On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a partridge in a pear tree…

Welcome to Day One of my 12 Days of Branding series. Each day — from now until Christmas* — you’ll be gifted with branding advice, case studies and more. If you like what you see, please share with your friends and colleagues.


  1. Strong and barely controllable emotion.
  2. A state or outburst of such emotion.

Every strong brand that exists today has one thing in common: passion. This passion can come from many sources — for example, the founder’s intense zeal for the product (and its ability to solve a particular problem); or it could be the passionate drive on the part of the customer to buy the product at any cost, no substitutes allowed. Ideally, the passion originates with the founder and is passed on to the customers. It’s much more effective if everyone plays together. Why?

In an article on Mashable, Meteor Solutions reported that 1% of a site’s audience can generate as much as 20% of a site’s traffic through the sharing of a link or content with others.

That’s some pretty heavy lifting. So how do you actually get that to happen?

It Starts with You

A few years back, I interviewed Haley Rushing, co-author of It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For. The premise of that book is that every extraordinary business begins with a strong purpose — something that is bigger than just making money. The companies they examine are mostly big players (BMW and Southwest are two examples), but the concepts they explore apply just as much to small businesses — even freelancers — at least those that want to grow. If you’re wondering whether or not you’ve probably brought your passion into your brand…

Ask yourself these questions (for more, see the surveys at INWYS):

  • Would my customers care (or notice) if I went out of business?
  • Does my business act any differently from my competitors?
  • Do I feel deeply passionate about the work I’m doing?
  • Am I willing to make hard decisions based on dedication to my purpose (versus reacting to the actions of my competitors)?
  • Do I have a larger vision of how the world could be (in relation to my product or service)?
  • Do I have a mission statement that explains how my business works toward fulfilling that vision?

If most of your answers are ‘No,’ I would strongly suggest that you take some time to examine who you are and what your business means to you, your customers, and the world.

Passion is Contagious

Those who inspire us to change (our habits, our way of doing business, our government, etc.) rarely do so strictly through a particular message. Messages that spark transformation are those are delivered with passion. Those who truly influence us are those who are excited about what they’re doing. So much so, that they’re able to create real and lasting impact because they’ve got a message that others want to help spread, too. Building your brand around your passions helps make that happen.

What’s Your Passion?

Over the course of my time as a small business consultant, I’ve seen plenty of start-ups who couldn’t explain how their business aligned with their personal mission in life. (“What do you mean, my personal mission?”)

When I ask them why they’re starting their business, many times I hear, “I think it has the potential to make me some really good money.”

I’m all for making good money, folks. Don’t get me wrong. But you’ve got to have more than that in your back pocket to keep you going.

When times get tough (and you feel overwhelmed by everything you’ve got to do), you need to have an emotional reason for pushing yourself up over those hurdles. There needs to be a foundation of purpose and passion underlying everything you’re doing. It’s what will keep you moving toward ultimate success.

Believe me, no one wants to work 80 hours a week just for the money. (You’ll never have time to enjoy that money, if you do.) And everyone knows that start-ups require a whole of time, energy and money.

So how do you figure out what your passion is? First, think about what it is not:

  • Passion is not talent
  • Passion is not topical knowledge
  • Passion is not skill
  • Passion is not being seen as an expert
  • Passion is not having a lot of experience

Passion is your emotional response or enthusiasm for a particular cause or topic. So while it’s not those things in the list above, those are big clues. Take a moment to write them all down. Sometimes, we develop skills, knowledge and talents because we have a passion for something. And sometimes we don’t. This is just a starting place.

How to Find Your Passion

There’s a series of exercises I have folks do in my Origin Stories workshop called the Self-Inventory. And the first piece of that involves finding your top passions.

Some of us are lucky — we already know the answer to “What gets you out of bed in the morning?” And we can speak clearly and succinctly about a particular cause or topic that’s near and dear to our hearts.

Others aren’t so lucky. When asked what they would be willing to do for free, they often say things like, “travel” or “shop.” And while a few might argue that travel and shopping are valid passions, for most of us those are just ways to relax and unwind.

The key is — could you travel or shop continuously for the next 20 to 30 years? I’d bet you’d need some long breaks in between.

If you’re one who’s not quite sure what your passions are, OR how you can relate them to your business, take the next few weeks to think deeply about what you love to do, what you would give money to do over and over and over again, and how those might fit with your life purpose.

Here are few sources to help you dive a bit deeper:

The Passion Test: Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose

The One Question (an online assessment)

Origin Stories (my self-study e-course)

How do you weave your passions and life purpose into your small business? Or, are you still struggling to see how you could do it? Share with us in a comment below.