Finding Your Passion

I graduated from college with a technical degree from one of the finest engineering schools in the world, I had helped to pay for college by writing code in a research lab, I had a strong academic record, and I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.

Fortunately the Gotham Gal did and I followed her to NYC where she got busy with her career in fashion and retail. Meanwhile I took a job in an engineering firm where I used my coding skills to help design a new class of Navy ships. It was a good paying job, the kind that is in short supply for college grads these days, but it wasn’t anything I was passionate about.

We were visiting our families who lived in DC at the time and at the dinner table one night the Gotham Gal’s mom Judy who is no longer with us said to me “Get an MBA from one of the top schools. With an engineering degree from MIT and and MBA from a top school, you can write your ticket”. I liked the sound of that phrase “write your ticket” so I took her advice.

But the business school applications all asked the same thing, “what do you want to do in your career?” And I really had no good answer to that question. I knew that we were going to live in NYC because that’s where Gotham Gal’s career was flourishing. And I knew that I liked technology. But there wasn’t a tech sector in NYC at that time. All the good and high paying jobs were on Wall Street. And then it hit me. What was at the intersection of Wall Street and technology? Financing tech companies of course.

So I did some research and found out about this, at the time, sleepy little business called venture capital. This was the early 80s and the venture capital business was a much smaller and closer knit business than it is today. But I loved the sound of the word “venture”. It reminded me of adventure. I was smitten.

And so I wrote my business school applications about venture capital. I told all the schools (all three of them) that I wanted to be a VC. One of them, Wharton, accepted me and I went there, commuting back and forth to NYC for two years.

The Gotham Gal, who always pushes me and thank god she does, started asking me a few weeks into the fall semester of  business school what I was going to do the following summer. I said “get a job in venture capital”. That was my plan. Nothing more to it than that.

I wrote letters (yes letters) to all the Wharton alums in the VC business and got one reply (via letter) from Bliss McCrum. He said “please come in for lunch”. So I did that. And I got the summer job. That led to a full time job when I got out of school.

That lunch with Bliss happened 30 years ago. It was the key to finding my passion. And it led to a fantastic career that has taught me so much and connected me to so many amazing people.

Last week I got a voice mail message from Bliss. I called him back. He’s living on a ranch in Montana now. He invited me to come up and go fishing with him. We traded a bunch of stories about the venture business in the 80s. I told him that I still use all of his sayings and cliches. He loved hearing that. He and his partner Milton taught me a lot and gave me a place to find my passion. I owe them a lot for doing that. We pay that forward by doing the same thing at USV with young people who want to find their passion. And that feels good.

So where is this story going? Well it seems to me that finding your passion is critical to having a full and fulfilling life. And you have to put yourself in a place to do that. For me, it started with a woman who knew what she wanted to do long before I did and who pushed me to “figure it out” and it ended with a couple guys, Milton and Bliss, who passed their passion on to me.

I am sure there are many other ways to get there. But it won’t happen without help. So surround yourself with people who care about you and listen to them. And good things will come from that.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. takingpitches

    Good partners and good mentors = good life!Favorite post in a while, Fred 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      yup. thanks.i was sitting in the plane waiting to take off about 30 mins ago and thinking “i have no clue about what to write today” and then it came to me.i love when that happens

      1. toddgeist

        an ancient teacher once said “not knowing is most intimate” 🙂

      2. William Mougayar

        So the post wrote itself in your mind.

      3. LE

        and then it came to meI think that is the other things that your competitors (other VC’s) don’t fully get regarding of how and why you started, you do it now because you are moved to react and create with words your thoughts. If that weren’t the case the marketing angle wouldn’t be enough to drive the effort required.This is similar to why I comment on AVC and I’m sure others do. I don’t think “what will I write today” I read something and react and the process is automatic and very rewarding to my brain. Would be very hard for someone else who didn’t get the benefits that I do by writing what I feel when “it came to me” the way that it does.Likewise when I make a comment about a website that you feature I don’t think “let me find something I don’t like or something I like”. My eyes see the site and all the sudden something pops up and out and I can’t bringing it to other’s attention.

        1. fredwilson

          so true. it’s way beyond a marketing blog. it’s a piece of blank paper on my desk

  2. Drew Meyers

    “When I figured out what I wanted to do- working in the small business space in a technology company, starting my own company, moving into the Venture Capital industry, before finally turning toward philanthropic efforts and making a difference in the lives less fortunate than me”I wrote that in 2006: http://www.drewmeyersinsigh…Working at Zillow was step 1. I’m now on step 2 with 🙂

  3. arustgi

    A really really good post. There are so many people who don’t know what they want to do, and their answer is we’ll won’t do anything until we discover what we want to do. Unfortunately, it is very rare that that ‘thought’ comes to you. People need to go out and put themselves in a position to discover what they want to do – their passion, through experience rather than thought.I went to a business school called ‘Acton School in Entrepreneurship’, in Austin, tought by practicing CEOs, VCs, and entrepreneurs. The big crux of the program was ‘self discovery’ through experience, on the path to entrepreneurship.Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Drew Meyers

      Right, it completely comes from experiences. I firmly believe travel is the quickest way to figure out what you want to do in life, because it forces self reflection and exposes you to a broad range of cultures and perspectives in a short time span.

  4. andrewparker

    I eagerly anticipate my fishing invitation 21 years from now. ;)In all seriousness this is a heartfelt post and very well said. Delighted you found mentorship and even more delighted you were appreciative enough to pay it forward.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      He’s going to need a huge lake.

    2. Josh Weinstein


  5. Jan Sessenhausen

    The amazing thing about “finding one’s passion” is that it is more a process of realization than searching. Getting out to find the personal passion is a process most likely destined to fail and nothing where one can force an answer.

  6. Saleh Mohammad

    Thanks for writing this heartwarming post.

  7. Kohl Kohlbrenner

    Truly inspirational words; they make me feel good. Im nor spiritual or religious, but it seems that some things do happen for a reason.

  8. toddgeist

    Great story!I sit here 25 years after college, enjoying what I do, as a small business software consultant and engineer, but wondering if its too late to get into something new like being a VC or ?.Shouldn’t it be easier for folks to get chances later in life to find a new passion and make the switch?

    1. Jess Bachman

      The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.-Chinese proverb

      1. toddgeist

        Ah! nice!

      2. JimHirshfield

        Funny, I have heard that proverb, but only in regard to “when is the best time to buy real estate?” Thank you for enlightening me as to its original form.

    2. andyswan

      It couldn’t be easier. You are enslaved to no one. You can simply switch.

      1. LE

        How can you say that without knowing his financial situation and obligations?

        1. andyswan

          I don’t know many starving 46 year old software consultant engineers

          1. LE

            I think by the time you are 46 you are at the point in life where you should be able to evaluate on your own seat of the pants whether you can do a new career (like VC of all things) without having to post a question on a forum like this. A new career is a big step and kind of in the same way you jumped to a conclusion “don’t know many startving 46 year old’s” because you are the type of person who figures it out on your own which is what is essential to even being able to take a step like that at that age.

