The Strange Relationship Between Passion and Success

Some of the best business advice can come from the most unexpected of sources. We expect to hear great advice from business magnates like Warren Buffett, but what about a guy who draws funny pictures for a living? I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised that cartoonist Scott Adams has some great insights, seeing just how astronomically successful the Dilbert brand has become over the years. It’s more than just a simple comic.

Winning at Failure

I’ve been reading his book, How to Fail Everything and Still Win Big, and he discusses some of the many failures he has experienced over the years. He tried developing a computer game on more than one occasion. He tried to patent a manila folder that would have an extra pocket on the front of it for floppy disks. None of these worked out for him, but Dilbert did.


In one of the very early chapters in the book, he turns conventional wisdom and advice on its head. You know how everyone keeps telling you that you should follow your passion? How everyone keeps telling you to do what you love and don’t worry about the money? Scott Adams says that’s a load of crap.

The Money Won’t Follow

Passion is certainly useful and important, but it’s insufficient. If you love eating sandwiches, it’s unlikely you’re going to get really rich doing nothing more than eating sandwiches. You’re probably just going to get fat. If you love watching YouTube videos, it’s unlikely you’re going to get really rich doing nothing more than watching stupid cat videos. You’re probably just going to get fat doing that too.

You need to take that passion and translate it into something marketable. You need to turn it into something that someone else would be willing to pay for. And even then, that’s not enough. In fact, the Dilbert cartoonist goes much further. He says that it’s not passion that will lead you to success, but rather that success will lead you to passion.

“In hindsight, it looks as if the projects I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked. But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success.”

The Cart Before the Horse

When you start solely from a position of passion, logic gets thrown out the window. Common sense gets discarded. You continue chasing a dream that isn’t bearing any fruit until you’re beaten, bent, and a heck of a lot worse for wear. You dump resources into something that just isn’t working.

Sometimes that works out. Sometimes ignoring the critics and naysayers is exactly what you need to do to succeed. But sometimes, oftentimes, a failure is still a failure no matter how you try to dress it up. That’s a real downer and an energy drainer. It becomes harder and harder to keep fighting the good fight.


Now, try flipping that script around. Instead of starting from a position of passion, start from a position of success. You shouldn’t give up on things right away, but you should work on building momentum where there is momentum to be built. Follow the positive trends on the projects that are seeing success. Follow the money, so to speak.

Ride Your Winning Pony

Let’s say that you’re trying your hand at several ways to make money online. You’ve got a blog. You’ve got a podcast. You’ve got a YouTube channel. You’ve got landing pages for affiliate marketing. But all you’ve done, especially if you’re early on in your career, is that you’ve stretched yourself too thin.

When you’ve got these multiple prospects and projects on the go, you need to sit down with the numbers. Where are you seeing the most success? Where are you experiencing the greatest growth? Where are you getting the best ROI on your time investment? Once you’ve got that figured out, zero in on the hot lead and let the other stuff fall to the wayside. You’ve found a golden key worth pursuing.

Failure is hardly a bad thing. Failure is how you learn and it’s how you grow. And while failure can put a damper on your passion, it can’t slow your energy if you know that you’re working toward something bigger. And when you find your success (and continue to grow it), you’ll find that you get pretty passionate about whatever it is that is generating your success.

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