Updated: Feb 1
Today I want to talk to you about turning your passion into your mission, known as your passion mission. I want to break down the archetypal structure of passion and how your mission takes precedent. Having a mission in life is powerful. A personal mission gets you up in the morning and makes you feel energized with what you're about to do - because you truly care about it. Transforming your passion into your mission is easy. Starting your own business is easy, including a non-profit organization, like I did. So, let's discuss.
Listen to the "passion mission" podcast episode on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/58RgBoqWUBNOJss4Z4eILd?si=g35xyGaIR16_8yl8bGfXqw
Table of contents
What is passion?
What passion means is an extreme interest or wish to do something. Many of us have ideas of what we're passionate about. It could be traveling or sports, rock climbing, traveling, or politics. We can often have so many passions that we don't know where we stand on our favorite. I once heard an interview with Jeff Bezos where he said "you don't find your passion, your passion finds you."
Though I find the idea interesting, it still has an feeling of mysteriousness to it. As I thought about it more I think what finding your passion really means ultimately is obsession.. Right?
The definition of obsession is something that you think about all the time. If you think about it, the number of obsessions tend to be more minimal in our lives than our passions, and this can ultimately help you narrow down what you may want out of your life and career.
The thing about passion is that passion is fleeting. If you had hobbies when you were younger that you don't have anymore then you know all about the frailty of various passions. Sometimes they last, sometimes they don't. Obsessions tend to stick around. You talk about something constantly and research it and marinate on it to the point of real enjoyment and the world disappears for a moment. Personally, I found that in playing music when I was just a teenager. Time stops and I'm completely present in what I'm doing when I do it.. I was obsessed.
So, really, what is your obsession? Maybe one of your deepest passions is actually your obsession. I really should've named the title of this turning your obsession into your mission. That's what it really is.
You know I see a lot of people who post on Facebook who are really passionate about politics or animals or something. They think they're changing the world or something by posting in a public forum for their 100 friends, but what they're really doing is just pissing everybody off! I have friends online like this and I'm sure you do too.
What I'm saying is more people need to stop talking about it and actually get up and do something about it.
Turn that obsession into an outlet that will have a positive effect on the world.
My story of passion for music
When I was younger I thought I was going to be a performing musician my whole life. It was my passion mission at that time.
For those of you who know my story,
I traveled to over 40 countries. I had worked with the Grammy's in LA and I've even taught hundreds of students as a teacher. I was passionate being a musician for many years. But when I became a parent I didn't suddenly feel as passionate about performing music anymore. I didn't want to be away from home constantly. To be honest, I was kind of burnt out as well from touring and traveling. With all these factors I knew I had to change. I had to do something else. I needed something more.
Now I've always been passionate about music, but I've also been passionate about entrepreneurship. Another passion right? But really an obsession. I would constantly learn about it. I'd stay in Barnes n Nobles all day as a poor college student and just absorb as much information as I could. I've done lots of reading up on mentors who inspired me, and I always quietly toyed with the idea of building a company for myself (in the back of my mind) that would have a positive effect on other people's lives and help make some difference in the world - while becoming my own boss. So when it was time for me to change careers, that voice in the back of my head became louder. I suddenly felt a stronger pull than I did playing music. You could say it was my passion project. I suddenly had more of a... mission!
What is a personal mission statement?
The definition of a personal mission explains who you are as a person and identifies your purpose. It explains how you want to pursue that purpose as well and why it is so important to you. It's your passion mission.
So when I decided to stop being a performer I decided to think broader. Instead of what do I want to do in the short term, I thought about the long term. I thought about the world and what positive effects I could help change, which both capture my passion for music and entrepreneurship. So, my mission suddenly became this.....
To help foster music education and its unique power on childhood development in the public education sector.
Specifically, it became "to enrich young minds in the development of lifelong skills through music."Music programs have been eliminated from many public schools in shocking numbers over the last 2 decades in the United States and I wanted to help make music education matter more again. I wanted to help bridge the gap of this very serious public issue.
Music has changed my life and I believe in the power of music for discipline, fun, creativity, passion, and personal expression. It helped me develop personally as a kid and I owe much of my life to it. Now, I also knew that I had the right skills and the right drive to follow through with this specific direction. So, it became my mission.
Other personal mission statement examples:
"To use my gifts and talents to help others get out of poverty"
"To innovate clean energy solutions to improve the lives of everyone around the world"
"To use my gifts to help people with depression"
Passion Mission: How to turn your passion into your mission?
So how did I turn my passion into my mission? Simple, I started a private foundation. I CoFounded a company with a friend called Maestro Music. Specifically, it's a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. This became the channel for my passion mission.
What we do is offer affordable music classes to schools that previously wouldn't have been able to have a music program - with our own teachers and our own state-certified curriculum. In our first year alone we had over 5,000 students and 130 weekly classes. I couldn't believe how well we did so early on and I'm so happy I did it. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. It's been rewarding in so many ways.