          2. toddgeist

            Ah Funny. But what I am thinking about is more of a systemic issue. The model of go to college a degree, get an MBA, find a great job for the rest of your life is more than a bit dated. Yet it is still the dominant story we tell our kids. And its the dominant part of any government educational policy.What about the 10s of millions of people who can’t take four years or even 2 years to go school to get a career that might last 10 years if they are lucky?I think we need new stories about how to start and restart new careers that don’t involve being younger then 25 and 4 plus years of school.You can see some of this happening with things like HackReactor, but it is still pretty thin.

          3. LE

            I think we need new stories about how to start and restart new careers that don’t involve being younger then 25 and 4 plus years of school.Why? Why not just let the people who are self starter enough to pull it off (and figure it out) take the brass ring? What’s wrong with that? If you dispense enough information what ends up happening is you just make it harder for the people who don’t need the handholding who probably deserve to get the rewards for being resourceful and making smart decisions.What if there was nothing unique about what Fred’s mother in law told him and everybody got the same suggestions? Would have made it much harder for Fred to get into Wharton, right?Truth is in life you need to work every advantage that you can. And some of those advantages are what you know that others do not know.That said the problem in this day and age is not lack of information and instruction on how to do anything. The problem is figuring out what to do and who to listen to. There is to much information not to little.

          4. toddgeist

            The thing is there really wasn’t anything unique about Fred’s mother in law telling him to get an MBA. In fact, that same story is still being told to people in their twenties and thirties.I get that you are self starter and want to go for the brass ring. I hope you get it, if you haven’t already. But there are reasons to help people, who may not be the fast self starter that you are, switch careers. One is that we need a work force that is capable of acquiring new significant skills more often then just once in the early 20s.

          5. LE

            The thing is there really wasn’t anything unique about Fred’s mother in law telling him to get an MBA.I’d have to disagree with you on this one. It was unique. Fred’s own parents didn’t tell him this (from what he says) although they may have encouraged him to get into MIT which helped him get into Wharton. And they supported his education early on as well. That was a big factor in everything coming together. Perhaps Gotham Gal gave him extra points for the fact that he went to MIT. That would be my guess. I’d give any guy who wanted to date my daughter extra points for going to a good school and I don’t think that is that unusual. (All else equal with no drawbacks of course..)While it is fairly well know in this day and age how valuable having a degree from a top school is it was almost certainly not as well known “back in the day”. The competition was great but nowhere near what is is today. I think the numbers (which I don’t have access to) back that up.

          6. ShanaC

            I’ve met a few. Bad language choices. Personality issues. Things worked out in the end, but it does happen

    3. pointsnfigures

      I will tell you it’s hard to switch. Possible, but you have to be relentless. It also helps to go where no one else is and blaze a trail if you can-which makes switching harder. Everyone in the world will tell you why you can’t. You also will have to sacrifice some things in order to do what you want. I am still in the process of switching.

  9. Eric Leebow

    Great post, Fred! I think it’s great you got your MBA and followed through with something you’re passionate about. Is it easier today to get into Venture Capital than it was in the past? I see college students, and those just out of college without an MBA calling themselves Venture Capitalists.

  10. Jess Bachman

    For most of my early years I thought I had little control over my life, was just playing by other peoples rules. Until I had this college writing professor who for some reason really liked my writing and instilled a tremendous sense of confidence in me. From that point on I aced everything that required writing and passed anything that required testing. Looking back a decade later, i’ve noticed I’ve excelled at life when I was in control, and stagnated by playing other peoples rules.I guess what I am trying to say is that I may not have found my true passion just yet, but I have confidence and north star to get there.Thanks for the post Fred, I actually just emailed this professor this morning after 12 years.

  11. JimHirshfield

    This is amazing storytelling. Kudos!Would love to see your Wharton application essay. That would be the repost of the decade on AVC. :-)As for names, Bliss McCrum – sounds like a guy that would have a ranch in Montana.Milton – One of the most popular names two generations ago, and the name of one of my grandfathers.

    1. Jorge M. Torres

      Yes! Would love to read those essays. Could be almost as fun as this post.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Ha! Indeed, anything with Baby-faced Wilson on it gets upvoted.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        How did I miss this post! That’s great — especially the photos in the comments. I met my old boss for lunch a couple of years ago and he gave me a photo of me in a bikini from 20 years ago — at an office beach party. Didn’t see that coming. 🙂

    2. Donna Brewington White

      My grandfather’s name was Fred. I win. :)With you on the Wharton application. That would be amazing.

      1. JimHirshfield


    3. fredwilson

      gone for good. i have no idea where i would even look. that’s one good thing about this day and age. everything is in the cloud and searchable.

      1. PhilipSugar

        Good and bad.

      2. deannad

        Maybe Wharton keeps them on file?

      3. Ellie Kesselman

        What years were you there? We might have overlapped. I was WG ’91 (1989 to 1991). I got my wonderful summer job in the same way you did. It was one of my best work experiences, ever!

        1. fredwilson

          i was there from 85 to 87

          1. Ellie Kesselman

            Ah, okay! I just missed you. I found my time there to be very worthwhile.

  12. John Seiffer

    Passion is good but it’s an emergent quality – like happiness – best found when pursuing other things. When you focus entirely on either they are harder to find. For more see this from Cal Newport

    1. andyswan

      I think that was a better way of saying what I just posted LOL

    2. Phil Chacko

      The sentiment makes sense, but my hypothesis is that you ideally need both to succeed. Passion provides the perseverence, energy, and fulfillment to battle through challenges at work, and provides the fire to continually improve, while getting paid validates that society values your contributions.It’s possible to build wealth without creating value by creating and exploiting market distortions (see: bad acting hedge funds, state-backed corruption, etc.). It’s possible to be passionate without creating any value (self-evident). Thus, I think having both is ideal, though at 28 I still know nothing.

      1. Guest

        But my theory is a work in progress – I’m 28.

  13. Mario Cantin

    More power to you for having it together.Some of us are way slower to get there.Many won’t ever arrive.

  14. Brian Hirsch

    Great post. Whenever I get the question on VC panels about what we look for in entrepreneurs each and every time I start with passion. Entrepreneurs passionate about their businesses always outperform those just in it for the money or to make a quick buck.

  15. andyswan

    Love this story Fred… would welcome more!I’ve also noticed that people are a little too tight when it comes to “finding their passion”. What I mean is that they try to hard for it to be the “right” passion. Like they think if they’re not digging water-wells in Syria, they’re not doing it right.I say loosen-up. The best way to make a difference is to create wealth (for yourself, and therefore for others) and then deploy it in the manner you see fit to change the world.Just as Fred didn’t know your passion was venture capital before you got started, most of us won’t know what we love until we get into it.But being passionate can come in many forms… and for the vast majority of people it comes down to finding something that you’re good at, that you DESIRE to be great at.There’s no wrong passion, there’s no easy passion. It takes work… you gotta earn that level of fulfillment./tldr/ trying to “find your passion” before you start DOING is self-defeating and lazy

    1. Jess Bachman

      “The best way to make a difference is to create wealth (for yourself, and therefore for others) and then deploy it in the manner you see fit to change the world.”Sorry, but this is some very dangerous thinking and can be used to rationalize all sorts of bad behaviors.

      1. andyswan

        How can creating wealth be used to justify bad behaviors?

