What “Shark Tank” Shows Us About Relying On Passion For Success


Here’s a great #SharkTankPitch: Four billion dollars for a one percent stake in my career.

You guessed it, Lori… Daymond?… Mark? I’m looking for your support on my way to becoming one of you.

See, I don’t want to bother with this whole “having an idea,” “hustling,” “making things scalable” business. The only business I want to be in is being pitched businesses. Four billion oughta be enough to make my dream come true.

Some of my qualifications:

  • Gumption.
  • A can-do attitude.
  • Self-starter who works well in a group setting.
  • Great at posing in front of gaudy houses and vehicles.
  • Can wear the hell out of a pair of hideous, and more importantly hideously expensive, sunglasses.
  • Could be easily swayed by personal qualms regardless of how successful a venture might be.
  • It would cow the aspiring entrepreneurs even more if a Shark were clearly way, way younger than they are.

All I’m asking is for you to take a chance on me. Like you always say, Robert, invest in a person. Sorry, I told myself I wouldn’t cry, but this is everything to me right now. I need this. I’m not guaranteeing you’ll make your money back. You probably won’t get anywhere close. But think about how much I deserve this. I mean, I came in here, applied for the show…everything. I did say how much I really want this, didn’t I?

The Sharks probably wouldn’t have bitten (“Good one, Alex.” “Thanks! I’m waiting on a book deal.”) But I think they may have noticed how, specific monetary request aside, my tactics weren’t all that different from real people who come on the show, with real ambitions for their real ideas.

Time after time, people dip into the Tank under the assumption that dedication to their business will put a check-writing twinkle in potential investors’ eyes. To be fair, the Sharks are fickle. Occasionally, they do succumb to some mix of pity and ego and take a swing at some dumb children’s Velcro Belt idea. I mean, as It’s Always Sunny teaches, “People like stupid shit.”

More often than not, though, even the most charming, hardworking-backstoried American Dream-seeker is crushed under their own hubristic faith in the cult of effort.

For instance, a guy from Portland took the dive a few seasons ago. He loved making juice. He loved making people happy with the juice he produced. He was a local hit. His smile was infectious. He even invented a fun, interactive juicing system that got people active and streaming through his doors.

Sounds good, yeah? You like juice and infectious smiles, don’t you? Portland’s a wonderful town. Why not get away from the capitols of industry and international ambition, and help grow a local business with a local boy done good?

Because if there’s one very harsh gospel that Shark Tank preaches, it’s that passion and belief in an idea do not equal financial success and, can in some instances, do more harm than good.

Delightful-Portland-juicer’s main draw was that customers could actively participate in the juicing process. He had rigged bicycles so that when you peddled, a blender on top of the handlebar area would start to whirl. Voila! Juice! Exercise! Simple, Green gd tech! The problem, which basically every storefront business runs into on Shark Tank, was that of scale. How would this ever catch on elsewhere? What’s to say this current-fad wouldn’t die the same quick, money-hemorrhaging death of countless predecessors?

Well, Delightful-Portland-juicer answered, you can also buy a unit for yourself. You know, take the fun of Juice! Exercise! And Simple, Green gd tech! home with you.

No one took a chance on him. Although, to be fair, I don’t think any of the Sharks (maybe Mark Cuban for basketball? I guess?) have ever even thought of visiting Portland. I imagine this guy continues to be successful in his local, very, very Portlandy business. Long live the Pacific Northwest.

The point is that here was this passionate, charming, driven guy, with an already demonstrably, if modestly, successful business. His only mistake was tapping into a local (read: niche) interest. He even thought his idea would translate well to other markets. Maybe it would have, but he fell back on the circular reasoning and promises of hard work and passion. If anything, Shark Tank, for all its cloying banter and subjective, I-don’t-like-the-cut-of-this-guy’s-jib lectures, does drive the point home that passion and drive alone do not an empire make.

This is not to say that working hard at something until it reaches its limit is a bad thing. Obviously if you really want something it takes passion, dedication, and stamina, etc. etc,, but oftentimes its easy to not recognize when the limit has been reached. Because, contrary to everything Cady Heron ever told you, the limit does exist. Some ideas, some aspirations, some goals and passions just aren’t achievable no matter how much you care and believe in it. Luckily for all us unskilled workers, there’s no expectation that we’ll take a desk our first day and stay there until our professional deaths. By exposing the fatal flaw in reliance on passion, Shark Tank opens the floodgates (sorry) for one to consider the numerous possibilities out there.

That being said, I think this plug for the show is worth at least a couple mili. No royalty deals though, sorry Mr. Wonderful.

image – Shark Tank