Turning a Passion into a Business.
I recently did a podcast with RadSeason focusing on my fascination with festivals, which led me to create Fest300 in 2013. During the span of one year, I went to 36 festivals in 20 countries. I was curious that the more digital we became as a society, the more ritual we seemed to need.
Festivals of all kinds— music, transformational, arts & cultural, film, and even religious pilgrimages—served this need and were blowing up with double-digit growth in attendance during the prior few years.
As many of you know, I consider management theorist Peter Drucker to be one of the first “modern elders,” who was as curious as he was wise. He advised that each of us should pursue a passion every couple of years and become one of the world’s leading experts on it as a means of lubricating the mind and spirit. Peter studied things like medieval war strategies and Japanese flower arranging, subjects that had nothing to do with his career.
Over the past ten years, I’ve studied everything from human emotion theories and the geological reasons why hot springs exist to the rise of ageism in America and the history and phenomenon of festivals. For the latter, I was curious why there wasn’t an online authority to help people discover the festival that was perfectly suited for them. I thought why not have an annual Fest300 list of the 300 best festivals in the world. We have a Fortune500 list of the largest companies and a Forbes400 list of the wealthiest people. A list of the best festivals made sense.
I traveled the world going to the largest gathering of humanity (100 million people over 55 days) at the Ganges River in India, Maha Kumbh Mela, and to a crazy 400-year festival in a rural Spanish town where two guys dressed up as devils jump over mattresses of babies no more than one-year-old while drinking swigs of liquor after each jump. There were just a few hundred onlookers at that scary, weird El Colacho festival.
For various reasons, Fest300 never got financial traction to become a successful business. Still, it had a profound impact on me as I tried to juggle joining Airbnb in a major leadership role while also being CEO/sole investor of Fest300. Don’t assume that your failures don’t influence you. As you’ll see in this video promoting our third Airbnb Open, I evolved this conference I co-founded (which started with 1,500 hosts in San Francisco) and turned it into a festival for 6,000 in Paris, and then 20,000 in Los Angeles. It was likely the world’s largest hospitality festival in 2016...and maybe since then.
Trust your passions. They may not be financially rewarding, but they’re teaching you something that may have value in the future.