        1. Jess Bachman

          It can take a long time to create enough wealth to then realize a passion of yours, if it ever happens. A person might work them selves to death before they can then deploy their wealth in a manner they see fit.Or, wealth creation is not entirely benevolent. If your passion is digging wells in Syria, then maybe you might think you can dig more wells if you build and run a giant competition crushing software company for 20 years… then pull a “Bill Gates”.I’d say you should divorce the concepts of wealth and passion as much as possible. Concepts of wealth are a prison we build for ourselves.If you have a passion for helping kids, or fly fishing, do that… now.

          1. andyswan

            Looks like we will just have to file this under “definitely disagree” and move on.  Creating wealth means doing something beneficial for others that they value. No shame in that game.

          2. pointsnfigures

            Maybe “creating value” is a better way to say it. But, when you create value you get wealth.

          3. andyswan

            Value is wealth. When value is created, all participants gain wealth. I’m wealthier today because of what Bill Gates did, and Edison, and Ford. They captured a small portion of the wealth they created for the world.  It’s beautiful.

          4. pointsnfigures

            Exactly-I’d even say VCs are the same. Their investment creates lots of wealth for lots of people-not just the founders.

          5. Jess Bachman

            What about drug lords, arms dealers, and earth raping capitalists? They all create value (for someone) and in turn capture a small portion of the wealth created. It’s not very beautiful.

          6. andyswan

            You obviously do not believe that those are examples of people creating wealth (net), so I don’t know what your point is.  I’m talking about creating wealth.  Win-win. Not frauds

          7. Jess Bachman

            I think my point is largely lost in semantics of the words “wealth” and “value”. My point is that yes, people who create net wealth should capture some of that, but that the accumulation of wealth (money) should not be the goal in and of itself. There is a scale from Bill Gates to drug lord, and most people fall somewhere in the middle. It’s not always easy to tell if you are created a (net) wealth, so just because your bank account reflects such wealth, doesn’t mean it’s a net wealth…. aaaannnnd that was confusing.

          8. andyswan

            I don’t think I ever said anything about accumulating wealth as a goal in and of itself. I agree that can be problematic.

          9. Rick

            “but that the accumulation of wealth (money) should not be the goal in and of itself”.That’s where you’re wrong. If those people would in fact just save their money it could be spent by others to do good things with it. The fact that those with the money continue to do harmful things with it is the problem.

          10. Rick

            It’s not very beautiful from certain views. But from their view it’s great. They have piles of cash laying around and can to pretty much anything they want.

          11. Jess Bachman

            The non-profit sector would disagree with you. Wealth and value are not intrinsically linked.

          12. pointsnfigures

            See If that effort is successful, lots of non-profits and the people they service will benefit. The owners of the business should get wealthy. They deserve to get wealthy because they are adding a lot of value to people’s lives.

          13. JamesHRH

            Where do non-profits get the majority of their funding?You are having a philosophical dispute here about how to define value. That is a personal (some would say genetic) discussion.Accept who you are & that other are not that personAndy believes in wealth accumulation. That does not make him evil.

          14. Jess Bachman

            I never said he was evil. For the record I am a big fan of Andy’s and even paid for his daily wisdom for a long time (voomly). I was simply challenging some assumptions he was making. I do agree that this dispute is largely about definitions.

          15. JamesHRH

            Just a statement, not a personal indictment.Challenging Andy’s assumptions? at this point?#windmilltilting

          16. LE

            I had a guy that I needed to buy a domain name from (for someone) the other day.My strategy (which varies depending on a host of factors and is never the same) in this case was to send him an email as a feeler.Forgetting what I actually said for a second (“the secret sauce”) he replied and told me that he was willing to let me have the domain just for what he paid to renew the name (about $10). This is quite unusual. At the bottom of his email was some touchy feely stuff about charity and saving the world in his signature.This is a man that doesn’t know value. I didn’t lie in any way when I wrote to him I simply said in so many words “I’m interested in buying this from you”.As a result he lost at least several thousand dollars. That was what the buyer was willing to pay for what he gave away for $10.If you can’t recognize opportunity you will never be able to create value.Many “computer types” (this guy was a computer engineer and not a wealthy one either) are like this. They give away for free what they could easily charge for. Or they charge to little because they love what they do and it’s easy for them to do it and they can’t understand that a “normal” will pay them well for helping with something they don’t know.

          17. Rick

            I had that problem years ago. I helped as many people as I could by doing as much as I could. Now that the time has come for me to make some nice bank for myself to enjoy. The people I helped aren’t in the mood to help me!.Always focus on the money.

          18. LE

            Not only that but people often value what you do more if you charge for it rather than give it to them for free.In the end, just with all types of things that you buy, you forget the price and just remember if you are satisfied with the price and/or the service that you received.

          19. Jan Kegelberg

            I’d rather say: Never help to be helped back. Help because you believe it is the right thing to do. Otherwise your help is not sincere, your help should be considered an investment, or a business deal. In that case, you should focus on the money. But if I help someone in the “philanthropic” sense, I would not expect any help back.

          20. aforwma

            I think you are confusing his intent, which is to say dont defer your passion until later. Work hard, save, and drop dead at 60 before living your passion? No thanks.

          21. LE

            Well if you drop dead at 60 and you are implying that is because you worked to much then something else is out of balance in your life. I think it goes without saying that it’s important to make your health your number one priority. That’s what I do (and sleep). More important than anything else and I’ve pretty much always felt that way.

          22. Rick

            The problem is that today everything is all about money. Don’t pay your taxes and see what happens. Don’t pay you car payment and see what happens. Etc..Lieing to yourself about what makes this world turn is just that *a lie*. Remember in the movie Wolf of Wall Street how Leonardo’s character said the most powerful thing was a hundred dollar bill. In other words money!

          23. LE

            If you have a passion for helping kids, or fly fishing, do that… now.I think you are discounting the impracticality and the downsides of “helping kids or fly fishing”.Plus it assumes that “helping kids” actually is what you think it will be (when you are in some shit school with shit rules).And why does it matter if you have a passion for fly fishing? Either you can make enough money by fly fishing or you can’t. If you can’t it’s non starter as a career. Concept: “You have to be able to earn a living, period”. Money is an important part of the equation. So is having a job that is stable and will last (and maybe 40 other things as well).

          24. Jess Bachman

            I do discount he impracticality of that. My experience comes from being raised by a single mom who was constantly involved in non-profits, volunteerism, and activism despite the hardships. Should she have focused more on her career in order to better deploy more capital when she retired? Absolutely not. Infact, in her career as an energy consultant, she would often steer her ‘value creation’ towards non-profits, i.e. energy efficiency in low income housing.

          25. Rick

            But Jess… You’re missing a very very important point. If you mom would have made millions. She could have hired people to do things to help others. Her passion for help could have been multiplied 100x with millions of dollars to spend on it!

          26. Jess Bachman

            If she could have made millions.If she didn’t die before deploying that capital.If that deployed capital was used effectively.A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush….

          27. Rick

            Most people have a passion for making fat stacks of cash. They trick themselves into thinking their passion is for something else but they fail to realize that with millions of dollars in the bank they could have any hobbies they want!!!

          28. andyswan

            I for one am very happy that Elon isn’t spending his days teaching sign-language to orphans in Tibet.

