Often we are either pulled by vision or pushed by pain. It has been my experience that I can sometimes switch between the two, or even be driven by pain until I develop a clear vision.
This is true in much of life and in business.
As for business, there is profit to be had in solving pain for an identifiable customer or better yet, developing something that solves a pain one has personally experienced as it yields both compassion and passion. And that is very rewarding.
There is even greater joy in developing past the pain and into a vision of what was previously unimaginable. Not just the absence of pain (as that is rarely, if ever, possible), but more excitedly the crystallization of a vision that is much much bigger.
The power of vision is that it is compelling and sustaining when times get tough or new problems develop, as they often do.
An example of this is our newest company, Rally Corp. When we sat out to build the project, we were trying to solve a very particular problem we had encountered. That is, to develop a pipeline of users and market leads to test assumptions against (e.g. ask questions, conduct demos, identify early adopters, understand the market, etc.) as we simultaneously built product. We needed it to be inexpensive and easily repeatable.
Actually, at the time, our small investment group had started on and were developing three products for two very different markets — not to mention the half a dozen companies we were advising or considering for investment. What happened next was amazing, our vision crystallized as we began to see the power of developing a process and solution by which we could do this across an entire industry — and not just for our small group.
What a joy! When we close our eyes, we can see the end clearly, as if it already exists. (We often do this in a dark room during our team meetings with incense and a circle of tiny candles — just kidding. Or am I?)
And we know exactly how we are going to get there, err — at least have a strategy and the ability to shift as needed until we dial it in. I mean, that is after all the very thing we are building.
In the end, it is important to remember that there is a big difference between being pulled and being pushed. One is to be drawn to, while the other is to move from.
By all means, solve for pain but be compelled by vision. And enjoy the journey.