Reader Q&A: I’m Having Trouble Turning My Passions into a Business

Having a hard time maintaining motivation after doing lots of spiritual work? Can’t seem to keep your motivation steady to sustain business projects? 

Let’s see if this is a byproduct of Spiritual Limbo, or…something else. In this reader Q&A, we’ll look at one person’s predicament and see if we can get to the bottom of why it can be so hard to turn hobbies into successful businesses. 

Reader Question:

I have lots of energy. Since I started to de/reprogram, leaving situations & people behind, energy was released. But the energy goes everywhere. It goes circular in all directions. Not so much directional, like (business)-motivational from A to B.

This means that I start many things that interest me. I can really dive into a subject. As soon as I consumed the activity then I drop it. Sometimes the interest comes back. Like toddlers or dogs: As soon as they loose interest, they move on to the next thing. I enjoy exploring different activities: outdoors, trail Running, Swimming, city biking, I bought LEGO, how to make a webpage, finding cheap air fares on the internet, maybe dancing salsa again, sketching, ….

On the other hand, I want to start my own business project. Here is the trigger:

When I do all my activities, of course, it is result driven. I want to run from A to B, I want to finish my LEGO tower, I want to make a nice webpage, …. Yet it is not a business motivation behind it. As soon as I think about it: oh, this might be a business idea or I think of myself as LEGO coach, wellness trainer, ……Game over. I loose interest, I rush, I cramp, tension….

I cleared (still do) my parents old programming regarding this matter. As a result I started to engage in all these spontaneous fresh childlike activities again. Lost completely interest in intellectualizing my life. I’m really interested in doing things. On the other hand, when it comes to translate an activity in a business idea. I’m stuck. It would be convenient to have only 1 major interest. Like “eating”, I would travel to different places and start an eating blog.

I am not enlightened. I don’t have any ultra sensory perception of the world, I don’t see auras. But I’m not lazy. I will say this: My identification with the ego “I” became shaky, wobbly. Therefore, I was wondering if this is related to my business question. Maybe as this idea of “I” is not as rooted anymore as it was in the old identification, clenching to old labellings “you are a LEGO coach” becomes harder/impossible?

If this is correct, do you have any clever trick to outsmart this (i.e. in the past when my mind chatted nonstop, I just yelled out loud or I jumped in the ice cold water to break the narrating. I still needed to deal with the root of the problem, but only breaking it was helpful).

STRAND: Answer

I can see why this is a struggle for you and how you must feel there is some kind of mental block or unseen obstacle preventing you from translating your simple, childlike enthusiasm for certain activities and hobbies into a profitable business. Let’s pull this apart a bit and see if we can make some sense of it. 

First, let’s examine some of your ideas around setting up your own business.

Broadly, there are two types of business that people generally think of starting. The first is true entrepreneurship, and that’s when you have an idea for a business and you build around it the machinery, the engine, the vehicle, that will carry that vision into the market. You create a model of what’s needed, you hire people who have experience in those areas, including people to deal with legal, government compliance, marketing, sales, etc. You fund all this by laying down a fat stash of your own savings, or you raise capital by bringing on investors, to whom you become obligated. The experience of running a startup is comparable to a military campaign. It’s exciting (because the constant reality of immanent death does oddly make one feel more alive), and impossibly stressful, and pretty much takes over your life until your business becomes stable and established and reaches the point where it is no longer a startup. 

This level of risk, responsibility, obligation, strategy and commitment has little relation to the spontaneous, childlike enjoyment you are engaging in. Undertaking this kind of venture needs to be done in a very adult, mature state of full sobriety. Motivation and passion will not carry you through it. Those things will falter and maybe even disappear sometimes, and at those times your very adult, mature discipline and commitment to your obligations will have to be there to carry you. 

The other type of business is a solopreneur venture. People call this “starting your own company”, and it is technically true, but really nothing at all like the entrepreneurship previously outlined. In this model, you have some kind of service or product that you, personally, would like to sell. 

Instead of getting a job at a company, you are creating a job for yourself. This is why solopreneurs are called “self-employed”. Rather than going out and having a company give you a job, you are giving yourself a job. But what you’ve really done is give yourself two jobs. Because you have to be both the employer (run the business) and the employee (provide the service or produce the product for the customer). 

As the business owner, you have to do the marketing, government compliance, accounting, pay the bills, handle legal issues like client contracts, deal with customer service issues and conflicts, manage social media and online ratings, branding and reputational issues. And so on. It’s terrifically dull. I mean, there might be someone out there who got a raging hard on thinking about doing all these things, but…I imagine that’s exceedingly rare! 

let’s get back to you now.

