PASSION is overrated. And just like the word “amazing,” it has become one of the most overused and abused words by a lot of millennials.
Long ago, the word “passion” was used only in relation to exceptional situations and bizarre persons, but now the word is everywhere—people are either talking about their passion; or telling other people to find and follow their passion, as if it’s some holy grail to happiness and success.
I think they’ve forgotten that it’s also the word used to describe the last hours in the life of Jesus—ever heard of the Passion of Christ?
Our discussion about passion was one of the highlights of my recent conversation with Jet Yu, the 28-year-old founder and CEO of Prime Philippines, one of the biggest real-estate consultancy firms in the country.
Jet says he often based his advice on practicality. “If they are the breadwinner of the family, I’ll them to keep their jobs rather than risk it in business, since they have little room for failure, because if they fail, their whole family suffers.“When people ask me what is my passion, I answer it this way: It depends on what you mean by passion. Passion can refer to a strong and barely controllable emotion, or a strong desire or enthusiasm to do something, but people tend to forget that it originated from the Latin word ‘passio,’ which means ‘suffer.’ “A lot of young people nowadays often get so hyped and make decisions in the heat of the moment. They are willing to turn their backs on everything in the name of passion—not even thinking if they are ready to suffer and make sacrifices to pursue it.”
In his experiences with Prime Philippines, Jet says they have worked with a lot of small start-up business. “Out of the 100 leasing transactions, about 60 percent will shut down in less than a year (mostly food and beverage). The ones who make it past the third year are only 10 percent—meaning 90 percent would have shut down in the first three years. So putting up a business is not easy.”
For those who aren’t breadwinners and have money to spare, Jet asks them which industry they want and how long they’ve actually thought about their business plan.
“Take note that any hobby turned into a business becomes a career, and when you make it a career, ask yourself if you’re ready to suffer for the first few years for long-term benefits.”
Jet stresses that real passion requires sacrifice, discipline and choosing the right opportunity.
“There will always be a lot of opportunities, but you have to focus on the good opportunities you have right now; otherwise, you will just be chasing one passion and one opportunity after another.”
Jet credits his sense of discipline and determination to his parents. The middle child in a brood of three, Jet recalls spending his summers working for the family business, typical of Filipino Chinese families, doing clerical work and observing how his parents ran their real-estate marketing company for mass market housing.
Jet says his mom taught them how to be resourceful and street-smart, while his father showed them how to treat people equally. “My mom ran the business using the limited manpower and resources she had and taught me that you don’t always need to spend a lot of money to get things done. She also showed me that there was no weekend or holidays when you are running a business and people are depending on you. When business calls at 3 a.m., you have to wake up and attend to whatever needs to be done.”
His mom originally wanted him to be an architect, just like she wanted his elder brother to become an engineer and his sister an interior designer—hoping they would eventually take over the family business. All of them, however, had different plans. His sister took up marketing, his brother became a food technologist and Jet became an entrepreneur.
Jet took up entrepreneurship at the University of Asia and the Pacific, and even before they were required to start their own business in their third year, Jet had already put up a food kiosk selling siomai and rice meals, called Lil Asya Express, at one of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations in Caloocan.
This is where Jet learned just how hard it is to run a business. “I ran the kiosk for more than two years, and during the first six months we were just burning money, as in luging-lugi.”
His parents lent them one of their vans, and everyday at 3 a.m., he would go to the Balintawak Market to get supplies and then bring it to the kiosk, which isn’t easy considering they live in Quezon City, and he still had to attend classes. Sometimes, when his staff wouldn’t report for work, Jet says he had no choice but to run the kiosk himself and cook everything, otherwise they’d be penalized. He says things only started to turn around when his brother came up with siomai with ginger rice toppings. After that, sales increased more than 100 percent.
But while his business was finally starting to flourish, school was a different thing. Jet admits he wasn’t much of an achiever in school. “Back then, I was really addicted to games—‘Ragnarok,’ ‘Counterstrike,’ ‘Dota,’ ‘Gunbound,’ ‘Left for Dead’ and all that—and I think that affected my studies.”
So while his classmates were receiving numerous job offers, Jet recalls not getting any offer and even if he had a food kiosk and a few other small businesses on the side, Jet knew this was going to be a major turning point in his life and he had to come up with something.