There's a lot of narrative in our world right now about following your passion.

We're no longer satisfied to spend our days slogging away at a job, relegating our passions to the weekends or postponing them until retirement. Why wait when you can do what you love and earn an income right now?

"Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan-there is no need to wait and every reason not to, especially in unpredictable economic times," counsels Tim Ferriss in the New York Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek.

"Do what you love and the money will follow" has become the mantra of our times.

But should you build a business or career around your passion, or is that a foolish quest?

Passion Is Table Stakes

For entrepreneurs, the answer to this question is obvious.

Doing work that you're passionate about is critical for you to keep at it and keep getting better at it. You need to be passionate about your business for you to show up on a consistent basis in the way the world needs you to show up.

"People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you're doing and it's totally true. The reason is because it's so hard that if you don't, any rational person would give up... if you're not having fun doing it and you don't really love it, you're going to give up," Steve Jobs once said.

Persistence and hard work are both necessary to succeed in business. Passion will fuel you through the darkest times.

But Having Passion Doesn't Mean It's Easy

On the other hand, there's a danger to letting passion guide our business. It can make people lazy about doing the things that they don't feel like doing.

Having a passion-led business doesn't mean you'll always and only be doing work you love, each and every day. It doesn't mean nothing will ever feel like "work" ever again. Pursuing your passion doesn't make running a business easy.

But that's what some people expect when they think of "doing what you love." They think every day will be happy and rosy. They'll be sorely disappointed. Remember, even Steve Jobs said, "it's so hard."

Passion Makes It Possible

What it really takes to succeed is the discipline that comes from passion.

See, discipline is a misunderstood concept. People think it's about having the willpower to force yourself to do something you don't want to do. But that's not it at all.

Rather, discipline is about having the presence of mind to choose what you want instead of what you feel like in the moment. For example, if you're reading this, then it's safe to assume you want to have a successful business.

Let's look at what that involves versus what you may feel like doing instead:

  • Discussing taxes with your accountant, versus burying your head in the sand because numbers make your head spin
  • Optimizing your Facebook ad campaigns, versus going down the rabbit hole of your friends' Facebook updates
  • Sleeping two hours later to write a new blog post, versus going clubbing with friends

Which would you choose?

If you're passionate about your business, most of the time, you'll choose the stuff you're passionate about over things that make you "happy."

That's real passion: Knowing you want and are committed to something enough to do the stuff you aren't passionate about. Because that's what needs to be done.

"Career decisions are not decisions about 'what do I love most?'" says Penelope Trunk, founder of Quistic, an online academy on career development. "Career decisions are about what kind of life do I want to set up for myself?"

It's true for business, too.