YapStone Blog

“According to Science, Here’s How Passion Leads to Success” written by YapStone.

There’s an often-repeated phrase in entrepreneurial circles: “If you can be happy doing anything else, then do it.” Owning a business can be like running a marathon – it’s a long term commitment and if your heart isn’t in it, you’ll lose your drive and drop out of the race  when things get tough. And just like dreaded Mile 22 of a marathon, it will get tough. Just ask any entrepreneur.   


Most entrepreneurs and business owners will agree that a lack of passion can set your  company up for failure. Simply moonlighting in your business lets investors know that you don’t care enough to go all in. And if you are dividing your time between several ventures, it could lead to more work and less satisfaction. If you really believe in your idea, product or service, you must find a way to work on it full-time.


As it turns out, science backs up this belief that passion drives success. In a recent study, researchers at the National Academy of Sciences examined the post-grad success rates of more than eleven-thousand West Point students. Upon entrance to the school, students were asked to determine how greatly nine different factors influenced their choice to attend the school. These factors were broken down into internal and instrumental motives; internal motives included things like “to become a leader in the US Military,” and instrumental motives included things like “to get a good job.”


Unsurprisingly, when students were evaluated after graduation, those with strong internal motives and weak instrumental motives fared better than those with strong instrumental motives and weak internal motives. In other words, those who had passion for their career choice succeeded, while those who chased accolades and recognition were less successful in their endeavors.


How can we use this information to help us succeed in business? It should remind us to pursue our passions with fervor and rely less on external motives as a reason to continue growing and learning.  If you are an entrepreneur, you can view this insight as an opportunity to become more client-centered. The more you focus on helping clients achieve their goals by offering as much value as possible, the more you and your company will grow and succeed.  


In another study completed in collaboration with The University of Pennsylvania, The University of Michigan, and The United States Military Academy at West Point, researchers analyzed the effect of “grit” on long-term success. Grit is defined in the study as the intersection of passion and perseverance as related to long-term goals. Across six individual studies, the researchers found that persons with a higher “grit score” had improved success rates (above and beyond those explained by IQ variance).


Both of these studies teach us that passion for our work is a strong driver for success. When passion is a main driver, we are less likely to quit when we hit blockers and obstacles. We are also more likely to develop more creative solutions to complex problems so that we can forge ahead, even when logic tells us to walk away. Just ask a marathoner. They all dread miles 21-23, known simply as “the wall.” It’s that time in the race, usually in the later stage, when your mind or your body are being tested and the race goes from a 26.2 mile challenge to an insurmountable obstacle. It may seem that your mind and/or body are telling you to give up, to stop, as if to say, “it’s just not worth it.”  Yet, last year, 98.7 percent of runners in the New York Marathon finished the race.


Passion alone may not lead to success, yet it is certainly an important ingredient.