Oct 24, 2022 | Starting a Business

If you do what you love, will the money really follow?

Q. Dear Zenagos, I hate my job, and I’m thinking of starting a business doing what I really love to do, but I’m scared. If you do what you love, will the money really follow?

“Do what you love, the money will follow,” is a good bit of wisdom that has inspired many entrepreneurs. It really works, but maybe not for the reason you think. The phrase became famous as the popular title of a book written in 1989 by Marsha Sinetar. The idea that doing what you love can become your way of making a living truly resonates because so many people are working in jobs that they do not love. As they spend eight or more hours a day doing work that does not inspire them, these workers long to change their lives – to spend their precious time doing work that they truly love.

Isn’t that just a fantasy?
Doing what you love sounds like a wonderful dream, but it also sounds like a pie-in-the-sky fantasy. Your financial commitments are sizable, and they never let up, so is it really practical to leave your job to do what you love? Actually, it can be.

What traits are shared by successful entrepreneurs?
Common lore is that the traits that make an entrepreneur successful include passion, creativity, and motivation (Walker, 2020). To test these popular beliefs, a considerable amount of formal research has been dedicated to studying the common traits of successful entrepreneurs. If investors could improve their ability to choose entrepreneurial teams, then that would have significant value to them. Also, if nations could invest in the right kinds of entrepreneurs, then that could positively influence the long-term direction of their economies. So, a lot of energy has been directed at understanding what makes entrepreneurs successful and how one could identify a successful entrepreneur in advance.

The conclusions of these studies vary. Some research determines that successful entrepreneurs are outgoing, agreeable, conscientious, and open to new experiences (Dai et. al., 2019). Other studies name a need for achievement, tolerance for ambiguity, and a belief that one’s own actions determine life’s outcomes (Okhomina, 2010). Still other work cites fanatical determination, openness to new ideas, and self-confidence (Bottles, 2002). Clearly, it’s hard to prove exactly what makes entrepreneurs successful. Every individual is unique. But, across the research, the most commonly mentioned traits shared by successful entrepreneurs are motivation and persistence.

The motivation and persistence to “pivot”
These traits align with our experience working with entrepreneurs. When you are starting a new business, you imagine what your customers will want and need, and you develop an offering. When you take that offering to market, you invariably learn that you were wrong about something. Perhaps customers want the product, but they don’t have the money to pay for it. Or, they may need the product, but they are actually unaware that they need it. Or, they may not understand what the product is at all. At this moment, entrepreneurs have a choice: they can give up, or they can persist. Many give up. It is frustrating to discover that you need to make a change, and it takes intense motivation to get through this frustration.

Those who persist will often “pivot,” changing their product a bit, or sometimes changing it entirely. Pivoting is a normal part of entrepreneurship. You listen to the customer, and you adapt and adjust. You may need to pivot several times. As we discussed in an earlier post, the history of entrepreneurship is chock full of stories of entrepreneurs who made several pivots, or whose entire business failed multiple times before they ultimately experienced success. So, pushing past these feelings of failure takes incredible persistence.

What does it matter if I do what I love?
When are you most likely to be motivated and persistent? To be mentally tough and determined? When you are chasing something that matters to you. It’s a lot easier to fight through a challenge when your reward will be the privilege of doing what you love to do as your job, all day, every day.

So, if you do what you love, you are likely to be more motivated and more persistent. That means that you will do whatever it takes to make your business work, and then the money may truly follow. Perhaps the saying should be, “If you persist, the money will follow,” but it’s not nearly as catchy.


Bottles, K. (2002). Focus, exchange and trust mark successful entrepreneurs. Physician Executive, 28(2), 71-72. Retrieved on October 23, 2022, from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A84236571/AONE?u=mlin_b_bpublic&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=beb76432

Dai, S., Li, Y., & Zhang, W. (2019). Personality traits of entrepreneurial top management team members and new venture performance. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 47(7), 1-15. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A595570241/AONE?u=mlin_b_bpublic&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=4324bc0b

Okhomina, D. A. (2010). The relationship between personality traits and entrepreneurial behavior and the moderating role of a supportive environment. International Journal of Business and Economics Perspectives, 5(1), 139-154. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A335522823/AONE?u=mlin_b_bpublic&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=cf3af8d9

Sinetar M. (1989). Do what you love, the money will follow: Discovering your right livelihood. Dell.

Walker, B. (2020, May 11). Six personality traits of successful entrepreneurs. Forbes. Retrieved on October 23, from, https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2020/05/11/six-personality-traits-of-successful-entrepreneurs/?sh=532df4fe70ba


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