How do I find my passion? Answered in Quora by Oliver Emberton, Founder of Silktide

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2015 at 1:40 am

Too many of us believe in a magical being called ‘passion’. “If only I could find my passion”, we cry. “Finding my passion would make me happy”.

Well, passion is real, and very powerful. But almost everything people believe about finding it is wrong.

Rule 1: Passion comes from success

All of our emotions exist for good reason. We feel hunger to ensure we don’t starve. We feel full to ensure we don’t burst. And we feel passion to ensure we concentrate our efforts on things that reward us the most.

Imagine you start a dance class. You find it easy. You realise you’re getting better than others, and fast. That rising excitement you feel is your passion, and that passion makes you come back for more, improving your skills, and compounding your strengths.

The enemy of passion is frustration. If you constantly struggle with something, you’ll never become passionate about it. You learn to avoid it entirely, guaranteeing you never improve.

Most people get this backwards. They think we discover our passion, and that makes us good at something. It’s actually finding that you’re good which comes first. Passion comes from success.

Rule 2: Childhood is where passion goes to die

In theory childhood provides a great opportunity to try a bit of everything, find your talents, and with them, your passions.

But think for a moment how badly the system is stacked against you. Say school lets you try 20 subjects, ranking you against thousands of other children. Those aren’t good odds. Most kids are, by definition, around average. And it doesn’t matter how much we improve education, because people need to feel exceptional to feel passionate, and improving education simply moves up the average.

Say you’re one of the lucky ones, and you’re top of your junior math class. The education system will keep rising your difficulty until you find a level – like college – where you’re not exceptional anymore. Even if you actually are objectively pretty great, once you feel merely average, you’ll find your passion slipping.

And that’s if you’re lucky. What if your passion was for art? From an early age that passion is compromised by its social consequences. “It’s hard to make a living from painting” say your parents. “Your cousin is doing so well from engineering. Why can’t you be more like him?” And so you put your passions to one side, and let them wither.

In a population of billions, it’s obvious that not everyone can be unusually great at a handful of academic subjects. What if your true skills are in speechwriting, or creative dance, or making YouTube commentaries of videogames? None of those things are even on the syllabus.

And so most people grow up without much passion for anything.

Rule 3: Passion can be created

It may help to know that the most successful people in life generally didn’t pick their passion off a shelf.

In fact, many of the world’s most successful people dropped out of education entirely. Not because they were stupid – but because they found other areas where they were more skilled that education did not recognise.

They created their own passions.

Only a tiny fraction of people can expect to excel in the narrow subjects that childhood primes us for. And competition in that space is basically ‘everybody in the world who went to school’, which doesn’t help our chances.

But if you look outside of that space, you’ll find less competition, and more options. And this is how you tip the odds of finding a passion in your favour.

Option 1: Create something

When you create something new, you’re inventing something to be passionate about.

You might design novelty cushions, or write Batman stories, or start a Twitter account dedicated to fact-checking politicians.

New things are relatively uncontested. By creating something new, you’ve made your odds of becoming exceptional far, far higher.

Now it’s important to note that this doesn’t sidestep Rule #1: passion comes from success. So if your new Twitter account only has 5 followers after a year, you probably won’t be too passionate about it. If you had 5 million, you’d have quit your job. You must find success to fuel your passion.

But at least you’ve drastically improved your odds, because your competition is so limited. Only a handful of people will even dare to try something new. And you can be one of them, just by starting.

You see this pattern throughout history’s greats. A student called Mark was never going to be the world’s greatest programmer. But he started building cool websites, and he found he was unusually good at this because even better programmers rarely dared to try. It just so happens one of his little experiments became Facebook.

Option 2: Lead a new trend

The older and more established an area is, the harder it will be to compete in. Millions have got there before you, and the lower your odds of standing out, the lower your odds of being passionate.

But there’s always a new frontier being born, a place where everyone else is hopelessly incapable, and even modest skills can be impressive.

Say you were a teenager who started making YouTube videos, back in 2005. You grow a modest following, and your growing success excites you. By the time the ‘grown up’ world had realised YouTube was Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal with 4 billion views every single day, you’ve become a passionate master of an invaluable new craft.

That isn’t fantasy. There are mountains of hugely successful YouTubers, and most started in the same way: before everybody else. It’s the same for the first bloggers, rappers, and videogame designers.

If you can find something new that’s growing fast, and get skilled at it early, you’ll find it disproportionately easy to excel because of the lack of competition. And that’s your new passion right there.

Option 3: Fuse mediocrity

One limitation of education is it’s designed to narrow your skills. Education generally finds your One Best Thing, and pushes that thing as far as you can stand it:

The problem is most of us, by definition, can’t be the best in any one area. But we can be exceptional in our combinations.

