Emily Olson | Forget Your Passion, Follow Your Curiosities

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Emily Olson, co-founder of Foodzie, and I connected via theLi.st about a year ago; we met in person at Alt Summit in January of 2013.  Having just sold Foodzie, Emily was figuring out how to dare and dream again.  Within minutes of meeting, my pal Macy Robison gently elbowed me and said, “You need to ask Emily to blog.” Emily has agreed to write a series of three posts — happily.  There’s some great insight here.

You know what's about one of the most soul crushing things for someone that considers themselves a passionate person?

When all of a sudden you don't feel like you have one.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been an all in kind of person. I typically find one thing I’m passionate about and pour myself into it. I want to master it. I’m not the girl with a million hobbies. For the last 10 years, my play time and my work time has been all about good food. If you know me (or my instagram feed for that matter), you'd think I was crazy to doubt my passion for food.

Backing up, I arrived to college as a chemistry geek, but after a year and a half I had my nose in my cooking magazines more than my textbooks and my kitchen became my new lab. I switched my major to become a food writer. I had a mentor give me the advice that if I wanted to be a food writer, go become a food person first. At about the same time I realized I was a horribly inefficient writer, so I shelved that, but the food part stuck. I took culinary classes, worked in restaurants and then I began working as a buyer for a specialty food retailer called The Fresh Market based in Greensboro, NC.

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It was there I recognized there were all these cool products with great stories and I wanted to make it easy for people like me to discover them. I teamed up with my co-founders Rob and Nik and we built Foodzie an online marketplace for artisan foodmakers. I had pretty much unlocked my dream job. Eat good food for a living? Check. Lead my own creative vision? Check. Work with passionate people? Check.

We built the company for a little over four years, sold it to Joyus a year ago and then transitioned out at the end of 2012. It was emotional to say goodbye to something I'd merged so much of my identity with, but knew Foodzie had prepared us for something bigger. Quite frankly I was thrilled for some time off. A true break to explore the next thing. No responsibilities to anything. Joy, sweet joy. And then the break came and…I freaked out.

The thoughts in my head were shouting, “I don't care about a break; I just want to know what's my thing!” Food had always been my thing. And while I knew I hadn't lost my passion in food completely, there wasn't a big challenge in food I felt the burning desire to take on. Food felt like a small flame instead of the roaring fire of a true passion I knew it once to be.

Needing some advice on how to move forward, I stepped back and realized I had given this very advice in a TEDx talk to a group of high schoolers. Toss out the notion of finding your passion (at least to start) and explore your curiosities.

Finding your passion is a lot like finding a husband. Who wants to evaluate every first date, asking yourself if he is the one? It's far easier to ask yourself, if you simply want one more date with this dude.  So my advice? Go on dates with ideas, until you realize there's this one you just can't stop hanging out with…when you've found that, you've likely found your passion.


At the end of March, my fiancé (and co-founder) Rob and I were about to take off for a two month long trip around the world. Reminded of my own advice, I let go. I stopped searching for my thing. I gave myself a break, allowed myself just to be a particle in the universe and for those curiosities to emerge.

I journaled nearly everyday of our trip. I was scribbling down ideas for a productivity app and a new educational platform. But it was the visit to the Japanese tea farm that had me pumped full of energy, the epic sushi experience that felt like pure bliss, and the cooking class in Thailand where my heart sang. It was like throwing kindle on that flame. Again my curiosity to discover new tastes and the people connected to that food was alive. Finally big challenging ideas connected to food were in front of me again and the fire in my belly was back. Now back in San Francisco, new food business ideas and food projects are filling my days.

Whether you're trying to find that passion for the first time, or like me, trying to get it back. Give yourself a break and try simply being curious. I'm learning so far that your life's calling might be less about passion and more about being continuously curious.

When were you last passionately curious?


Emily believes everyone can appreciate great food if you just have the chance to taste. She founded and sold one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Food Companies, Foodzie.com where she discovered the best products from small foodcrafters. A passionate food enthusiast she's spent 10 years in the business from food writing, to culinary school to working with artisanal foodmakers. Emily has been named Inc Magazine's Top 30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs and Food & Wine Magazine's 40 Big Food Thinkers Under 40.

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