          29. Alex Murphy


        2. Ann Meredith

          Someone’s passion could be creating wealth (Warren Buffect, Just because you have a passion and are pursuing it doesn’t mean it always has to benefit the world, although it can directly or indirectly. Artists create because that is their passion. Does a painting have to feed the world? Or does it add value in different ways? Also, I’ve spoken with young graduates who are so consumed by the idea that they have to “save the world” that they don’t know what they like or what they are good at. I think it’s okay for people to be selfish when thinking about their passions and talents. Because, those passions and talents are what adds value in the world.

          1. andyswan

            totally agree

    2. LE

      Agree. The issue is that there is all this brainwashing in the current day and age about doing good and sharing and what not. If you really want to change or help the world (that’s not my goal by the way and it never has been) the best way to do that is to make either a boatload of money or at least become financially independent. Money gives you flexibility to do many things that you can’t do without money.

    3. JamesHRH

      Great Texas golf saying – you find your swing in the dirt.Tell our kids a variation of ‘passion does not come first’ all the time: Doing leads to learning leads to not doing (hate that) leads to finding out what you love to do which requires doing the things that allow you to do what you love.

      1. fredwilson

        That’s something Bliss would say and he doesn’t even play golf. But he loves dirt

    4. bsoist

      trying to “find your passion” before you start DOING is self-defeatingExactly! Follow your effort – not your dreams!

    5. Donna Brewington White

      Yeah, nothing wrong with becoming part of the 1%. :)I can still do a lot of good in the 99%, but I can’t change as many lives.So it’s not so much about doing good as being able to influence change. You don’t necessarily need wealth to do this, but it sure helps.

  16. Saim

    Amazing post. I struggled with the same question through college, and tried figuring my passion by studying different disciplines.My lesson was that relationships and experiences help you find that “something within”. Your post really resonated- a fresh reminder of how older mentors/advisors help me on a daily basis.Fred- what role did hobbies and experiential learning play in your path?

    1. fredwilson

      not a ton. i read a lot as a kid.

  17. LE

    So where is this story going? Well it seems to me that finding your passion is critical to having a full and fulfilling life.I guess I have a different take on your story simply because the preceding sentence is more or less the typical mantra that is thrown about on the internet in this day and age. The meme of “find your passion”.The truth is, this is really what the key to your success was plain and simple. Getting good advice from one person who was older than you (and had anecdotal evidence of what is helpful – Joanne’s mom) and Joanne who no doubt being raised by Judy picked up on that type of thinking. Joanne is a go getter and hearing what her mom says makes total sense to me. Her mom knew that if you got into a good school and got your MBA that you would have an easier time finding good opportunities. Let’s face it you probably wouldn’t have had enough of a halo to get that first VC job if you didn’t have the Wharton MBA. Not saying “no way” but “probably not”.And of course you had to do the hard work and be capable of doing all of this. Sophia Loren without her nose is not Sophia Loren.I was raised in a family (as many jewish kids were at least where I grew up) which essentially never discussed in any way shape or form a connect between passion and career. Never.The advice was very simple. You become a doctor, a lawyer (that was back when that assured a good living) or you went into business with your father. You know what my mom said to me when I was in elementary school and the postman went by “that’s all he ever wanted out of life”. She didn’t say “loser” but that’s what she meant I’m guessing. And when telling a story about someone who attended a good school she lit up and you could see how she thought that was a positive. She didn’t have to tell me in words I saw how she reacted. (I’m sure Joanne experienced similar things growing up.) But what did the postman really lack? Mentors to push them like Judy and Joanne pushed you maybe.Anyway, If you didn’t go into business with your father and you started your own business the advice was very simple “you will like whatever you do as long as it works and you make money doing it”.That is why you are passionate about what you are doing. You are good at it and make money from it. So really it’s more picking the right horse of a career that stands a chance of providing the rewards that are important to any individual. In order for that to happen you have to evaluate upfront and not click your heals and wish. That’s why traditional families don’t encourage kids to go into the arts or entertainment if that is their passion. To random and no assurance that even with talent you will be the next Bradley Cooper.

  18. Paul Sanwald

    I like the spirit of your post but very much disagree with the phrasing. I recently read cal newport’s book “so good they can’t ignore you”, and he spends the first part arguing that “finding your passion” is a bad way to manage your career. He points out that steve jobs didn’t start apple because he was passionate about building computers, he did it because he recognized a business opportunity. if he had followed his passion, he’d have been a zen instructor.I don’t want to re-hash the entire book in a post but I thought it was a great read, and lined up very well with a great spolsky post, controlling your environment makes you happy:http://www.joelonsoftware.c…the important difference I think is that passion and dedication can be developed over time, and doesn’t need to take the form of an instantaneous “this is what I want to do with my life” moment.

    1. LE

      he did it because he recognized a business opportunityExactly.

    2. Anne Libby

      The thing I see about Fred’s post is that he started somewhere. Family first, and then a job. His job and family led him to find something he thought he might love. School, more family and connecting with mentors led him to his professional passion.Some things are so complicated that we’d never even begin to imagine loving the doing of them. You can only find them by starting…somewhere.I talk with some young people who are so fearful of making the “wrong” move that they stay someplace where they’ll never find that passion. Or worse, by not really starting at all.Just start.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        This is good, Anne. A gem of a comment. Thanks.Gotta tweet this quote — but may take two tweets:Some things are so complicated that we’d never even begin to imagine loving the doing of them. You can only find them by starting…somewhere.

        1. Anne Libby

          Thanks! It would have been hard for me to imagine my own work early on in my career — or from school. How about you?

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Not the way I perceive and execute my work today. I truly love what I do, but even now I feel like my work is the precursor for or part of some larger work that I haven’t even yet begun. Strange, huh, since I am no spring chicken. Some of us are late bloomers. 😉

          2. Anne Libby

            I read this study in bschool, it made a big impact on me. (I still have a paper copy of it in a file!) It’s point: there are some opportunities that can only be seen with very specific experience.…Nobody will see the world exactly the way you do: keep blooming!

  19. LE

    As a kid, my passion was to become an airline pilot. My dad said “you will never be home”. That was back when airline pilots were paid fairly well and it was a glamorous career. My dad nixed it just on the “never be home”. Which was ironic since I spend so much time working with what I do now and not much time at home.

    1. andyswan

      I wanted to be a cameraman for baseball games.

      1. William Mougayar

        oh i thought you were 🙂

      2. LE

        Hah, I wanted also to be a camera man as well. Also I wanted to work in the control room like the type that they had on Monday Night Football or at the networks.

      3. pointsnfigures

        I wanted to be a pro basketball player. Slow people don’t play pro.

  20. Bobur

    This post reminded me of Paul Buchheit’s speech at Y Combinator’s Start Up School in London. Here is a quote: ‘ “Do what you love” treats “what you love” as a fixed thing, but it’s not.’ I don’t think there is a destined passion for each person, but rather you develop passion over time. For me the key thing is to keep working hard and enjoying what you find interesting and it will all come together. Recommend reading Paul’s subscript here, it’s great! http://paulbuchheit.blogspo

  21. William Mougayar

    “Choose a job YOU LOVE, and you will never have to work another day in your life.” said Confucious 2,500 years ago. Some things don’t change :)Fred- your passion for VC comes across x10 in person than on your blog.

    1. Jess Bachman

      Well to be fair, there are jobs you love, but some days you hate.

