Ask the average person how they’re doing on a Monday and their typical answer will be “Okay for a Monday” or “Not bad considering it’s a Monday”. Now ask that same question on Wednesday and you will likely get an answer with the phrase “Hump Day” thrown in somewhere. Ask this question on a Friday and you’re almost guaranteed to hear some version of “Thank God its Friday!”
Do the math. If you’re living for Friday and or your weekends, you’re living for 43% of your life and treating the other 57% as little more than drudgery….just days on the calendar to endure before your “real life” begins.
The following quote is the summation of what I just described:
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
Henry David Thoreau
My interpretation of song is “passion” or “strength” or “major definite purpose”.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
Life is way too short to spend not loving what you do. We all experience moments in life that stick with us forever. One of mine was a bit of advice from my Grandfather on my Mom’s side of the family. I was still in high school when he said that “Your life will go by so fast. Before you know it, you will be my age.” And you know, he was right. He gave me that advice 30 years ago and it seems like it was just yesterday.
So, do you know your passions, your strengths, your why? Most people don’t. And for those that do or at least think they do, they often make a series of life decisions that put them so far behind the 8-ball that they can’t possibly see any way to ever reach for their dreams.
My goal for this post is to offer some suggestions and perspective and hopefully in some way ignite a little fire in you to take some action that you might not otherwise be willing to take.
Step 1: Discovering Your Strengths
Your first step is to identify your strengths. While there are many sources available, my recommendations are Now, Discover Your Strengths and Standout both by Marcus Buckingham. Both books provide access to an online assessment giving you your top 5 and top 2 strengths respectively. The tests are similar and yet different and I recommend both to give you a better overall picture of “you”.
John Maxwell teaches a lot on the importance of working in your areas of strength rather than your weaknesses. We all have both and there’s nothing wrong with that. The key is finding your strengths and then go about the process of ordering your life around maximizing them. This will benefit you in every area of your life.
Step 2: Find your Hedgehog Concept
Your what? I know, the name is a little odd, but there is a story and for that you need to read Good to Great. Authored by Jim Collins, Good to Great is a New York Times bestseller on how a select number of companies went from “good” to “great”. It teaches a number of success principles including the Hedgehog Concept which is simply a term for a strategic focus that successful organizations develop to guide their decision making, strategy execution, competency development, etc. Please note this concept can be equally applied on a personal level as well.
Ever hear the phrase “Do what you love and the money will follow?” Yeah, me too. The only problem is that Passion is only one of three components necessary for a Hedgehog Concept. In the image below, you have in the top circle your Passion. In the bottom left circle, you have what you can be the Best In The World At. And in the bottom right, you have your Economic Engine.
The area in the middle where your three circles overlap is your “Sweet Spot” where the highest levels of achievement can be reached. If any one circle is missing, your Hedgehog Concept is flawed and will not work. For example, you can be the most passionate person in the world regarding a given topic and have the skill set to be the best on the planet. If however there’s no way to create an income, your model will fail.
As you go through the process of identifying your passions, go back and consider what you learned about your strengths. If a passion is a true strength, then you will likely be blessed with the skill set to be truly excellent. Get these first two circles right and then its a matter of developing your economic engine.
With technology changing our world today faster than ever before, what might not have been viable just a few short years ago in terms of your economic engine may be totally doable today. Just because it’s never been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done. There was a time before air travel, computers, and cell phones. Take some time to explore your options and focus your mind on possibilities rather than the opposite.
“For me, faith will always be a sounder guide than reason because reason can only go so far— faith… has no limits.”
Step 3: Develop Your Plan of Action
So now that you’ve identified your passions, and have the skills and economic engine to go with, now what? It’s time to take action. This last step is so highly individualized because of the myriad of circumstances that different people bring into play.
The following are just some of the major questions to be considered. For simplicity, I’m using the term “pursuit” to include both a new job, career path, or new business venture for the more entrepreneurial minded.
Does your pursuit involve additional education?
Does your pursuit involve a capital investment?
Does your pursuit require time that you’re not currently investing?
How long will it take to reach your pursuit?
Is your pursuit something that you want to replace your job now or at some point in the future?
Or do you want your pursuit to just be something on the side in addition to your current job?
Depending on where you are in life with your level of responsibility in terms of family, career, debt & finances, your path will be uniquely your own.
Leadership expert John Maxwell teaches that once you’ve identified the combination of your passions, strengths, and application, you must be willing to take action. Avoid the Law of Diminishing Intent by taking the first step. It’s a cliché to say that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”, but it’s true.
Business Plan: There are tons of resources available for creating a business plan. The important thing is to get started. It doesn’t have to be perfect before you take the first step. Goal setting and achievement is like war. The object of winning never changes but your tactics and strategies along the way will have to be flexible as that is the nature of war.
Education: Your options for further education are wide open. From a formal college degree to a more entrepreneurial pursuit of self-education, the information is available. You must be willing to invest the time. Most people underestimate the value of small blocks of time. By shifting some time daily so that you’re maximizing your education, you can drastically increase your learning.
An example I often share with people is based on a 30 minute commute morning and afternoon for work. At 60 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 50 weeks, you total 6.25 (40) hour work weeks worth of education. And 60 minutes is easy. Factor in another 30 to 60 minutes a day while you’re getting ready in the mornings or cooking dinner at night and you accumulate 9 to 12 weeks worth of (40) hour work weeks….of self directed education.
Capital or Financial Backing: For some, this can be a limiting factor. If your business plan is solid and you’re willing to persist without exception, you will find the needed capital. Whether through traditional sources like banks or through private investors, sound business plans will attract $.
Now this may seem like a lot of trouble and yet go back to the first paragraph and remember the definition of insanity:
“Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.”
Does this all sound like to big of a price to pay? If your “why” is big enough, no price will be too big to pay. Besides, the time is going to pass regardless. You can either take action today towards your dreams and look back in a few years with your life in a totally different place or you can still be living essentially where you are today.
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”
Jim Rohn – America’s Foremost Business Philosopher
Closing thoughts for my readers:
In closing I want to share two brief examples of “late” bloomers who went on to extraordinary levels of success.
My mentor Jeffrey Gitomer is 69 years old, and he published his first book, The Sales Bible in 2003. Today he is considered one of the foremost authorities in the world on sales, leadership, personal development, and social media. And he’s written 4 New York Times bestsellers (including The Sales Bible) totaling 16 books overall and sales of over 3 million world-wide.
Key Point: Jeffrey was in his mid 50’s when he published The Sales Bible and in roughly 12 short years, he knocked off another 15 books with sales in the millions.
My mentor John Maxwell is 68 years old, and he published his first book, Think on These Things in 1980. Today John is considered “THE” foremost authority in the world on leadership. He’s the founder of The John Maxwell Company and Equip, a non-profit organization that has trained over 6 million leaders in 177 countries around the world. And he’s published 70+ books selling in excess of 21 million copies.
Key Point: John was in his early 30’s when he published Think on These Things and 35 years later, he’s published 70+ books with over 21 million copies sold.
These are just two examples out of countless who have started later in life under less than ideal circumstances and yet they still reached the pinnacle of success. And for what’s it’s worth, both Jeffrey and John are not done yet as they continue to write, speak, and share their passion for serving people around the world.
Confucius said to “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
In all due respect, I would have to “slightly” disagree. To be a success in anything requires hard, hard work. The key difference is that when your work is a “labor of love”, it will take on a whole new meaning and your energy and capacity to persist will be limitless.