Maestro Music team in 2019 in San Diego, California
What is a non-profit organization?
So first, the definition of a non-profit organization is a company that has tax-exempt status because it's mission and purpose are to "further social causes and provide a public benefit." This is exactly what I built - in the public education sector, for kids.
Now, you may want to do something similar. Setting up a business is easy. People may think "I could never do something like that.." But you can, with a little bit of research and work. Anyone can. Getting tax-exempt status for a charitable purpose does takes time to develop, but it's also fairly easy. What people normally pay a lawyer 10 grand to do I learned and did it all myself. I had no idea what I was doing when I started, but I just put in the work. Now after being approved I have people around me and other foundations who passionately support my business. The government supports it, other charities support it, and I get rewarded with public funds as well as profits while also furthering my mission.
How to make money as a non-profit?
Now you may be thinking, well what about money? Non-profits don't sound like you can make much money. This is a common misconception for most people. It's just not true. You can still earn good money from a non-profit organization. The purpose of the organization (unlike a corporation with shareholders) isn't created to benefit one person or a select few. It's created to benefit society in some way.
Much like church organizations or the Red Cross.
The government rewards you for taking on causes that the public needs more assistance with. From food shortages to affordable housing to cancer research. Did you know most universities are actually non-profit foundations?
It's true. Even Harvard is a non-profit foundation. You know how much money they charge for tuition? ALOT. They make great money! But, because their "charitable service to the public is education", the government rewards them in tax breaks, while making good money and paying good salaries. Shoot, even Ikea is a non-profit foundation! Guess what their mission is?
"To offer a wide range of home furnishing items of good design and function, excellent quality and durability, at prices so low that the majority of people can afford to buy them.”
Ikea makes good money and they're allowed to pay good salaries for their efforts while making affordable furniture. Crazy right? Now, back to earning potential.
Some of the highest-paid CEO's of nonprofits make over a million a year. The CEO of the American heart association Nancy Brown makes two million a year. Wynton Marsalis, the famous Jazz musician who runs the Jazz Lincoln Center also earns over two million a year. And Preston Campbell who runs the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation earns over a million a year. These people took their passions and obsessions and made a difference, while being compensated well for it.
Now... Does this mean you can make money with a nonprofit and reward yourself like a major enterprise? No way, there are dividing lines. You can't take advantage and you will lose your non-profit status or worse if you do it in an exploitative manner. You still have to further your mission to the public. I'm not trying to show you how you can take advantage, but how you can make a difference while still providing for yourself and your family. So, how can you run a nonprofit business while helping the public and paying yourself?
As the Better Business Bureau explains it, 65% of funds should cover operating costs and salaries, and the other 35% should be specifically for furthering your mission.
So, to get good work done in the world the government knows you have to pay people to do it, so it's ok to make money and decide what salaries you pay out. Running successful organizations requires talent, so employees should be compensated well for their efforts. It's not really so vastly different from a non-profit vs for-profit business when you really break it down.
With a nonprofit organization you are also free from more liability because it becomes a public entity that can't be taken away from you. You can pass it on to your children and grandchildren. There are many advantages to having a nonprofit.
Turning your passion mission into profit
Turning your passion into profit is no easy feat. However, if you have passion for something and some skills in a particular field, you can do really well. Even if you don't necessarily have the right skills, you can develop them.
For example, if you're really good at marketing and garnering attention from people, you're inspirational in some way and can rally others, you can do really well.
If you're passionate about a cause and think that you could make a difference, then you could also do really well.
But, there has to be some sort of structure. There has to be a business plan. You have to really think this through. Starting your own business is not easy at all. If it was easy most people would do it.
So, to break non-profit organizations down, you first have to decide how you will derive money for the business.
Charity vs Private Foundation
Now, there are two main types of non-profit organizations: Charity and a private foundation.
A charity is an organization that derives the majority of its money from the public with donations. They take that money, and then they help solve large issues with it.
Now, a private foundation on the other hand is some sort of business or service that it derives a profit from, while in the pursuit of the public good.
So education (universities), Religious (homeless & food services), or charitable (giving money to research or helping vets).
I personally started a "private foundation" non-profit organization. We offer a service that we derive a profit from (most of our funding), but we also get tax breaks and can accept tax-deductible donations from the public. All around it works really well and we make a real difference at the same time.
So, this is my passion and mission. I hope it's helped to give you some good ideas about your own life and career. The question you should be asking yourself now is... Are you passionate and obsessed about something that you could build into your own private foundation or charity that supports the public in a positive way? It may actually surprise you what you come up with... So here's to your success and turning your passion into your mission.
All the best.
Matt Jones is a writer and entrepreneur with multiple businesses who enjoys inspiring others. He is also a professional musician who has been to over 40 different countries on all 7 continents. His personal mission is to create and inspire. He is from Los Angeles but is now based in Greater London. His latest book "Life 2.0" is available on Amazon.