As business people, it’s surprisingly easy to forget the very things that make you money day in, day out. I call this “Organic Knowledge” — you know that you know these things, but you either forget or fail to see the importance of what you know. So the perception is, you know less than you should and hardly ever feel as though you know enough…
And this is where perception plays a hugely important role in things. It’s probably just as well that you don’t feel that you know enough. This way, you remain competitive and you’re likely to want to stay on top of things.
In business, there’s always one more mountain to climb
I have a habit of helping people. I often use analogies to pull down the perceptions people have of themselves and their businesses.
The more I know about a person, the more ammunition I have to shoot down their often damaging and poorly engineered perceptions with analogies that fire straight into the heart of what it is that they’re thinking.
One such analogy was that of a friend who — through the power of an analogy — I cast as a mountaineer. Here is a self-imposed challenge, one of conquering one mountain after another.
In business, each new project you undertake can seem like a mountain to climb. Planning is essential, and as the project progresses, resources become more rarified, the chances of failure often increase and the further you go, the less likely it is that if you struggle, someone will be able to help.
Depending on how long you’ve been in business, you could have conquered many a mountain! But despite your experience, you’ll keep making the same mistakes along the way. This is sometimes attributable to being reactive rather than proactive, which is a precarious ledge to be on.
Admiring the view your business affords you
As I said, planning is essential for many reasons. First of all, good planning will afford you the time to stop and take a breather. Here’s your chance to take a more holistic view of what you’ve achieved, not just within the scope of your current challenge, but over all.
From where you’re standing, if you happen to look up, all you’re going to see is a distant peak, towering above you. But if you take the time to look back over your shoulder, you’ll surely see a chain of mountains snaking away from you, each one conquered and done with.
“So what did I learn from my previous challenges?” That’s the question you need to be asking yourself. What organic knowledge did you bring to bear on the project, and what new knowledge did you pick up along the way?
How you manage your known and recently acquired knowledge is up to you. But it’s essential that you have some method of managing and extracting this knowledge.
At some point, you’re either going to struggle or fail. But there’s value in failure, too. Smart people perform an autopsy on the dead project. They tease open the remains and look for tell-tail signs of the cause of death. Knowing how you fail could well help you insulate your business from future failures.
Regaling others with stories of business adventures
As is often the case, you will have found yourself at some business gathering, function or networking event. As you move around, speaking with various people, there’s one question no businessman or businesswoman can hope to avoid: “So, what is that you do?” Or words to that affect.
If you can’t answer this question without thinking about it, there’s a chance you’re not clear about a lot of other things about your business, too.
“I help people make money from the Web. I help people work over the Web. I help people measure what they’re doing on the Web.”
There’s a ton of other stuff behind that simple response, of course, but that’s the cool thing about a well-worded reply — you encourage the person asking the question to ask even more questions about you, your business and what you do.
So understanding the full breadth & depth of your organic knowledge will pay dividends in the long run.
Knowing me, knowing you
Figuring out what it is that you know, or what you’re good at is often pretty difficult to pin down. You will often dismiss out of hand certain things as being boring, or too simple to really count. So in these situations, why not ask friends, colleagues, other business contacts or even clients what they think you’re good at?
Of course, be careful how you word such questions — maybe dress the question up as some kind of customer satisfaction survey, which might uncover even more valuable information. But that’s a topic in itself, well outside the remit of this discussion.
What you’ll get back might just surprise you.
So in the end, your biggest challenge might be one of self discovery. But if you approach this one challenge with the right mind set, it might be more of a mole hill than a mountain…