going after it.