      1. William Mougayar

        Little jobs or big ones? there are always little jobs that are part of the big job 🙂

        1. Jess Bachman


  22. Susan Rubinsky

    This is such a great post for so many reasons. Everyone talks about “Follow Your Passion” but no one ever talks about how to find your passion. Our culture pushes teens to “Follow Your Passion” all the time but I don’t think most teens know exactly what their passion is yet. More stories about how to find your passion are needed! Thanks for sharing!Also, how old were you when you made the decision to do your MBA?

    1. William Mougayar

      It’s a good point. If you find that passion, you don’t need to “follow” it. It will pull you forward everyday. If you’re not self-motivated by it, it’s not a passion.

    2. fredwilson


  23. Tracey Jackson

    Great post Fred! If we are lucky enough to get to work art what we are passionate about it never feels like work. And the passion gives us the fortitude to ride out the tough times and hang in there. I wrote a blog for tomorrow called Discipline and Devotion which touches on your theme.If we are passionate we remain devoted and add discipline – you can make miracles happen.

  24. Dorian Benkoil

    Fred, I’m more than 20 years in on this career, and I’d say what you’re advocating is valid now, too. I try to remind myself of this all the time as I keep moving through the stages. Tell you what I’d like to see: the sayings and cliches you use from Bliss.

    1. Anne Libby

      I’ve got a boss from my past who pushed and supported me, and I think about things he was trying to teach me quite frequently. Some of them, I only got later on, with experience and perspective.Agree — maybe that’s a fun friday. Wisdom from mentors, bosses, etc.

    2. fredwilson

      i used to post them here at AVC back in the early days once a week. i called the series VC Cliche Of The Weekhere’s one from Bliss

  25. Dorian Benkoil

    One more ask. Your thoughts on the importance of being genuine.

  26. Vijay Venkatesh

    thank you so much for these words. am bookmarking this post. feel a strong sense of solidarity with your sentiment about a spouse pushing me to figure it out – May these words always ring true.

  27. Joe

    Great story Fred. Thanks for sharing it. I am very fortunate to have my business housed in the Z80 Labs incubator in Buffalo. Your point of putting yourself in the right place could not be more relevant. I am surrounded by positive people with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. It makes such difference in the early stages of a company to have surroundings that provide constant motivation and enthusiasm. More stories like this one please!

  28. pointsnfigures

    This is an interesting topic. Both Mark Cuban and Marc Andreessen have weighed in on it using Twitter or their blog. Paraphrasing what they say is “don’t follow your passion-but do something that creates value.” You will become passionate about something that creates value that you have success with-which becomes a virtuous cycle.Cuban even said something like just because you are passionate about fly fishing doesn’t mean you should open a fly fishing shop. Because that might become drudgery.In my own life, I got a corporate job that was nice. It was okay. It was a paycheck. I always loved the trading floor and when I took my shot I did it no holds barred. I haven’t had a regular paycheck since 1986. Heck, some years I lost money. That ended abruptly-and as it was ending I discovered something else.I love to help people. I love to work with ideas. That’s seed and early stage investing right there. Passionate, sure. But creating value at the same time.

    1. Brandon Burns

      I think the thing I’ve seen that best describes this sentiment is this venn diagram.

      1. LE

        Except that for a typical kid in high school what they love or what they think they love probably is a red herring. It’s the unknown known problem.

        1. Brandon Burns

          Is it really a problem? Life takes time to live. Things get figured out eventually.

          1. LE

            Because you choose a path and if the path is wrong based on what you don’t know they you have less time to reinvent. Time is finite. You are still young so you are at the point where you can pivot if you need to.

          2. LE

            Things get figured out eventually.I mean of course people fail because they make the wrong choices you know that, right? You just don’t really hear much about those people in widely distributed media. You don’t hear about the wrong choices you hear about the right choices and the people who defied the odds.

          3. Brandon Burns

            I don’t disagree with you.Funny enough, though, here’s a story that was just printed about a friend from college who stumbled forward through some not-so-great choices and ended up a pitcher for the Diamondbacks.…I think, in part due to startup culture, more “failure” stories are being told. At least the ones with a happy ending.

          4. LE

            In Silicon Valley and in startup culture it’s typically “better to have loved and lost” than never to have loved at all”. People can and do land on their feet at least in the current environment. And starting something, getting funding and press, as a general rule is probably better than not doing so (details matter as always).As only one example Loopt failed (was acquihired) but that didn’t prevent Sam Altman from going on to phase 2 of his career.. Better to have loved and lost and have gotten your ticket punched.Unfortunately in the rest of the world failing makes you a loser and you will be viewed negatively. The rest of the world is very large.Fake Grimlock can probably summarize this concept in a sentence (or two).By the way as far as “not so great choices” I don’t think that because you walk across the street, get hit by a car, and meet your future wife (by accident) that it’s smart to not look both ways when crossing the street. The idea is to do things right, not to do things wrong.

  29. timraleigh

    Great story. Thanks.

  30. ADalal

    Fred – passion is a core part of one of the values at our company. I see too many people, especially academically successful students dismiss/overlook this component in search of their life pursuit. While fictional, I believe there is truth to Thomas Friedman’s formula that CQ + PQ > IQ. Thanks for sharing how you found your passion.

  31. Lucky

    Hi Fred,Love the article. I find the nickname “Gotham Gal” for your wifevery intriguing. Did you or her like Batman or was it something else? If thisis personal I apologize.

    1. fredwilson

      jim cramer called his wife The Trading Godess on his blog. i copied him.

  32. panterosa,

    Fred, isn’t “finding your passion” really marrying several of your distinct passions together into a new thing?

  33. Conrad Ross Schulman

    bla bla bla go fred

  34. Brandon Burns

    I identified pretty early on that I have a passion for figuring out what makes people tick, and influencing their behavior for the better.I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior, probably because I don’t have a natural understanding of it. I was terrible at socializing in grade and high school. When I got to college, my sociology-related classes revealed previously foreign concepts to me. I remember the class that hit me hardest was Theories of Argumentation. Not only did I learn how most people tend to think about things in certain situations, but also how to reroute those thoughts via language and debate to bring about change. I saw that applied everywhere from courtroom arguments to MLK speeches. I thought to myself, “How can I do this and get paid?” So in 2003, I got my first advertising internship. I spent the next several years studying why people made all sorts of decisions, and then wrote ads that got them to do what I wanted to do instead. On some level working on happy meal and beer ads was pretty unfulfilling, but the process of creating them was addictive, and I didn’t know how else I’d get to use my brain in that way.By 2007, the groundswell of marketers realizing they needed to reach people via the internet was picking up steam. I wanted to stay ahead of the curve, and managed to do so by somehow convincing the kind folks at R/GA that I was worth hiring. I went in as a copywriter, as that’s what my experience was in, but I quickly felt marginalized. As we built apps from Nike+ to HBO Go for our clients, I realized that the designers and engineers carried much more weight. At first I was resentful, as they didn’t have my sociologically-trained brain to figure out what made our users tick — I felt that they were making decisions based on whatever the cool design or tech thing was at the moment, not based on what’s going on in the users’ head.Several mentors at R/GA noticed not only the internal conflict I was having, but if I could marry my skills for harnessing and affecting human behavior with design, then I’d probably be a pretty great UX designer. So I moved in that direction.As time went on, and I started to see people I personally know start technology businesses, it became harder and harder to build apps that make millions for an agency’s clients when I could do that on my own. Especially since my entrepreneur friends got to choose their own subject matter, when I was handed a barrage of assignments for brands and products I really didn’t care about for mostly big, bad companies. It didn’t take long to figure out that I wanted to build my own product, related to a subject of my choosing, that did some good for its users. It wasn’t hard to figure out that becoming one of those “startup people” was in the cards for me.Since, I’ve built several products across several different genres. The topic of passion always comes up, and I always had a story for why I was passionate about e-commerce, or crowdsourcing, or whatever. But I was lying, and probably didn’t even know it. What I know now is that, at my core, what I’m really passionate about is digging into human behavior and affecting it for the better. I can stay up all day and night reading, researching, focus grouping, testing, writing, designing, and making something that changes behavior. It doesn’t really matter what the subject matter is, as long as I think that its good for people. What I’m anti-passionate about is all the non-product oriented business stuff that comes with it.That realization, which has only occurred over the past year or so, has been super important for me. Knowing, specifically, what gets you going, and being honest with yourself about that, is crucial to understanding your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to make better personal and work decisions.Thanks for this post. Its good to reflect about these thing sometimes.

