Recently I attended a Prosper Women Entrepreneurs event at Washington University, sponsored by the Olin Business School Executive MBA program.

While listening to one of the panelists (Debbie Sterling, CEO and founder of GoldieBlox, an award-winning toy company on a mission to “disrupt the pink aisle”), I had an epiphany: entrepreneurship is like a spiritual initiation process.

Carl Jung, noted psychoanalyst and prolific author, wrote extensively about the alchemical process of individuation, which includes the idea of a personal and spiritual transformation. He isn’t the only one, as mythologist Joseph Campbell also wrote about the process he called “The Hero’s Journey.” There’s even a recent fictional book by Paolo Coelho called The Alchemist. In the beginning an enthusiastic but inexperienced person sets out on a journey, along the way sufferering trials and tribulations, and at the end learns from her experience and is transformed: no longer naïve but wise with experience. She is initiated.

All along the way it’s her sense of mission and vision, coupled with feelings of passion that carry her through. Indeed, Ms. Sterling talked to us about her early “dark days” at the beginning, after quitting her job, alone in her apartment without a schedule to lead the way. She said it was lonely and depressing. When I asked her if it was her passion that helped her carry through, she said (very enthusiastically) that she felt she was doing what she was born to do, so yes.

She explained that she’s a social entrepreneur, which is a kind of entrepreneur who wants to change the world and make a difference through the product or service they offer. It would makes sense then that a social entrepreneur would be equipped with a super-duper helping of passion.

Ms. Sterling likened it to being obsessed with an idea or topic. How did she identify her passion? She said it was a strong visceral feeling she had that just allowed her to “know.”

So following intuition, going through a dramatic change process that leaves you feeling different than when you started, having the excitement to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again when you fall – these are all part and parcel of living your passion, taking a risk, and launching. Whether it’s your next big idea, your company, your book, a project, or even a relationship – you need to feel like you’re playing with passion if you want to succeed.

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