Let’s bring you back to this place you’ve been finding yourself. You’re in a simple, spontaneous childlike state of enjoying some activity, then you think about turning it into a business and you stop feeling that pure enjoyment, you start feeling locked up and you begin to drag a bit, and maybe sabotage the effort. Perhaps you intuitively know that turning your enjoyable activity into a solopreneur business necessarily includes all this other tedious, unavoidable work for which you have no passion at all. And so you stall.

We’ve gone over the part where you have to be the business owner and fulfill all those functions and duties.

How about the fun part?

The part where you get to do the thing you are passionate about and get paid for it? What will that be like? 

Maybe not as enjoyable as you imagine. The minute you expect to charge money for your product or service, things change. The minute you actually take money from someone, things change a lot! Not because money is evil or corrupting. It changes because you are not there to do this thing because you enjoy it. Enjoyment is not primary. You have contracted yourself to deliver a service or product not when you want to or when you feel inspired to or in the manner you choose. It’s all about what the customer wants and what they are willing to pay for. 

Going back to your childlike state of enjoyment, consider that everything in this scenario is about you. Your creativity, your expression, your discovery, your enjoyment. It’s about you. When you turn it into a business, it ceases to be about you. It is all about your customer.

You can start from the point of looking at the things you like to do when considering starting a solopreneur venture. But that is the very first micro-step. After that you need to shift gears entirely and focus exclusively on who your potential client base is, what they need and value, what they are willing to pay for — and deliver your service or product in the manner, time and condition they want. That is how solopreneur businesses become stable, established and financially rewarding. 

When you are in a state of spontaneous, childlike enjoyment of your activities, you are engaging in a hobby.

And as I’ve detailed, a hobby is nothing at all like a business. 

There are some solopreneur businesses that are not customer dependent, such as investing in crypto or day trading. You still have to do government compliance, accounting and whatnot, but if you don’t get your money from customers, you remove a lot of the tedious chores of running a business and you’re not placing yourself in service to the desires, limitations and preferences of others. 

If I’ve made this all sound dreadful, that’s because if you have customers of any kind (that includes a readership for a blog or followers on YouTube or social), then it is very different from the notion of simply converting an enjoyable hobby activity into a profitable business.

Now, let’s get back to what you originally wrote to me.

Let’s consider what topics you focus on.

I notice that you speak about your delight in returning to pure in-the-moment enjoyment, creativity, self expression, and you are recapturing this sense of freedom and joy and simplicity of being that your parents stifled when you were growing up.

In a separate message (not published in this post), you touch on your desire for social interaction, because you don’t want to live the life of a hermit. You’re trying to expose yourself to “real humans” so you can learn how to cope more skillfully with interacting with people. It’s a smart course of action, because you know it’s something that only gets better with regular practice, and if you avoid people for a long time it’s way too easy to lose social skills and the ability to relate. 

You told me about your upbringing, and how you experienced your parents’ inability to cope with the stresses and challenges of their lives, and how they in turn put a great deal of pressure on you to conform to a very limiting set of standards and expressions. You are working to deprogram from this original family pattern. 

You are in a state of self-discovery, and maybe a sense of newness. When you work to strip away the old pattern, there is a period of time when you’re not certain who you are in the world. You’re open to new ways of thinking and feeling and experiencing. All that is great, and it can also be a time where you feel a little confused because you no longer have the clarity of the old pattern. It’s normal. 

And you had some unhealthy patterns of relating to people. You grew up as a people pleaser, because that is what was required of you. You’re learning to become more emotionally mature and grounded, so you can handle personal and professional relationships without defaulting back into the old coping mechanisms. All this is great. 

Then you jump into the idea of converting one of your many transitory pastimes into a business. This is a huge leap. You describe your interest as constantly shifting, and you equate your ability to maintain focus and motivation with that of a toddler or a dog. You wonder if this is some kind of spiritual problem that could benefit from some technique to quickly shift your energy or something. You’ve always been employed and you’ve never run your own business or been self-employed before. And you currently have some kind of part time office job (not terrible, not thrilling) that you do just to pay the bills.

Please consider the following:

1: What leads you to believe you should be self-employed?

Self-employment is suitable for certain people with certain temperaments, such as people who are able to create and maintain their own structure rather than people who do better when the structure comes from outside themselves (even if they balk at this). Really examine why you think you should pursue self-employment. Look at your own temperament as objectively as possible. It’s not about having a good idea for a product or service, and it’s not about intelligence. You may have both of those, yet you are not a good candidate to fill the roles of business owner and employee simultaneously. It’s also not about being lazy or avoiding hard work. It’s really about whether your constitution is conducive to self-employment. 

2: How do you manage to show up for your part time job, and do all the tasks required of you there?

You don’t seem to be very enthusiastic about that job, yet you must do it consistently well enough to remain employed. Why? How?