  35. Dylan Chatterjee

    Love this. I followed my then-girlfriend/now-wife out to NYC. We met at b-school, she’s in CPG, and she guided me back to where I’m truly passionate (film/entertainment), and now I’m starting a business around it. She has no experience in that field, but damn does she know how to ask me the right questions to come to the right decisions.

  36. laurie kalmanson

    this is awesome. thank you for it.i did other things before the internet was invented; then i walked thru that door, and never looked back.related: a geek girl dinner group asked me to speak about becoming who you are; with permission, i posted the email and my reply as a medium story — most reblogged piece i’ve put there…

    1. laurie kalmanson

      meant to include this photo; disqus didn’t let me add it back on edit

  37. Stephen Bradley

    Your longest entry in a long time… and WELL worthy of it. Thank you, and AMEN.

  38. JamesHRH

    Nothing is more attractive than a man with a genuine (self developed) understanding of what he wants to do……and nothing is more attractive than a woman who genuinely (self assessed) likes herself.Terrific post. Have some of that same dynamic in my marriage.

    1. fredwilson

      yes you do!

      1. JamesHRH

        Some is an understatement. 😉

  39. Yann

    very inspiring. I have never commented here but reading this article makes me feel I needed to say something. I have been going through a similar process for a few years. Always wanted to work in technology but I have finance degree. When I moved to the US 4 years ago, I discovered the VC industry (partly through your blog actually). I know it’s going to take time to get there, but this inspiring post makes me feel that I am on the right path.

    1. fredwilson

      keep plugging away and thanks for leaving a comment

  40. matthughes

    Great story Fred, thanks for sharing.

  41. Twain Twain

    School and the early part of my career was easy (mostly due to having amazing teachers, mentors and my parents+grandparents) but finding my passion and purpose in life didn’t happen until my Dad died, following a coma.That’s when I had the epiphanies that set me on the adventure to solve the data signal:noise problems by integrating Neuroscience, Arts, Economics & Engineering.There have been moments of abject loneliness and frustration (because the technology to do what I want technology to be able to do simply didn’t exist) but we push through the pains by the grace of others and the realization that nothing is about us and everything is about the people we learn from.That’s why I hang out on AVC.Plus, occasionally, I get to post heartfelt, off-the-wall and funny gifs :*).Before I headed for SF, I met with my Head of Maths at university and my former manager at the bank. One’s known me since I was a teenager and the other for over a decade. They both know it would be easy for me to stay in Europe and do another big corporate role.But they told me to follow my heart and so I do. Since being here, I’ve met people who’ll likely shape the rest of my life and the technologies I build. People I wouldn’t have met anywhere else except in SF-SV.

  42. Annie Feldman

    this was great! I’m still trying to find my passion in my MBA program. Need to find my “Bliss”

  43. Tom Labus

    Fishing in Montana at one of those mountain lakes. Deep blue sky, it’s quiet and it will be a great time. I think they were originally called “adventure funds”

  44. DJL

    Fred – You are a fortunate man to have a woman who can both lead and support! (I always wondered how you got from Course 10 to USV.) I went from studying Geology at the same ‘technical college’ and found my passion in information security. Who knew? Looking back I realize that this field is a right at the intersection between technology and people – two of my favorite things. I wish more people had the courage to leave the steady paycheck for their real dreams. It is an incredibly busy and fulfilling life.

    1. fredwilson

      yes it is

  45. Zhenxi Yang

    Great lesson, Fred. Hope to know you some day in person.

  46. Ovidiu Schiopu

    I know you don’t just want pat on the back comments but I cannot help myself. Fred, the world is a better place because of you and people like you. You’re an inspiration and a model. Acts of kindness have a ripple effect, I’m convinced, and you’re creating waves. Bless you.

  47. Jim Borden

    Thanks for sharing such a heartfelt, inspirational story. I wish you continued success.

  48. Peter Saal

    Thanks for sharing that story Fred. I’ve got a couple kids in college who are standing at that place in their lives. Amazing how the “little” things people say can have a big impact in our lives.

  49. dineshn72

    Advice from Fred in there that most people seem to be missing — “listen to your wife” 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      correct. you read it right.



    1. LE

      Takes a bit of iteration for sure. Also I have found it helpful to spend (similar to what google did with the almost gone 20% projects) time on non primary business or learning pursuits [1] with the hope that it ends up being the next thing that you can do. This strategy has actually worked for me. You keep doing what you are doing and spend a portion of your time on other things that have a chance of leading to something greater (or a new career). Not all eggs in one basket for lack of a better way to put it.[1] An example would be buying a Unix computer in the 80’s and programming it (for a business) back then (because it was fun and helpful) which allowed me to more easily understand and test the internet in the 90’s).



        1. LE

          Exactly and good way to put it. And being “Fake Grimlock” was in a sense a 20%er for you.Another thing I just recently told someone was that in order for 1 thing to work I have to have tried 100 things. The “100 things” of course is a made up number I’ve never tracked it. But if something is fast and easy to do and/or I enjoy it, I don’t have any expected outcome. I sent a letter to a reporter today. It was fast. I have no expectations. However maybe he might ask me about something I know about and will write and the publicity will get me business? It only took 1 minute to write the email it didn’t take hours. (This has worked in the past..)Also, I never have a “take your jack and shove it attitude” [1] at the start I have actually very little expectations.Of course this is not to say that people don’t spend time chasing dreams and experimenting. They do but sometimes they put so much time into one or two dreams. It would be like if you went to art school so you could draw cartoons (and be fake grimlock) and then couldn’t try the 25 other things in the same time (that you didn’t need to attend art school to do).[1] Again, the jack story: http://positivepsychologyne

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. LE

            Yeah I love the way Eric gets credit for something that has been done by business people since the beginning of time as if he invented that concept. (Shows the power of giving something a good name..) Good for him of course.Also all these people that espouse “listen to your customers” as if that is something revolutionary as well.Usually, people who start a business from the ground up and actually do the jobs that are required from the start pretty quickly figure all of this out on their own without any calculations, equations or reading of blog posts. Maybe if you are in college or high school you should actually try to sell something to someone instead of reading Hacker News and learn that way?If you own a pizza restaurant and you notice people like a particular thing you are baking you don’t have to run numbers or do calculations to know you are on to something. You can feel it in the reactions of customers.In my first business I knew a month when we would make money it was when I walked in and everybody moved fast and we were busy. Just the same way you can walk into a restaurant that isn’t busy (when you walk in) but employees are moving fast and with purpose so you know they are preparing for the crowd coming later.

