The advice to follow your passion typically promotes a sense that things will be easier. However, it isn’t the most reliable compass to guide you toward a successful business strategy.

Why “follow your passion” is bad advice

“Follow your passion!”

Research shows this well-meaning advice can set you up to fail in two ways.

Firstly, the advice to follow your passion typically promotes a sense that things will be easier if you do so, increasing the likelihood of giving up when things are more challenging than expected.

Secondly, following this advice makes us less likely to notice and pursue ideas and opportunities outside of a narrow focus. As a thought leader, your work depends on generating new ideas. You are most likely to find the innovations that will elevate your work by looking in non-obvious places outside of your passions.

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Whenever I find myself at a critical business juncture, I "get out of the building," not literally, especially during COVID, but in the spirit of stepping out of my element.

Get out of the building

I’ve done over 20 coaching calls in the past three weeks. While the topics of each call varied, one piece of advice came up more than any other.

The advice applied whether I was coaching someone just starting out or someone who already had a thriving business.

This advice is my go-to when it comes to getting clarity and confidence about business strategy, both for myself and my clients.

It’s a treasure trove of inspiration and validation.

It’s a simple piece of advice, and yet so many overlook it.

In the words of renowned entrepreneur and author, Steven Blank.

Get out of the building.

In other words, get out and have in-depth conversations with your intended market in which you ask them meaningful questions about their experience.

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Scaling a thought leadership business means you have to continually hone your ability and your company's. Here are seven quick ideas to do that.

To scale your business, you must also scale _____

Everyone’s eyes glazed over.

The instructor continued drawing on the whiteboard, explaining how sounds are made up of a mix of frequencies.

The class was The Physics of Sound — a joint effort between the music and engineering schools.

The music students struggled to understand waveforms and the physics of sound. The engineering students struggled to grasp the concepts of pitch and timbre.

I could feel the confusion and overwhelm permeating the room.

What was missing?

In a word…

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While we’re all feeling beaten down by everything going on in the world right now, we can keep taking one step forward at a time.

When you’re feeling beaten down and are tempted to give up…

I lay in my bed staring at the ceiling, feeling crushed. Not a single cell in my body wanted to get out of bed.

I’d put everything I had into finding the right apartment in Brooklyn by August 1 when I needed to move and now all hope of making that happen had been dashed.

It was now July 29. The day before, I’d found out I didn’t get the apartment I had my heart set on. The landlord strung the application process along for a week just to choose someone else in the end. They’d received numerous applications and chose someone else.

(Getting an apartment in NYC is akin to putting an offer on a house and going through the process of applying for a loan).

Who’d have thought there would be so many people looking for apartments to move into during COVID?

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What to do when nobody seems to care about your message

I paced back and forth on the rooftop of my building.

(I mean, what else are you going to do when you need a change of scenery for work and all the coffee shops are still take-out only?)

On the other end of the call, a colleague was passionately explaining to me the message she felt driven to share with the world.

“There’s only one problem,” she finished.

“Nobody seems to care enough to listen to why their mind-gut connection is so important. It’s like I’m pulling teeth to get anyone’s attention. Am I just wasting my time?”

I quickly let her know she wasn’t wasting her time. She just needed to make one simple shift in the way she shared her message.

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