Say you’re an average artist, with a decent sense of humour. You won’t have much hope with an art degree, and you can’t study ‘humour’ as a subject. But you could be an awesome cartoonist.

Or take an average business student, with some programming ability, and decent sales skills. That person is surprisingly well suited to become the boss of others who were better than them in any one of those areas.

The most successful people are almost never defined by a single skill. They are a fusion of skills, often not even exceptional skills, but they’ve made their fusion exceptional. Steve Jobs was not the world’s greatest engineer, salesperson, designer or businessman. But he was uniquely good enough at all of these things, and wove them together into something far greater.

This is the final route you have to finding your passion: combine skills into something more valuable. Remember, passion comes from success. If a new combination gets you better results, that could be your passion right there.

Why passion matters

Passion is attractive. As passion comes from believing you’re unusually good at something, being passionate is a very sincere way of saying, “by the way, I’m awesome”.

Passion will persuade people to follow you. It will persuade people to believe in you. But most importantly, passion will persuade yourself. Passion is an emotion specifically intended to make you go crazy and work your ass off at something because your brain believes it could rock your world. That, like love, is a feeling worth fighting for.

And like love, what we’re passionate about is too important to leave to the mercy of fate. If you haven’t found your passion yet, create new things, lead new trends, and fuse new combinations. But don’t ever stop looking.



In Uncategorized on March 2, 2015 at 8:05 am

Hey. I’m Brian, the VP of Growth at Sidekick. You know what’s harder than growing a company?

Determining what the hell to focus on.

For entrepreneurs, every day is different. One day I’ll be signing partnership agreements. The next day I’m interviewing job applicants. And the following day I’m pitching investors. All the while, praying my brain doesn’t deactivate after last night’s three hours of sleep.

Yet if I can count on one thing, remaining steady, despite the day … is that there will be distractions.  

“Hey Brian, can you send me that partnership agreement?” 

“Hello Brian, will you shoot over this month’s revenue report?”

“Umm … Brian … the server just crashed. What should we do?” 


Constantly distracted by external requests (let alone internal thoughts or ideas, which can be the most distracting), it’s easy to forget long-term goals. However, there’s a systematic approach I use to stay focused.

A template that forces me to consciously think about a task’s importance before doing it.  

It functions in three easy steps.

Step 1: Copy the Blank Time Management Matrix Template. 

First, make a copy of the Blank Time Management Matrix Template by clicking File > Make a Copy. You can use this blank template to follow along, inserting your own tasks, as I quickly explain how I use the template to prioritize.

However, you must be signed into your Google account in order to make a copy!


Step 2: Write new task, label by quadrant.

Step two is simple. On the sheet ‘My To-Do List’, write a new task in Column A, then label the task by priority (1, 2, 3, or 4) in Column B.


It will now magically appear in the sheet ‘My Prioritized To-Do List’, automatically organized for you.

The task prioritization system I use is Dwight Eisenhower’s strategic time management matrix (diagram visualized below), which organizes tasks into four quadrants.


Before I used Eisenhower’s prioritization system, my to-do list was a never-ending nightmare:


All tasks merged together, leaving me with the perplexing question … what should I do first???

Now, rather than randomly completing unprioritized tasks, I put them into the template. This forces me to question a task’s importance.

I take a few seconds. Stop. Take a breath. Think…

“Do I specialize in this?”

“Does it contribute to my long-term goals?”

“Could someone else do this? Should I focus on something else?” 

Through these questions, I’m building a system that will drive business forward. Particularly, one guided by my personal G.P.S. system, where I define my Goals, Priorities, and Specialties.

  • Goals. Achieve 500,000 weekly active Sidekick users, grow team to 15 intelligent people, and exercise three times per week.
  • Priorities. Spend time with family and friends, exercise regularly, hire smart people, and educate current team members.
  • Specialties. Training team members, analyzing growth experiments (whether product features or marketing), and customer/competitive analysis.

My personal G.P.S. system is the ultimate roadmap (pun intended) for focusing on important tasks, both professionally and personally. It helps me stay focused, but more functionally, it’s now easier to label tasks into the appropriate quadrant in Column B.

I encourage you to write down your own G.P.S. system, which is available in the blank template:

G.P.S. system eisenhower

For a full glimpse into my to-do list, an example of a completed time management matrix template, access it here.


Not only will you gain access to all my to-do list tasks, but I’ll explain the logic behind why I labeled tasks into that specific quadrant.

For a preview, here are a few Q1 tasks and the logic behind why I label them as Q1.

