Corbett Barr

Lifestyle Business Weekly

Which Side of the Passion Debate Are You On?


Maybe you haven’t heard, but there are two schools of thought about what part passion plays in business success.

One side claims that passion is everything, and that without it you can’t build a successful business. The other side sees work as simply a means to pursue your real passions outside of the office.

Understanding where you fall in this debate is critical to your success. It’s not just about whether passion is important in business in general, but whether passion is important for you personally to succeed.

The Vaynerchuk School of Hustle

Gary Vaynerchuk is passionate about passion. The first chapter of his upcoming book is titled “Passion is Everything” (I was recently sent a sneak preview, more on that later).

If you’ve ever watched one of Gary’s video blog posts or Wine Library TV shows, you know he’s the real deal. His enthusiasm comes through in every word. He’s all hustle and work ethic.

Gary says that finding your passion is critical to both your success in business and fulfillment in life. He sees no point in wasting your time working on anything other than what you love most.

By living your passion, Gary says you will automatically out-hustle your competition because you will love what you do so much. His is a life philosophy that really doesn’t separate life from work.

The Ferriss School of Renaissance Men

Tim Ferriss thinks you should follow your passions, just not at the office. Tim advocates a work-smarter-not-harder approach. He loathes “job descriptions as self descriptions.” His book, The 4-Hour Workweek is really about separating income from time to create your ideal lifestyle.

In some ways, Tim practices exactly what he preaches. He’s definitely not defined by his career. Take some recent topics on his blog for example, and you’ll find he’s interested in philosophy, dance, weight loss, gadgets and language learning.

Tim’s latest success is ironically due to a lot of hustle and I suspect healthy dose of passion. The big difference between his approach and Gary’s lies more in the duration of that hustle, and in how it defines you.

Who Should You Listen To?

Vaynerchuk says you should live your passion, and Ferriss assumes that the perfect job for you is the one that takes the least time. Who should you listen to?

The right answer depends a lot on who you are (big surprise). I’ve talked before about how turning something that you love to do into something you have to do (a job) can take the joy out of it. If you have a short attention span, what you love to do might change faster than you can cash in on it.

On the other hand, passion can be a powerful thing. It could be that pursuing your passion as a career will propel you to success you wouldn’t achieve otherwise. Once you achieve that success, you can worry about freeing up your time to pursue other things. In the mean time, just don’t forget about all the great things in life that exist outside of work.

In the end, both Gary and Tim are really advocating for the same thing. You should follow your passions in life.

Whether you do that inside or outside of the office is the real question. I’m betting on a little of both. What about you?

photo by db*photography

Corbett Barr

A weekly curated email of useful links for people interested in lifestyle businesses and independent entrepreneurship.


Am I Being Too Hard on Corporations?


Welcome to Free Pursuits Version 2!


  1. I’ve thought a lot about this over the past 6 years or so of building websites, and I’ve taken sort of a blend:

    What I blog about I’m very passionate about, and I absolutely love writing articles, creating videos etc. But it’s not something I do to relax, or even really what I’m “known” for amongst friends.

    I read, draw, and play video games purely for fun, and for those reasons don’t create websites about those topics. And it’s the same reason I’ve decided against making a travel site (although I had a fairly killer plan).

    Everything I do write about on the blog really interests me and I love it, but if I feel burnt out I still have a few hobbies that are completely “unspoiled” by business.

    It’s the same way I handle some websites. Twitter, for example, is mainly what I use to connect with readers and I use it as a business tool. Facebook on the other hand, is only for personal usage.

    I think it’s just important to have enough interests in life that nothing destroys the balance between work and play. If you work too much you’ll burn out, but if you play too much it’s easy to lose direction and just wander aimlessly through life.

    Love your work, but separate some play.


    • I’ve found that when working for myself, I tend to follow the separation rule much less (but not completely). It’s also important not to become a boor amongst your friends with a one-sided (but passionate) personality. Maintaining some sort of firewall between work and play is important not just for you, but for those around you too.