          3. FAKE GRIMLOCK


  51. Val Tsanev

    Great story. I would however caution people to only follow their passion. “Follow your passion” has become a famous saying that everybody likes to repeat but in many cases following your passion does not lead to a fulfilling life or career for many reasons. Instead of “follow your passion” I prefer something that Mark Cuban mentioned, “follow your effort”. Also in your case, you became passionate about VC with time, at first as you described it yourself you barely knew what it is. Suggest you check out this book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” it discusses in detail the reasons of why in many instances the advice of “follow your passion” is the wrong one!

  52. Ari Lewis

    This is excellent! As a student in college, I’m still unsure with what I want to do for a living. This piece really helps me in hone in on what I think I’d enjoy doing after college.

  53. Tom Maxwell

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one that shifted from engineering to a different career, but one that utilizes those skills.

  54. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Had a meeting today when I put two people together for their mutual benefit. I can think of little that is more yes you need help. But offer it and it will be repaid 1000-fold

  55. jsrand

    Glad to hear Bliss is doing OK.

    1. fredwilson

      i will email you the details Jay

  56. monsur

    This is great advice, and a theme I’ve heard echoed before. (most recently in this piece from Andrew McCutchen: http://www.theplayerstribun….I never made many personal connections, and some that I have made have faded over time. I don’t say that as an excuse, I’m just introverted, and it is what it is. But knowing that about myself now, I hope to instill in my 2 children a more outgoing, risk-taking and social nature.

  57. ShanaC

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this for the past few months. Articulating passion is hard. First you need to be unafraid of stuff about yourself.Finding people who care about you first is the first thing you need before worrying about finding your passion

    1. LE

      Finding people who care about you first is the first thing you need before worrying about finding your passionWhy?

  58. Dale Patterson

    This post is perfect. I recently found my passion. Took me years, but I’m more confident and sure now than ever.

  59. marko calvo-cruz

    This post hit the sweet spot for me, as a college student.I too have a strong interest in VC but for other reasons. As a kid with an entrepreneurial spirit who’s gripped by poverty, I’m in love with the world of start ups but cannot tolerate (financial) risks the way my peers are able to (though they fear it).That’s why I think working in the venture capital industry would be a great way for me to get involved with something I care so much for. The problem for me though, and I can’t imagine a driven Wharton alum struggling with this, is getting my foot through the door.I go to a college where you can count the amount of VC alumni on one hand. My school actually has very little support for budding entrepreneurs which is unfortunate. This has led me to reach out to VCs who I don’t really have any connection to and solicit advice from.To anybody who can offer some wisdom, what advice would you offer to a person in my shoes?( I emailed you a question of something along these lines before and maybe it was poor timing but you replied and then I never heard back).

    1. LE

      Going to a non top tier college is a handicap no denying that.That said, how many doors have you knocked on and cold called and have you investigated exactly what the hot buttons of the people that you are trying to sell are? It all starts with effort and research.I’m not in VC but I cracked my first big contract by finding out something that was important to the decision makers that I was trying to convince. With that knowledge I was able to stand out as someone who could provide value vs. the people that I was competing with. (Happened to be Xerox Corp iim.) Point being I put in the time and effort which is what you need to do. That way you will stand out as being special. Not just “um hi I want to be a VC any jobs here?”.Also, you need to practice first. So don’t go after the big fish until you have made your mistakes and learned from the smaller fish.That said I don’t know how realistic your dreams are (others can offer opinions). However you have to get your foot in the door and if you prove yourself it could lead to something good. Figure out a way creatively to get your foot in the door.

    2. Matt Zagaja

      I would study software or electrical engineering and join a start-up as an early stage employee through the myraid of recruiting channels they offer taking a salary and also getting some equity. Marco Arment and Steve Wozniak were just as important to their companies as Steve Jobs and David Karp. If the start-up you join is successful you will be able to use the money from your exit to do angel investing or may be able to parlay the experience working with the start-up into a role at a VC firm. You may not even need that much experience, however. The first start-up I worked for was built by a WPI alum and I did data entry for money. The CEO would meet with us on campus and dispense wisdom about his experiences fundraising and starting the company which was great.Make lots of friends and be good to those around you, even if they’re a bit quirky or you do not connect well.If you turn out to be smart in the polymath sense life becomes a bit harder because you do not naturally hit the failure points that most people experience when they go down a wrong road. You need to take extra time to think about the bigger picture and learn to say no even if it does not seem like you’re going to fail.Money should not be viewed as wealth but rather a manifestation of someone’s or an organization’s commitment to something. A lot of people will suggest that you do some kind of work for free or low wages. The data is quite clear that this is not a good strategy, unpaid internships generally do not lead to jobs. You can lose just as much money creating value for yourself whether its making your own project, starting your own company, or learning a new skill. If you end up doing anything in the realm of consulting the clients that pay you the least are the ones least likely to listen to and take action on your advice. If you work in a large organization the weight of your opinion is almost always directly proportional to your salary relative to your peers. If you pay $10/month for a gym membership you are not as likely to go.If you take a J-O-B job you’ll face lots of trade-offs. You should optimize for something and if the job optimizes on nothing then it likely isn’t worth taking unless you are taking survival money, though in that case your going to just want to optimize for salary and minimize on time spent at the job. Early on you are going to want to optimize for learning and hopefully find a good mentor or two.Mentors, especially good mentors, are difficult to find. When you’re later in your career find people less experienced than you and mentor them.Do not confuse talented teachers or interesting peers with interest in a subject matter. However take advantage of the best professors and teachers that are at your school. The properties of talented people are similar at the top of many subjects, and so there is value to learning about how to be exceptional at something and I think that value translates to other areas.If you do not understand something or are confused the answer is on Google, YouTube, or Wikipedia.Trust your gut. Seriously. The worst decisions I’ve made in life have usually involved taking advice from a trusted person that went against my gut.Remember to call your parents once in a while. In most cases they want you to succeed more than anyone. They get antsy if you only call when you’re in trouble.Hope that helps.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Great advice, Matt, and @domainregistry:disqus.

        1. marko calvo-cruz

          Wow. Two days late with a response because of schoolwork but I wanted to say how blown away I was by the depth, thoughtfulness, and generosity of the answers you guys shared. Your perspectives were incredibly insightful to me and I spent a solid hour reading each reply a few times and thinking about what I want to do moving forward.Right now I am a sophomore on a philosophy track but I just declared my major in Computer Science (I’ve been thriving in my intro class) (I guess that makes me a Philosophy Computer Science double major). I already know as a matter of fact, that I want to be working with a small startup after college, so I am working on learning to program right now.Wish I could say more but I’m in the middle of a class.Thank you @LE @domainregistry:disqus @mzagaja:disqus @donnawhite:disqus @falicon:disqus

    3. Donna Brewington White

      I worked my way through college at a decent but not top tier school, so I get it. I really do. It seems that one way to get into the VC world is through the startup world. To go work for a startup right out of school is not a great financial risk. Starting one, on the other hand, can be. Are there any internships that you could do that would help you land a role in a startup after you graduate — get you into the ecosystem?

