When Passion Becomes Profession | The Startup Leadership Team

The piano feels like a forsaken old friend that I am rediscovering. In the span of a month, my music practise has given me more than I ever expected. Writing once gave me that–when it was a pastime and passion and nothing more. As I made the transition from passion to profession, the rules changed. I no longer find joy writing in my diary at the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong–I still love writing. I was born with a writer’s soul.

However, it’s different now.

Anyone who says ‘follow your passion’ and expects that things will magically work out is kidding themselves. It is a difficult journey–to lay one’s heart on the line and leave it open to criticism, half-baked opportunities and open itself up to failure. A beginner always begins with passion. But when one decides to follow the path their heart dictates with entirety–that heart will be tested and trampled on through the various trials by fire.

It is not a journey for the faint-hearted.

Music has brought the innocent joy back into my life. When I first learnt under a piano teacher, I always disappointed him by hitting the wrong notes, not practising hard enough and perhaps even not taking it as seriously as I should have. With my laissez-faire attitude, there was no way I was going to be one of his star students.

And as someone who now handles and manages creatives on a daily basis, I know exactly what it is like to be in my piano teacher’s shoes. Without discipline and vigorous study, artwork remains play. A source of surrender and release. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We, as humans, need to express ourselves. When we keep everything bottled inside, we become ticking time bombs waiting to explode.

And yet, when passion becomes profession–the equation inevitably changes. The realities and hard truths come down on you like a ton of bricks. You know that there are deadlines. The people around you begin expecting things from you. There is a team that you are answerable to. Any creative work that comes into this world is a product of collaboration and does not grow in a vacuum.

You know what grows in a vacuum? Nothing.

I’m thankful to have a team. They keep things in check. They see my blind spots. They nudge me gently when I am going off-course. Sometimes they even come down on me hard when I am unable to pinpoint my own personal weaknesses. One thing I will say is that a startup team must consist of leaders–no matter who the founder is.

Although I am the Founder of Mith Books, I know that without others with equivalent and more developed leadership skills, none of this would have gotten off the ground. A startup team cannot consist of a group of ‘Yes-Men’. They need to be people who can bring the skills, knowledge and expertise to the table to take things to the next level. Group synergy is what creates growth. It is not a role for employees who are looking for someone to tell them what to do. As an employer, this has been a challenge–especially since so much of our education system prepares people to work in established organisations as opposed to budding ones.

The people who work in startups need to be gardeners who know and understand how to sow and tend to the seeds that have been planted in the ground. A startup needs people who are hungry for change, for achievement, for something beyond the ordinary. Much like a seed, a startup cannot grow if it is inhabited by people who are looking at it and expecting a fruit.

There is absolutely no textbook or manual that could have prepared me for this journey. But like a budding flower, I am growing–just like my business.

Oh, tiny seed–how magnificent one day you will grow to be.

Dipa Sanatani is the Publisher at Mith Books and the author of The Little Light and The Merchant of Stories. In The Merchant of Stories, Dipa takes the reader on a personal journey–narrated through a series of candid journal entries–on what it takes for entrepreneurs and creatives to start their very first venture.


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