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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

An Alternative View of Passion

The popular, omnipresent mantra in our societies is: "Only work on things you're passionate about."<...>

Yet that simple mantra does not consider any of the nuances that relates to pursuing passion.


As an entrepreneur, passion is something that I've mostly embraced throughout my various pursuits. In every pursuit, passion meant something different to me and it also changed at various intervals throughout those journeys.

I can remember that my initial (failed) pursuits were all fueled by this passion for being different to my friends. Whilst my friends were enjoying high school and university, I was always working on something, trying to make money.

Looking back at all of those projects (an alternative music record label, a girl-next-door modelling agency & an online wine community) it's evident that I was obviously passionate about the individual topics or spaces that I was exploring. The thing that made me explore those though was this intrigue about one day being an entrepreneur and what it meant to already be pursuing such things at that stage.


Fast-forward to WooThemes (a 6-odd year journey for me) and I can pinpoint multiple things that I was passionate about at various stages...

Initially I just wanted to create a WordPress theme to the best of my technical abilities, which meant including absolutely everything and the kitchen sink in one product.

Thereafter came initial traction and I wanted to build a lifestyle business (from the tip of Africa) that would also shape the whole WordPress ecosystem. And as we were successful doing that, it morphed once again with an extended passion for using that success to build my own reputation and personal brand.

Towards the end my WooThemes journey, it was all about establishing a management team, finding incremental improvements and trying to reach some kind of (internal) scale.

And in the end, I left WooThemes because I ran out of things that I was passionate about. Whilst I remain passionate about the brand to this day and saying goodbye to the WooTeam at the time was hard, my personal passion had shifted and I had been tempted elsewhere.

My first post-Woo pursuit was PublicBeta, which ultimately died a very emotional and challenging death. The thing about PublicBeta though was that I'm still exactly as passionate about the motivation behind PublicBeta today than I was before I started working on it. And eventually I want to create something that does help entrepreneurs with the mental and emotional challenges that we don't speak about nearly often enough.


Given these experiences, how did I then decide to work on Receiptful?

Well, I knew I wanted to work on SaaS (as a personal challenge) and build a product that was platform agnostic (i.e. different to my previous experience of building only for one platform: WordPress). I was also intrigued about building stuff for eCommerce.

And then I stumbled on the hypothesis for Receiptful; that e-mail receipts are currently a missed marketing opportunity.

This aligned well with the goals or preferences that I had about my next pursuit and I also felt that I could use my past experience, skills and connections to my benefit.

But to say that I started working on Receiptful with a passion for e-mail receipts would be a lie.

Today though you can ask me what I've learnt about e-mail receipts as a publishing medium and I can wax lyrical about them. I'm super-challenged, -stimulated and -passionate about what we're doing to the extent that I want to revolutionize e-mail receipts forever.

I say that knowing though that e-mail receipts is only part of our long-term strategy and 3 / 4 / 5 years down-the-line, I might feel jaded about receipts themselves only to have that past passion replaced with something new.


So what's the point I'm trying to make?

Pursuing and working on things you're passionate about is never binary and it changes over time. Sometimes it's okay to be passionate purely about the financial or superficial gains available from doing those things. Maybe that's not sustainable, but as long as you're concious about that, then who cares?

Similarly everything we pursue is not meant to define us indefinitely or become our life's work. Every project and pursuit is just the next steps to the next thing.

Don't let the lack of passion on Day 1 deter you from exploring an opportunity; you can become insanely passionate about that.

Sometimes that just means picking out other passions (like a specific challenge or something new you'd like to learn) that become a segue into discovering the next big passion.

Passion is only worth something if you turn it into something. Pursuing nothing with passion still results in nothing.

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