  2. You bring up some really interesting points here. I believe a little bit in what both of these guys think. Passion is awesome, and will allow your business to reach heights that probably aren’t possible without it. On the other hand, I like the kind of “lazier” business mentality that Tim Ferriss has.

    You’ve just given me something to think about all day, Corbett. Thanks!

  3. Corbett,
    Excellent topic and great summary. For me, I must be passionate about my job or the results suffer. The key in my career has been to find an area I am passionate about (whether within a company I start or a role within a larger organization) and push into that space. For the last 17 years I have worked hard to identify what I can get passionate about and shaping the roles to fit that need and not letting my job description limit what I can do. As a result, I wake up every day excited to come to work and passionate about helping small companies succeed, which is a role I created here within the large software company I work for.

    Of course, my passion for my job will never compete with the passion I have for my personal life so next year we followed the advise of Tim Ferris and are stepping off the “traditional path” and beginning a long term life of travel. Ultimately it was asking ourselves the question “what would you do if you did not have to work” that made the decision for us. It was then that my true passion kicked in and drives me each day (409 to go) to get out on the road.

    I love your blog and your inclusion of this topic. I think everyone should explore their passions and identify what makes them happy, both to earn money and personally. If you can combine the 2, then you are truly fortunate. But if not, my advice is to find and cultivate the passion wherever you can in your job as it will propel you farther in your career and keep you energized every day the alarm clock goes off at 5:30am.

    • 5:30am? Now that’s what I call passion ;) Kidding aside, though, I think you illustrated the point perfectly when you said, “my passion for my job will never compete with the passion I have for my personal life.” I think that’s exactly where Ferriss and Vaynerchuk differ. You took Ferriss’ advice, and should be well served by it. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have as much passion in your job as is possible, but I love that you’re not seeking complete fulfillment from it. Thanks for the great comment, Warren!

  4. I guess I’d have to say I’m more in the Ferriss school of thought. My goal has always been to make money primarily from something I’m reasonably passionate about, but to minimize my time involved with it so I could focus on what I’m extremely passionate about. I’m someone whose interests change regularly so I’m not sure I would be interested in a passion long enough to develop a scheme of making money at it.

  5. Heavyweight post Corbett, as always. I heard Gary joking around with Tim about co-authoring a book as a sort-of point/counterpoint. That baby would be a ghost on the shelves.

    I’ll save my thoughts on this for the tangential blog post I’ve got queued up for later. You’ll know when it’s up, as it will be the moment many people stop thinking I am a good person. ;)

    I’ll let my boy William Blake speak for me here, as he put it oh-so-powerfully: “Those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained. In being restrained, by degrees it becomes passive until at last it is nothing but the shadow of a desire.”

    Or my interpretation: passion is a relentless force of nature that cannot be suppressed – only focused and channeled. Anything short of that is just an interest.


  6. I’m with you, Corbett, in thinking that they are both really preaching the same message. Tim Ferris is definitely an inspiration, but his message has a health ydose of marketing spin in it. He works a whole lot harder than most people, but because he’s working on what he loves (pursuing knowledge, traveling the world, trying new things, training himself, writing about it from time to time) it doesn’t SEEM like work.

    Therein lies the distinction that he is using as a promotional tool. Gary emphasizes his go go go work ethic because it clearly appeals to his audience. What audience is Tim going for? The one that wants to make a change that will result in LESS work…defined as things they don’t want to do.

    It’s more or less semantic trickery, but at the end of the day the results are the same. Both are right, I believe, in living lives that show how much you can happily get done in a day if you love what you do.

  7. Jen

    Hey Corbett
    Great post, I’ve read Tim’s book and found it very inspiring for great ways to think differently about work and our relationship to it although for me I felt there was a slight lack of soul to setting up a business and outsourcing it. Nothing wrong with it, just I like to put my heart into whatever it is that I’m doing, but we all have different priorities and it does sound like Guy and Tim have different roads to the same goal.
    Thanks for getting my brain thinking 1st thing in the morning! Great stuff.

  8. Hi Corbett,

    Great contrast in styles here. You are correct in saying that they are both advocating following your passions but it is from a different angle.