Q1: Important/Urgent Tasks (Do Now) Why I labeled Q1
Prepare Q1 growth metric results for team meeting tonight Leading our team and hitting 500k WAU is agoal. Urgent because it’s due tonight.
Review persona research questions before customer interviews today Customer analysis is a specialty. Urgent because interviews are today.
Send video chat dial-in information to job candidate for final interview tomorrow Hiring smart people is a priority. Plus, I can quickly check this off my list by scheduling an email to her, so she gets it 10 minutes before the interview.
Coordinate time with friends for fiance’s surprise birthday party tomorrow night Time with family and friends is a priority. Urgent because it’s tomorrow night(!)
Review latest retention experiment and have front-end developer implement before tomorrow. Analyzing growth experiments is a specialty. Urgent because meeting is today.


Similarly, here are a few Q3 tasks and whether I’ll delegate, automate, or decline them.

Q3: Not Important/Urgent Tasks  Whether I’ll delegate, automate or decline
Coffee request for tomorrow from small-business podcaster I met at networking event Politely decline request, as it detracts from my personal G.P.S. system. Also, I work mostly with SaaS products, not small business, so this doesn’t make sense.
Pay Internet and gas bill due tomorrow I can automate this, eliminating tasks from future to-do lists, through automatic billing from my checking account.
Schedule haircut and doctor appointment I can delegate this to a personal or virtual assistant.
Promote today’s blog post on Twitter and to email list I can automate this with automatic social-media and email publishing
Pickup party supplies for fiance’s surprise birthday party tomorrow night I can delegate this is to an errand-running program, such as TaskRabbit.


Access my entire to-do list (over 35 tasks), along with the logic behind each decision, by grabbing the Google Spreadsheet called Brian’s Time Management Matrix Template [example].

Step 3: Complete task, then delete it. 

Finally, once a task is completed, delete the task on the ‘My To-Do List’ sheet. Do not delete tasks on the ‘My Prioritized To-Do List’ sheet. Doing so will erase the formula used to visually sort the tasks.


That’s it. It’s incredibly simple, yet surprisingly powerful.

Simply write in your new task, label it by quadrant, then delete the task once you’re finished. However, you may be asking, “What if I don’t have personal assistants?”

Great news. I’m covering that exact subject in a few days.

I’ll explain how I find the right personal assistant, including the exact websites to use and precisely how much it costs. Yes, even solo-entrepreneurs will benefit from this information.

In addition, I’ll explain how I save time using automated email templates to outsource tasks, which you can easily copy and paste. Everything will be available, completely free, to all email subscribers (subscribe below).

Until then, I’m happy to answer specific questions about how to use the time management matrix template in the comments.

12 Must Watch TED Talks for Entrepreneurs – taken from Shopify blog

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2015 at 7:55 am
12 Must Watch TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world.

TED is a circuit of highly popular conferences that present “Ideas Worth Spreading” – which have quickly grown to become some of the most well known conferences around the world. TED has attracted presenters such as Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Larry Page, and a large handful of Nobel Prize Winners.

Many of the presentations, known as TED Talks, present ideas that are particularly valuable to entrepreneurs. I put together a collection of TED Talks that all entrepreneurs, including ecommerce store owners, should find interesting and worthwhile. Since a lot of the presenters below have written books, I have included a link to purchase. All of the money earned from Amazon’s affiliate program will go to Acumen Fund, a non-profit venture that supports entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Let us know which TED Talk you think should have made the list in the comments.

Rory Sutherland: Life Lessons from an Ad Man

Entrepreneurs can learn a lot by studying behavioral economics. Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman ofOgilvy & Mather (one of the biggest marketing/advertising agencies in the world), makes the assertion that a change in perceived value can be just as satisfying as what we consider “real” value. The idea that intangible value can strongly influence opinion (and purchase decision) is evidenced in Sutherland’s humorous and deeply insightful presentation that every entrepreneur – certainly every marketer – should watch.
If you like this TED talk, also see “Sweat The Small Stuff,” an equally entertaining argument to put more focus on small details instead of big expensive problems. I also recommend his book “Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man.”

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Simon Sinek is an author, motivational speaker, and strategic communications professor at Columbia University. Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership that starts with his famous “golden circle of motivation” and the question “Why?”

If you like Simon Sinek’s TED talk, you should also check out his popular blog Re:Focus which is regularly updated with fascinating articles that will help entrepreneurs build businesses. Also check out his book “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.”

Dan Ariely: Are we in Control of our own Decisions?

