Stop Pulling–Start Pushing
What happens when you realize that you have built something that requires more expertise than you have?
Usually anxiety happens.
And anxiety leads us into a trap of believing that if we just try harder for longer, we will figure it out. After all, isn’t that how we made this far? Just trying harder. Inevitability we find ourselves exerting a tremendous amount of energy trying to lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps.
Pulling on our own bootstraps is a fight we can’t win.
So, I propose a redirection of all that energy towards understanding what you can do better than anyone else.
Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, in their book The One Thing, explore the power of understanding how and where to focus our energies to make the greatest impact. They use the example of increasingly larger dominoes. Take two and half minutes to check out Stephen Morris’ video demonstrating what Keller and Papason wrote about (https://youtu.be/y97rBdSYbkg).
In short, you can push on a wafer thin domino, a fraction of an inch square, and twenty-nine dominos later, if each is only 1.5x bigger than the one in front of it, you have knocked down a domino the size of the Empire State Building.
Let’s dwell on that for just a second.
By investing our time intentionally in the effort to understand where we need to push, we can exert less effort and have a greater impact than trying to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. The One Thing is an easy read and a great place to start on this journey of understanding strengths, weaknesses, skills, and abilities.
After accepting that your greatest benefit to what you have created is to apply your energies where you will get the greatest return on that investment (ROI), you need to dig deeper to find and define your strengths and weaknesses. I cannot over recommend Strength Finders 2.0 from Gallop Press and Tim Rath. Also a very easy to read book that has profound implications.
Understanding your natural strengths as an owner and leader will identify quickly where you are lacking. For example, my top 5 strengths are Ideation, Strategic, Input, Futuristic, and Connectedness. I have learned to embrace those core strengths. I also have acknowledged some of my weaknesses, like Harmony, Competition, and Discipline, are necessary for leading a successful business.
I could just say, “I need to work harder to turn my weaknesses into strengths and be a well-rounded person.” And to be clear, there is nothing wrong with striving to be well rounded. But that is a journey of lifetime that our businesses cannot wait for us to complete. Instead of throwing all our energy towards our weaknesses, we can redirect our energy and invest it where we can generate the greatest amount of ROI.
Using another physics example, take the gears on a bike. The point of having gears on a bike is to create the ability to adjust the return on energy input from our legs, to the petals, to the gears, thru the chain, to the wheels. By adjusting up and down through the gears we can ensure that we are getting as much ROI for our energy as possible. At too low a gear, we are pushing harder than we need to and expending energy we will need later. At too high a gear, we are pedaling fast but not getting the maximum amount of return per push. Understanding our strengths is comparable to being able to dial in the gears on our bike. We can adjust the gears of our business, based on the financial terrain, to maximize the ROI for our energy spent moving our business down the road.
Instead of trying to pedal faster or harder to make up for our weaknesses, we need to know where we need to push to generate the greatest ROI and find others to invest their time and energy in the areas where they are strongest. There are people who are amazing where we are lacking. Finding them and adding them to our teams is a much greater use of our time and resources than trying to become mediocre at doing something we weren’t good at to begin with.
Take time to read Jim Collins Good to Great. Collins uses the example of a fly wheel (if, like I didn’t, you don’t know what a fly wheel is, checkout the following video for a simple explanation https://youtu.be/7K4W4hA6aV4). Collins proposition is that if we are willing to focus our energy on moving forward the thing(s) we are best at, both personally and as a business, we will get the greatest ROI.
Whether it is a domino, bicycle, or flywheel, there are numerous examples of how the most important journey we will embark on is the one where we invest in discovering how we can apply our strengths to a focused area that will generate the greatest impact and ROI for our time and energy.
We can choose to expend our energy pulling on our own bootstraps—usually out of some sense that we have to do it all by ourselves. If we do, our business will never be more than what we have to offer, and our ROI will be limited to our own strengths and limited by our own weaknesses. Or we can choose to start pushing from a position of our greatest strengths, setting our domino, bicycle, flywheel, business in motion and potentially changing the course of our careers.
Anyway, if you are going to exert all that energy, why not put it in a direction that can create change and foster success. Knowing your strengths will let you know the kind of strengths you need to find to supplement your business strategy.
Image Credit: Gary Keller and Jay Papasan authors of The One Thing and Jim Collins author of Good to Great.