Money at 30: “The Passion Economy” Book Review
Have you ever stopped to think about how many people today are doing jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago? Or have you talked to someone at a cocktail party, asked about their job, and thought, “How do you make money with that?” If so, then you may have found yourself taking an interest in “the passion economy.” Now (well, as of last year), there’s a book on this very topic. Coming from author Adam Davidson of Planet Money fame, The Passion Economy: The New Rules for Thriving in the Twenty-First Century is an intriguing read that highlights a subtle but substantial shift in how many of today’s businesses make money.
First, what is “the passion economy” exactly? Some of the themes include an emphasis on value instead of price, focusing on niches instead of massive markets, and, of course, being passionate instead of passive about your work and offerings. As Davidson explains, these tenants diverge from the “widget economy” that’s traditionally ruled, which saw brands striving to make their products at a faster clip for less money in order to maximize profits. Ironically, though, some passion economy converts have been able to grow their revenue by narrowing their focus — as the book documents.
On that note, Davidson’s book isn’t exactly a how-to on turning what you love into a business nor is it an opinion-based musing on the shift in climate. Instead, the book is mostly made up of case studies that demonstrate different elements of this passion economy. Oftentimes, the businesses profiled are then contrasted against a widget economy brand to highlight the differences.
Since The Passion Economy covers several different brands and provides at least a bit of background (but often much more) on all those involved, it can occasionally feel as though you’re going from tangent to tangent — perhaps losing the thread if you’re not paying attention. To my shame, there were times when I needed to rewind the audiobook a bit to connect the dots. That said, I do suspect that the printed version of the book would alleviate this confusion thanks to formatting. It’s also totally possible that I needed to either slow down or listen harder in order to better catch these switches in topic.
While I enjoyed the book on the whole, some of my favorite parts came in the latter half. Among them, I found the section involving the Amish to be fascinating on multiple levels both related and unrelated to the core topics of this book. I also found myself especially invested in the story of OCHO, which featured mention CircleUp — a FinTech that helps brands find funding.
I’ll admit that The Passion Economy: The New Rules for Thriving in the Twenty-First Century wasn’t quite what I was expecting when I downloaded it sans much prior research. That’s not a good or a bad thing as I found the book to be engaging nonetheless. The actual aim of the book also makes more sense than whatever I was envisioning given Davidson’s past work and the fact that many pages of this would feel at home as a Planet Money segment. Meanwhile, although the teachings of The Passion Economy may not be as explicit as they might be in other works, there are still plenty of lessons and nuggets that entrepreneurs will take away with them. For those reasons, if this style of book sounds up your alley, I think you’ll enjoy this one overall.
Also published on Medium.