Start Conference: Finding Your Passion and Taking Action on What You Love

Over this past weekend, The Passion Co. held the first Start Conference a three day event aimed at encouraging 300+ in attendance to realize their passion projects and create a community around taking action. I had the honor of attending Day One: Talks & Inspiration, a program designed around immersing attendees in inspiring insight from 20+ speakers ranging from the accomplished CEO to respected artists and storytellers, starting entrepreneurs, makers, techies, and a far reaching diversity of perspectives. The common thread throughout the narratives of these rapid TED-style talks was this: put your talents to work in an unrelenting pursuit to follow what you are most passionate about.

Here is a round-up of some of the more thought provoking quotes and takeaways from the day:

@Jessemaan, founder of Passion Co: Passion is an expression of your meaning

Jessica Semaan quotes renowned author, neurologist and psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl saying, "when you are connected with your why you can survive any how". She credits the realization of the first Start Conference and the beginnings of Passion Co. with her passion for connecting people with their why.

@OmidScheybani, artist and storyteller: Passion is the enriching layer to life

Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.


@CraftsmanandWolves Founder and Chef William Werner: It is a constant struggle to be creative

Werner overcomes those challenges in his passion pursuit and gives three tips for anyone inspired to do the same:

  • Have a brand crush: in and outside your field, look to different mediums and perspectives to grow your brand vision. Look to your role models' role models.
  • Believe: eat, drink, sleep, bathe in your passion. Believe in your work and vision.
  • Collaborate: Keep your mind open to create opportunities and avenues that may not have been obvious through collaboration. Remember, employees are collaborators and their also your biggest asset.

Bubblesort Zines founder Amy Wibowo: Make something for the world only you can create

In recounting how Bubble Sort Zines got its start Amy talks about overcoming a perception barrier in her professional community - will she be taken seriously by bringing her passion for cartoon art into her work? She took the leap and brought together her two passions of cartoon art and computer engineering to create accessible content that educates youth in math and computer sciences. Amy is a bright example of just how possible it is to intersect interests, talents, and passions to make something unique that resonates. She says "I created this job for myself."

@MarkDwight, Founder and CEO of Rickshaw Bagworks: Focus on one and start

Dwight says that his business of making quality, custom messenger bags also gave him a platform for another passion: civic engagement, specifically raising awareness of and funding programs that benefit homeless youth. He acknowledges that in the spirit of entrepreneurship it can be difficult to narrow in on an abundance of ideas, and these are his five takeaways toward doing just that:

  • The difficulty and the joy is in the doing
  • Your ideas don't have to be revolutionary. Differentiation starts with you.
  • Passion. Persistence. Patience.
  • Take the leap of faith in yourself.
  • Pick one idea and start.

@TerryRomero, Rebel with a cause, Kickstarter Outreach Leader: Ask for help and let go

Take it from a punk rock passion seeker, it's okay to ask for help. In fact, if you can learn to let go and collaborate on your passion project it can open possibilities of other avenues for your craft. Count on that truth from a punk rocker turned cookbook author turned Kickstarter outreach leader.

@JiaJiang, Author of Rejection Proof: Embrace rejection

Jiang authored the book on overcoming rejection and practiced what he preached, much to the delight of YouTube viewers everywhere. From putting into practice his own "rejection proof" principles Jiang demonstrates that the fear of rejection is no excuse to stop the pursuit of passion before it starts. When you find what you love, sometimes to get your start you just have to ask and connect with the right people. Not asking, he says, is self-rejection.

@ChipConley, AirBnB Head of Hospitality and Global Strategy: to quote Pablo Picasso, Find your gift and give it away

Taking a page from Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Conley says that there is a pyramidal structure to work and fulfillment. At the bottom of the pyramid is a job, one step above it is a career, and a step above that at the peak is a calling. A calling fulfills one's meaning and feeds their purpose whereas at the bottom of the pyramid a job can be depleting. Conley's note to leaders is to create meaning in organizations, inspire employees and cultivate culture. He also says that aspiring leaders can consider "failures" noble experiments, a learning curve so to speak but not an ending point. And above all else it is a leader's mission and purpose to find your gift and give it away.

@SoulsofSociety photog Dijon Bowden: Practice gratitude, shift your perspective

Dijon Bowden speaks about the wall every creative will hit at some point - those times when you are uninspired, you stop creating, you doubt your craft. For Bowden this came after a period where the subjects his photography turned the lens on became dark, maybe disturbing, in his own words depressing. But he found three things to reinvigorate his inspirational spark: 

  • Gratitude: start each morning by recalling all, tangible and intangible, you are grateful for
  • Keeping and holding a vision: set your goals, take action steps toward realizing them, and refuse to compromise your vision by taking on things, people, tasks, energy that don't contribute toward those goals
  • Practice spiritual hygiene: some of the most renowned leaders will also attribute success to this. When you're hard at work you have to remember to take care of yourself. For Bowden this means fulfilling a spiritual practice.