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Anwar Jumabhoy | Entrepreneur Insights

Passion is probably the most talked-about attribute of an entrepreneur. They get excited about a market opportunity, an idea, or a piece of code and they are immediately become passionate about converting that into a start-up company. Is this the best way to go about it? Well, actually no. 

Successful entrepreneurs do get passionate, but it’s normally about winning. It’s the same with sports. The passion might not be in their chosen sport. However, with talent and hours of practice, they develop the self-efficacy, which if coupled the right opportunity and execution can make for success.

Equipped with the tools, their focus and intense desire to succeed in whatever they do, a “will to win” is passion. Sometimes, this passion is taken to an extreme, where the will to win is so strong it becomes, what we sometimes refer to as a “killer instinct”.

Many extremely successful entrepreneurs and sportsmen have demonstrated this trait. Entrepreneurs that immediately come to mind are; Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Larry Ellison (Oracle), and Phil Knight (Nike). In sports, my pick would be Serena Williams (tennis), Ayrton Senna (Formula-1) and Michael Jordan (basketball).

Young entrepreneurs seeking to start a business would do well to heed the advice of Ben Horowitz. The co-founder of Andreesen-Horowitz, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm, speaking to the graduating class of Columbia University in 2015, reminded them to focus on their competencies and not their passion. His advice was;

  • Passions are hard to identify and prioritize – it’s much easier to figure out what one is good at.

  • Passions change over time, as one age and interests expand.

  • One may not be good at what one is passionate about. Watch American Idol and you realize that passionate singers, often don’t have the required talent to be successful!

  • Passion is self-centred. It is far more important to focus on what one can give to the world.


For entrepreneurs seeking to start a business, or companies seeking to expand the products or sales, it’s great to have passion. But remember you are far more likely to taste success if you build your business on competence and the desire to win! The same goes for companies seeking to expand their products and services.

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