    Vaynerchuk is all for hard work, which I believe is the only way to achieve great things. He is not always 100% passionate for the day to day work, even he complains of answering stupid wine questions on Facebook. He is passionate about the results of his efforts.

    It is also obvious that Tim Ferris works his ass off, despite his “Four hour work” message. He is a master of spin, as Colin notes above. Ferris knows how to sell, but he pretends that he is not working hard, because that message sells lots of books.

    I believe that both are passionate about success, but find different ways with dealing with the tedious day to day work. Gary just “crushes it”. Tim tries to outsource it. :-)

  9. “If you have a short attention span, what you love to do might change faster than you can cash in on it.”

    That defines me to a tee.

    Now that I have a clear definition, I can get clear on defining my path.

    I love what I do to earn a living at the moment, and would do it even if don’t get paid for it, and from time to time, I do it for no pay, but it is not what would say I am passionate about, so I have devised a plan to leverage it and create a stream of income from it.

    Similarly, I have other interests that I am devising plans to cash in on a similar vain – leveraging and creating a stream of passive/residual income.

    Travel with a holy curiosity is what I want to do with my time on earth, and when I am not doing that, I want to share my passion for life through speaking and writing, and I know that eventually that will become a stream of active/residual income for me.

    In a way, I belong to the Ferris school, in that my focus in life is to LIVE and treat income generation as a necessary evil (so to speak).

    Thanks, Corbett, you always seem to get me thinking and inspiring me in the right direction.


  10. I think that you bust it, work your butt off, and then let your hard work pay off for you by relaxing. Although, there is a balance with work/life. Hopefully if you are lucky enough to work with your passion, the two will intermingle a bit. However, you have to make time to wind down and relax.

    Wow, could I be more contradictory of myself? :)

  11. So many things interest me, I would have trouble picking a single passion to be passionate about for a living. While often confusing if I have to try to nail something down, it is really just about my joy for life. I enjoy a lot of things and thoroughly enjoy trying to see and do them all.

    Sometimes even working within a passion, there are obviously tedious tasks that have to be done if you are to earn a living doing whatever you’ve chosen to do. I agree with some commenters above that both of these two are both doing just that. They may have slightly different twists or approaches to doing so, but it accomplishes the same thing.

    Doing something essentially meaningless that I loathe for most of my waking hours so I can enjoy weekends is not something I can do anymore. I spent too many years doing so as it is, and even the rewards of all the money and toys were not worth it.

  12. DeyIrfanAdianto

    I agree that Tim Ferris does seem to work hard. But the fact that he works on something that he really loves (bodybuilding no less!), it doesn’t feel like “work” at all.

    The interesting thing that I realize is that some of Tim’s cashflow comes from selling BODYQuick, a supplement for increasing the strength of your physical performance. Usually most of his customers are male athletes, or bodybuilders,ALOT like Tim himself. So basically, Tim is already swimming around an industry that he is passionate about! And I think this is the key factor why he is so successful with his muse, besides his ability to automate it.

    So Corbett is absolutely right. Behind every succesful muse is an owner who is passionate about one thing. Good post, man!

  13. Bennie

    I would argue that Ferris has just as much passion as Gary. Ferris’s passion is doing what he wants and staying away from doing things he dislikes like “work”. However, Tim needs money to do what he wants so when he has to earn money he passionately finds ways to do it as quick, easy, and effortless as possible.

  14. I am a big believer in following your passions. Out of college, I had a job that I had no passion for, and I was just following the money. Since then I have somewhat learned my lesson. I “lucked out” by getting laid off 1.5 years later. I stagnated for a while, and moved into a career that I really enjoy, but I wouldn’t call it my passion. I enjoy the challenges it provides.

    I’m trying to follow my passion for photography, and for travel. I think I’m trying to follow a middle of the road philosophy with respect to following your passions. I am trying to automate things, and take myself out of the equation so that I can focus on the part I am mostly passionate about, travel and photography. The automation part of that is all Tim Ferris. The focusing on my passion part is all Vaynerchuk.

Leave a Reply

Happy ! Thanks for reading.

RSS   |    Archives   |    Newsletter