The decisions we make are not only inevitable, but they’re also extremely predictable. Dan Ariely is a behavioural economist, professor, and author. He uses his own shocking research findings to show how we’re not as rational as we think when we make decisions.
If you like Ariely’s TED talk, also check out his podcast “Arming The Donkeys” and his books:

Seth Godin: How to get your Ideas to Spread

Be remarkable. Safe is risky. Being very good is one of the worst things you can do. Everyone has heard the expression “The best thing since sliced bread” but did you know that for 15 years after sliced bread was invented it wasn’t popular? The success of sliced bread, like the success of anything, was less about the product and more about whether or not you could get your idea to spread or not.
Marketing guru and author Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes to getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones. Godin has published almost a dozen best-selling books, some of the most popular being: “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable,”  “All Marketers Are Liars,”  “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?”  and “Poke The Box.”

Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce

The food industry used to determine what people want to eat by asking them – as you may have seen in the focus groups portrayed on Mad Men. Fact is, people don’t know what they want. Ask people what kind of coffee they like and they’ll say a “dark, rich, hearty roast” – in fact, most people actually want milky weak coffee.
Malcolm Gladwell, author, journalist, thinker, gets inside the food industry’s pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce, and makes a larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness.
If you like Malcolm Gladwell’s TED talk, entrepreneurs should also check out his books “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” and “Outliers: The Story of Success.”

Tim Harford: Trial, Error, and the God Complex

Unilever (they own 400 brands, including: Dove, Lipton, Becel, and more) hired some of the most brilliant engineers in the world to design the perfect nozzle to squirt out laundry detergent. No one could get it right. So they used trial and error instead. They created ten random variations of a nozzle, and kept the one that worked best. Then they created ten variations on that one, and kept the one that worked best, and so on. After 45 generations Unilever developed a perfect laundry detergent nozzle with absolutely no idea why it works.
In this TED talk, economics writer Tim Harford studies complex systems and finds a surprising link among the successful ones: they were built through trial and error. He asks entrepreneurs to embrace our randomness and start making better mistakes. Check out Tim Harford’s books “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure” and “The Undercover Economist.”

Steven Johnson: Where Good Ideas Come From

Entrepreneurs often credit their ideas to individual “Eureka!” moments. Steven Johnson doesn’t think it’s that simple and shows us how history tells a different story.

Steven Johnson is a best-selling author of seven books all on the intersection of science and technology woven together by personal experience. Johnson’s book, “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation” digs deep on the topic introduced in his TED Talk above. Also check out his most recent book which is only available for pre-order “Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age.”

Cameron Herold: Let’s Raise Kids to be Entrepreneurs

Cameron Herold thinks weekly allowances teach kids the wrong habits – by nature, they teach kids to expect a regular paycheque, something to which entrepreneurs usually don’t get. Herold’s two kids don’t get an allowance. He’s taught them to walk around the yard looking for stuff that needs to get done, then they negotiate a price. In his TED Talk above, Herold makes the case for a new type of parenting and education that helps would-be entrepreneurs flourish.
Cameron Herold is an entrepreneur through and through. He’s been building businesses since he was born – moved on to create 1-800-GOT-JUNK, now he coaches CEOs all around the world. His book “Double Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in 3 Years or Less” came out last year, and is a step-by-step guide to grow your business.

Dan Cobley: What Physics Taught Me About Marketing

Physics and marketing don’t seem to have much in common, but Dan Cobley (one of Google’s marketing directors) is passionate about both. Using Newton’s second law of motion, Heisenberg’suncertainty principle, the scientific method, and the second law of thermodynamics, Cobley explains the fundamental theories of branding.

Jason Fried: Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work

The office isn’t a good place to work, meetings are toxic, and ASAP is poison. In Jason Fried’s TED Talk, he lays out the problems with “work” and offers three suggestions to fix a broken office.
Jason Fried is the co-founder and president of 37signals, a company that builds web-based productivity tools. Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson wrote the book REWORK, which is about new ways to conceptualize working and creating.

Daniel Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation

Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Sometimes using money as motivation does more harm than good – and people perform far worse when motivated with cash.

Daniel Pink is a best-selling author, journalist, and the former chief speechwriter for US Vice President Al Gore. If you enjoy Pink’s TED Talk, check out two of my favorite books by Daniel Pink, “Drive: The Surprising Truth Abou What Motivates Us” and “The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need.”

Richard St. John: 8 Secrets of Success

Why do people succeed? Is it because they are smart? Or are they just lucky? The answer is neither. Success Analyst, speaker, and author Richard St. John asked over 500 extraordinarily successful people what helped them succeed. He analyzed their answers and discovered eight traits successful people have in common. His book “The 8 Traits Successful People Have in Common: 8 to Be Great” goes into further detail on each of the traits that are briefly outlined in his TED Talk above.

Looking for more great inspirational content? Check out 12 Must Watch “Non-TED” Talks for Entrepreneurs.