    4. falicon

      When you aren’t able or willing to risk money, then it’s *time* that you’ve got to spend/risk. Ultimately, in the startup world money just helps with time (speed) anyway…so lack of money is almost never the *real* thing keeping people out of the game.What specifically about the startup world interests/excites you? How can you use your time to focus even more on that? How can you find more time in your day to get even better at it, more engulfed with it?If you want to start a company, but have no money…you’ve got to spend your time figuring out a business model that can be bootstrapped and focuses 100% on day one profits. It doesn’t really take money to do that, but it does take a lot of time and effort.Sounds like you know your constraints pretty well…so the next challenge is just figuring out how to turn them into strengths/advantages…

  60. Ben Piersall

    @fredwilson:disqus – Spot on. I’m actually a Wharton (ug) grad born and raised in Montana who has also found a passion in tech, so this post in particular hit the nail on the head for me. Thanks

    1. Donna Brewington White

      How do you make that work?

  61. Mike

    @fredwilson did you go fishing? How was it? I just watched an Anthony Bourdain show on Livingston, MT. Looks like a neat place.

    1. fredwilson

      not yet

  62. Simone

    Beautiful love letter.

  63. Dave Pinsen

    Bliss helped you find your bliss.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      You’re such a poet, Dave. Your secret is out.

    2. fredwilson


  64. Donna Brewington White

    So LOVE, love, love this story! Stories can be so much more satisfying than formulas.I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you sharing this — and gauging from the comments I am not alone.I was much older when I figured out that “venture” is my passion but I’ve spent the past five years or so positioning myself to spend the rest of my life engaged in that passion in some way or another. It didn’t take long to figure out that someone over 40 was probably not going to become a VC — or at least not without a successful startup in her past — but then it also occurred to me that there is more than one way to invest and I was already doing the thing that startups and emerging companies need most — finding the right people.But I loved the sound of the word “venture”. It reminded me of adventure. I was smitten.I will soon begin a process of more seriously “branding” what I do and have been trying to figure out a way to use the word “venture” in my company name without being misleading. So, when I read this, I caught my breath for a moment.

  65. Chris Phenner

    That post was as expansive as is Montana (and a lot of the Western U.S.).The west is treating Fred well and unlocking a lot he might not ‘access’ in NYC.Great, great storytelling and I love we had to ‘read down’ to get to the point of it all.Enjoy, Chris

  66. Nick Frost

    This is such a great post, Fred. I love simple and inspiring stories like this. I, and many others I’m sure, are very grateful for you finding your passion in VC, which has led to you helping many others build amazing companies. Thanks for all you do and the passion you pass on everyday.

  67. Levi Morehouse

    I always appreciate life stories. Thanks for sharing.Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

  68. Jay Zhao

    what a great story. Love it.Interesting how life is connected through seemingly random dots.

  69. Sean Saulsbury

    Lovely and inspiring story. Thank you for sharing!

  70. Chimpwithcans

    I appreciate the role of your wife in this story. I recently married and can relate!

  71. Kurt Kumar


  72. Mark Gavagan

    “When we focus on leading a passionate, meaningful life, we are also inadvertently creating a spectacular ripple effect of inspiration in the lives around us. When one person follows a dream, tries something new, or takes a daring leap, everyone nearby feels their passionate energy; and before too long, they are making their own daring leaps while simultaneously inspiring others.”STOLEN from Angel Chernoff’s “40 Quotes to Help You Follow Your Passion”

  73. Mike Geer (MG)

    Thank you for sharing, Fred.

  74. Evan Rapoport

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I love this post, Fred.I had amazing mentors in my life who helped me find my passion, so I always try to pay it forwards by mentoring students and young professionals. I’m a Product Manager at Google[x], so people usually want to know how I got here. They’re shocked when they hear how much dumb luck was often involved (check out my story in National Geographic: http://voices.nationalgeogr….I believe that although you should prepare for the journey you expect to take, you should always look for the pass less traveled that might make you even happier. And I agree with you, Fred, that a great way to do this is to “surround yourself with people who care about you and listen to them”. We need more successful people to be mentors. Thanks Fred for encouraging all your readers to do this!

  75. brian piercy

    Great post, but… surrounding yourself with people who care is a crapshoot. Only the top 0.1% are going to be able to “write their own ticket” (implying the chance to work with the very best). The rest of us will have to settle for schepping along with the equivalent of The Office until fate taps us on the shoulder.Think of it this way – “finding your passion” isn’t going to pay the bills. Scott Adams was right.Don’t get me wrong, I love this post and am genuinely happy for @avc. But “grinding” is a much more predictable path. I’ll be fulfilled when I know that I can keep a roof over my wife’s head.

  76. DonRyan

    I love everything about this post.

  77. george

    Those that encourage us to pursue our passions and help shape our path are invaluable! Thanks for the reminder, I’m now planning to make a few calls and thank some special folks.

  78. jonathan hegranes

    I love your references to the Gotham Gal and how she’s helped push and encourage you. My wife has been amazing in that respect, especially helping me achieving my passion.

  79. DouglasD

    Thanks for the post–really inspiring! In a similar boat myself, and incredibly excited for the years to come.

  80. JJ Donovan

    Once again, thank you for this post. I am here second guessing my decision at 45 years of age to take a transfer with my existing company from Washington DC to Palo Alto, CA. I know my passion for technology and entrepreneurship, but I have not found it. I am not sure if I will still be able to find my passion, but at least I will be in an ecosystem where I might stand a better chance in the next year. I figured as a single guy, with no kids and no large debts, I could take this chance. Once again, many thanks to Fred for this timely post to help remind me that technology is my passion and this is why I am doing it.JJD – Stepping outside his comfort zone…

  81. Snooch

    I remember the smoked salmon every holiday season from Euclid- that with a hot essa bagel (before people were freaking out about carbs!) on 14th street!! great memories…

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, the good old days!

  82. Robert Heiblim

    This is a great and important post Fred. In my experience, it takes passion for what you do, to create value and make a difference. Consistently I find the top performers have passion for what they do. Great skill, intellect at times and experience are all important, but if you do not care it is hard to be consistent and to move the meter. Thank you.

  83. DD

    Am i the only see everything ( smart, luck, privilege ) but passion…

  84. Frank Lin

    I love this post, Fred. I wanted to chime in and say that I also have great affection for both Bliss and Milton. After a short stint as an entrepreneur that ended in 2001, I sent a cold email to Bliss describing that experience and he invited me to have a sandwich with him. Milton and Bliss hired me the following week and over the next 9 years at Euclid, I learned to become a VC (also, in probably one of the more challenging times to be in venture). I couldn’t imagine my life and all that followed without having had the experience and mentorship that these gentlemen gave to me. I’m grateful to them for helping me find my passion.P.S. My favorite Bliss-ism is “That dog won’t hunt”.

    1. fredwilson

      i happen to like that one and another that references dogs”if you lie down with dogs, you come up with fleas”

      1. Frank Lin

        That’s a classic. The other one that sticks in my mind is “No ticky, no laundry”. Totally inappropriate but the gentleman from West Virginia somehow got away it.

        1. fredwilson


  85. koolhead17

    Is passion only sufficient for success or execution is equally important?

  86. fredwilson


  87. fredwilson

    that’s great