Forget your “calling”, run a side project

Lots of people tell you to quite your job and follow your dreams, to find your calling or do work you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

But wow, that’s a lot of pressure. What if you choose the wrong thing? What if you have no idea what your “calling” is? What if you don’t know, out of all the things you love doing, which you should pick to start a business with?

This kind of approach to business and life, I actually find to be pretty limiting. We’re complex human beings. We don’t just love doing one thing, and what we like to do changes as we change, as we experience more, grow through doing something different and connecting with new people.

Far better then, I think, to take the pressure off. Forget your calling and instead go with the flow. Figure out what things you quite like doing and have a play.

My favorite approach to business is running side projects. They’re low stress and low financial, time and emotional investment. These all make it easier to start up, quickly, and to hack the idea. Start now, get a product/service out tomorrow, give it a try and see how you go.

Because you’re less invested, it makes it a hell of a lot easier to push the idea and really test it. When it’s your one and only calling you’ll probably be a bit scared of doing it wrong (if you stuff up that one thing you were born to do, then you’d really be screwed!), but if it’s just a casual side project, it doesn’t matter if it fails.

I’m not saying don’t try hard, you still have to work at it. But in fact I find low investment and hacking can help you to be more effective when working on a new idea. For example, some people find it easier to promote their friend’s idea than their own, and the same applies here. If you’re not invested in your own idea, you won’t be so protective of it and you’re able to be more removed, which makes it easier to shout about the idea. And the shouting about it is key if you want to succeed.

From speaking to over a hundred founders, I’ve found the one thing holding most of us back is fear; often of failure, usually of judgement, either from others or ourselves. So keep it casual.

This is not to say your side project will only ever be a side project. From small things grow multi-million pound businesses, or was it trees, I can’t quite remember. Imagine if in 2004 Mark Zuckerberg has started off by saying, “Right, I’m going to build a global business with 1.6 billion users”, he probably would have never gotten over the enormity of it to even begin. But he didn’t do that, he didn’t even start a “business”, he just started a side project. He started a list of his class mates. That was it. That was all he tried to do to start with - low stress, low investment, pretty quick to build.

You also might not know what you want your business to look like down the road, so this is another reason to keep it casual. You might quite like cycling and enjoy sailing around Sardinia: will this build into cycling and sailing holidays all over the globe or a collection of awesomely quirky cycling holidays in the most unusual of places? Who knows. But that’s the fun of it. You can only connect the dots looking back, so keeping it casual now enables enough doors to be open that your side project could turn into anything.

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I’d love to hear what projects you’re working on so do get in touch.