If you can do this okay-but-not-totally-inspiring job, then you must rely on something other than interest or motivation in order to accomplish this. So obviously you have some kind of means to do what is required of you even if it is not compelling and fascinating and wonderful in the moment. Why do you apply this to your part time job, but not to doing the tasks required to start your own business?

Similarly, you don’t seem to freeze up or resist being a “whatever your current part time office job title is”. I mean, you literally ARE that, that’s your employment, and you are getting paid to do that. It’s not inspiring, but it also doesn’t generate some big resistance pattern. Why? Why are you putting “Wellness Coach” in some kind of Big Deal category? Is it because it feels like a risk, a stretch, unknown, uncertain, new? Being a Wellness Coach is no different from being an Office Worker, but for some reason you are adding some special sauce to one and not the other. It has nothing to do with losing attachment to your “I”. Please sit with this question and consider it as pragmatically as you can.

3: Your interest and passion for an activity may indeed fluctuate like that of a dog or a toddler, but obviously that doesn’t affect your ability to get work done.

The problem is you are not looking at self-employment as work, but as play. You paint when you feel like painting, but when someone has paid you to paint, you paint whether you feel like it or not because it’s work. And if there is some happy overlap between wanting to paint and needing to paint to complete the work you have taken money to do, then hallelujah! But that’s not a condition you put on doing the job.

4: Can you change your mindset and approach the tasks to set up a business as work rather than play, and see if that shifts anything?

Or maybe it will give you some clarity about whether you really want to turn these hobbies into self-employment at all. Try it. Just do the things using whatever strategies you employ to get your normal work done, even when you don’t find it interesting. See what you learn from this experiment. 

5: I get the feeling you want to participate more in the world, with people.

I also feel like you are a sensitive person, You have to kind of have a thick skin and be emotionally resilient when you are self-employed in a customer-dependent business. People are wonderful, messy and complicated. Working with them can be fulfilling one day and totally exhausting the next, or both at the same time. I applaud your inclination to stay connected with the human tribe and become more socially fluent. There are lots of ways to do that. 

I hope this helps to clarify the elements of your predicament so you can look at them more clearly and come to your own conclusions.

Right now you’ve piled a bunch of things all together, believing them to be all parts of this problem, when some of them are unrelated. And I feel you are looking in one direction for answers and ignoring the mundane and obvious issues at hand. 

At some point you may benefit from consulting a really good career counselor who is clear eyed and utterly pragmatic, as well as able to brainstorm creatively and think outside the box with you. Yeah, I know…not so easy to find such a person! It’s clear you are looking for a change in this area of your life, and it looks like you could use some quality guidance in figuring out what shape that should take.

I feel like there should be lots of resources online for this, especially on YouTube, but of course you’ll need to steer way clear of all the absolute fantasy new age rubbish. It’s possible you might do well with self-employment if you are very clear in structuring it to fit your personality — and here, deep and brutally objective self knowledge is necessary. Anyone who is honest and experienced in starting businesses will tell you that turning your hobby into a business often ruins your love of the hobby and results in a poorly run business. So care is needed to make sure it’s a sound business that you are starting for the right reasons and in the right way.

And if you discover that you are not cut out for self-employment yet you still want to pursue being a Wellness Coach, you can get a job as a Wellness Coach (or whatever) at a company that works in that field. Or you can form a partnership, because sometimes people can work well in that structure when they can’t quite fit themselves into the solopreneur self-employed model. There are ways!

But first and foremost, you must discover what you are willing to consistently work at (work, not play) and what conditions your temperament requires to thrive. 

I love that you equate your attention or interest to that of a dog or a toddler. This is a very astute observation, and I have been through periods where I felt the same. Please remember that dogs can be trained, and need to be, in order to live successfully with humans. Having raised a child, I can attest to the fact that toddlers can be coaxed into doing things they are not interested in, and likewise coaxed into refraining from activities they are very interested in. 

Sometimes when you do lots of inner work, and you are trying to regain some of the simplicity and vibrancy you lost in childhood, you can inadvertently return to that childlike state — which is fine, except that you also need to have the part of you that is still an adult, because toddlers and dogs don’t survive for long in the world without that mature, adult guide and protector.  

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Consider this:

You suffer because of your programming, and because you don't have command of yourself.

You'd like to be relieved of this suffering.

You don't want to do the work to deprogram yourself (because, perversely, the program is protecting itself by making that path seem vague or unappealing).

You need to feel like you are pursuing a solution, and you've latched onto the one that is most unlikely (statistically) to occur anytime soon...enlightenment.

And...you also have a sincere calling toward spirituality, but this content has been thrown in the compulsion machine, so it's hard for you to separate what part of this is really you and what is just a product of the machine.

My suggestion would be to make enlightenment a neat side interest and pursue deprogramming like everything—and I mean everything—is riding on it. This will be ridiculously hard. Not because it is so difficult or complicated, but because your programming will do everything to prevent you doing this.

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