Whether your father told you your writing career was misguided, your mother warned you that a career as a kayak guide wasn’t “stable,” or your high school choir teacher squashed your singing dreams, doing what you love tends to come with plenty of criticism. But forging your own path isn’t just about fearlessly ignoring the naysayers. In his book The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau — who followed “do what you love” to every country on the map — explains why pursuing your dreams requires a careful balance of inspiration, planning, and compromise. Here are a few important and eminently practical lessons to keep in mind as you set out on your own entrepreneurial journey.
Be flexible in your methods and your goal.
The author of the popular GrammarGirl podcasts is a great example of this ethos. Mignon Fogarty hosts a long-running, hugely popular podcast (along with a website and blog) about the proper use of grammar. What many of her fans don’t know is that she first launched a similarly formatted podcast called Absolute Science. When Absolute Science failed to take off after a year, Fogarty re-evaluated not only her method but her goal. Initially, she had wanted to pursue one of her academic interests through a radio-style show. Revisiting this original goal, she switched from science to grammar, demonstrating flexibility and self-awareness.
Pay attention to your market.
When Fogarty stepped back, she realized that although she was passionate about science, it was a crowded market, and what she was doing wasn’t vastly different from existing science media. The grammar podcast market, however, was so underserved that it didn’t yet even exist. Reasoning that people might want a grammar refresher for grown-ups, she set off to create it.
Talent isn’t everything, but it definitely helps.
To become a success, GrammarGirl needed more than Fogarty’s passion. What made the podcast unique were Forgarty’s personable, relatable take on a typically dry subject, her penchant for storytelling, and her dedication to quality, accuracy, and regularity. Once you choose a path you’re fond of, it isn’t all fun and games — there’s hard work behind every small business.
With this in mind, Guillebeau’s “Reality Check Checklist,” from The $100 Startup is a good place to start for any entrepreneur.
- Would you enjoy pursuing this hobby at least twenty hours a week?
- Do you enjoy teaching others to practice the same hobby?
- Do you like every detail, all the ins and outs, of this hobby?
- If you had to do administrative work related to your hobby, would you still enjoy it?
- Have other people asked for your help?
- Are enough other people willing to pay to gain or otherwise benefit from your expertise?
- Are there other businesses serving this market (a good sign) but in a different way than you will?
If you answered “yes” to all of the above, then get out there with your dream (and your talent, plan, and market research)! A career you’re passionate about isn’t easy to find, but it’s worth the effort.