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Tom Bilyeu Shares Why Following Your Passion is Terrible Advice

In this interview with Tom Bilyeu we talked about all things leadership, mindset, and why we both dislike the word “authenticity”.

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Tom Bilyeu does a great job of asking the kind of questions that make his guests spill the goods. Recently I got to turn the tables on him. In this interview with Tom we talked about all things leadership, mindset, and why we both dislike the word “authenticity”. We also discuss the “follow your passion” trap, and why doing so is actually terrible advice.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, if you’ve ever heard me on an interview, you’ve heard me say many times that I believe that entrepreneurship, business, and leadership are about something far greater than money, success, or even being the next entrepreneurial unicorn. Successful business is about being in touch with your purpose! 

A successful business that is in touch with your purpose can become a way for you to positively impact the world.

But passion without purpose will turn you into a Tasmanian devil, burning through everything and getting nowhere!

Tom Bilyeu is the co-founder of 2014 Inc 500 company Quest Nutrition — a unicorn startup valued at over $1 billion — and he’s the co-founder and host of “Impact Theory”. Tom’s mission is the creation of empowering media-based IP and the acceleration of mission-based businesses and he’s out there doing it day after day!

Instinct Vs. Talent

What you might be surprised to know is that Tom didn’t start out as an entrepreneur. In fact, what most folks don’t know is that he had a lot of passion and excitement about film. He took his love of movies, and the dream of becoming a master, into film school.

However, after graduation, Tom found himself working odd jobs while supporting himself and working on film projects. He found himself focusing on what came “naturally” to him, which he thought was making movies. (Despite a super embarrassing failure at the end of film school – listen in to hear about that!)

Suddenly he began to realize that he may have had the instincts for putting the camera somewhere “cool”…but that wasn’t translating into an actual talent as a director. He had to put in the work to realize that filmmaking and storytelling is a process, and that it can be learned. And once learned, it can be applied!

The journey of discovering what’s even more important than talent began

Even without natural “talent” that would allow him to operate effortlessly by instinct, Tom slowly realized that as he learned fundamentals and then taught them to others (who also weren’t “naturally gifted”), that anyone was able to learn how to do something well. Investing time and effort into understanding and implementing processes was just as important as being “gifted”.

Another big takeaway: if he could learn and teach others to get better, then couldn’t he get better too? This early experience with teaching and growth would prove to be pivotal when Tom transitioned into the entrepreneurial world.

Becoming an Entrepreneur with Purpose

After 13 years of being an entrepreneur in various fields, Tom’s company of five years, Quest Nutrition, was evaluated at over a billion dollars. His take? It seemed inevitable.

He shares that he had been immersed in the entrepreneurial world for years, and he had the complete conviction that he could learn anything. He refers to this mindset as the “arrogance of belief”, and shares that he relentlessly believes that he CAN figure things out.

No longer the naive young filmmaker who was shocked that he could actually learn to succeed, or the tech-based entrepreneur who was only seeking money, Quest Nutrition marked the start of Tom working on and with purpose. At this point in his career, not only was he extremely confident in his ability to acquire any information or skill necessary to build his business, but he also had a purpose that motivated him to put everything he had into seeing it become a reality.

Even when something is boring, exhaustion, or overwhelming: he will keep going.

He attaches this tireless effort with purpose, not passion!

His company’s mission is to end metabolic disease, which necessitated building one of the biggest companies on the planet. It also required a radical shift in thinking.

Passion would have fizzled out after the first set of roadblocks, long nights, and hard choices.

Purpose kept him going, fueling his drive to learn what he needed to learn, do what he needed to do, and see things through to the end.

Becoming Anti-Fragile 

Putting wealth at the center of his life didn’t drive him. 

What did? Generating value. Once he realized that value was what drove him, he was able to realign, launch Quest Nutrition, and change his life (and so many others).

Tom shares that the discipline in his life is born out of identity. As Tony Robbins teaches, identity drives behavior. To be the person that he wanted to be in life, Tom knew he had to be disciplined. This isn’t in his nature, but the person he wanted to be required him to step up and make dramatic changes.

So he did.

He had to get serious about what he really wanted. He realized that if what he wanted was to feel good about himself, his money making job in tech didn’t make sense anymore. Rather than stay in his situation and feel terrible, he was able to change what he valued and how his life was organized.

Instead of putting his energy into being smart and “right” and making money, he started to invest it into being a learner. He calls this his “anti-fragile” identity, which can be attacked all day, as it only ever grows stronger. If a weakness is pointed out, that’s a positive. Once he knows about it, he can address it and become stronger.

By allowing himself to become anti-fragile and focus on learning and growth, Tom was able to leave behind the stunted version of himself that was trapped in the rat race of looking good and protecting himself from getting things wrong.

His growth exploded, and his life changed.

Tap Into Your Inner Beast

I wanted to ask Tom about how he embraces the beast and what I call our “beautiful warts of war. What pisses him off? What’s non-negotiable in his life?

How does he access his inner dragon?

He shares that he tries to keep a greater percentage of his perspective on the “light” side and the positive things. However, when things are hard, he is able to tap into the things that stir him to anger.

To think of the people who want him to fail, who don’t care about or “get” the mission of Quest Nutrition, who would be more than happy to laugh he falls…

Pushing against that gives him power, resolve, and strength to fuel himself, and it can absolutely serve you if you know how to leverage it.

As I remind him, every hero has to step into the cave and experience their own transformation. It’s only in walking that path that you have the capability to finally become the fullness of who you really are.

Tapping into your rage and inner beast are absolutely pivotal – you cannot become great without this inner fire.

Dov Baron is “The Dragonist”, guiding us in how to recognize and nurture dragons (the top talent) hidden in our organizations. A Dragon Leader is not a position; it’s someone who is always pushing to improve and wants those they serve to reach their full potential.

Dov’s humour and no-BS style is contagious. As a master storyteller, he is considered to be the leading authority on actualized leadership. Actualized leadership means getting the result you set out to achieve in the most meaningful manner.

Working with diverse leaders and executive teams, Dov filters common bonds to create Fiercely Loyal cultures. You can’t achieve loyalty without “meaning”, and talent only stays when they feel they are a part of something larger than themselves.

Besides being a bestselling author of One Red Thread and Fiercely Loyal: How High Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent, Dov has been named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers to Hire and as one of the Top 30 Global Leadership Gurus. He has spoken to the United Nations, The World Management Forum (Iran), The New York National Speakers Association, and The Servant Leadership Institute. 

In June 1990, while free rock climbing, Dov fell approximately 120 feet and landed on his face. The impact shattered most of the bone structure of his face. After ten reconstructive surgeries, no external evidence remains; however, this experience wasn’t just life-changing, it was completely transformational. Dov shares how Dragons are born in fire. Experiences that could potentially destroy you can, instead, birth purpose, passion, and the hunger to champion others. We can learn to nurture the Dragon Fire in ourselves, our families, our communities, and our companies.

Dov believes the world needs more “Dragon Leaders” committed to living their purpose, standing in their truth, and empowering others to find their fire and do the same.

Take the Leadership Matrix here.

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