Thanks to a nice plug in Guy Kawasaki’s blog, I have gotten all kinds of new visitors and supportive comments on my recent post. It made me realize that at this moment I am getting closer to what I once heard Jim Collins refer to as the sweet spot. This is the intersection of three interlocking circles: the first is “what people will pay you to do” – marketable skills and abilities that you have developed over your working life. The second is “that which you have great passion for” – areas of interest, hobbies, ideas or causes that make your heart race. And the third, and most elusive, is “that which you are genetically encoded to do” – the things that you were brought on this earth to accomplish that no one else on the planet can do as well as you. Where these circles interlock is your “sweet spot” and place that you should spend your working life if you want to feel alive and full of joy.
I have been quite happy with my work in the 10 years I have been on my own, as I always have had interesting projects and smart and supportive partners. But in the last couple of years, I felt my enthusiasm wane, as I saw what an uphill battle it was to make positive change inside corporations. Upon soul searching and reflection, I realized that what I loved about my work were the deep conversations with individuals about what work they were meant to do. I also have great passion for being an entrepreneur since I relish the challenge, freedom and creativity it affords every day. Thus was born a new business direction and Escape from Cubicle Nation.
So based on this very fresh experience, I encourage you to think about the following things to get clearer on your own sweet spot:
Who am I? As esoteric as this question is, you must get to know yourself deeply and completely if you want to act from a place of truth and self-confidence. Martha Beck calls this your essential self which is your true, raw, unedited and unplugged self, versus your social self, the one that diligently slogs away at a job that you loathe or a marriage that feels dead just to keep up appearances. You often get very disconnected from your essential self in a corporate environment and need to make time to reconnect. If you are considering starting a business, you may also want to follow Jeff and Rich Sloan’s advice and write a Personal Manifesto. Here is mine if you want a sample idea.
Who are my people? These are not just those that would grudgingly fork over money for your product or service, they are people who would clamor to do business with you because you are the exact answer to their problems. These are people who you like to spend time with, who embrace you despite your perceived warts, mistakes and flaws and who are deeply affected by your work.
What work do I love to do? In order to really be able to name this for yourself, you may follow Jim Collin’s advice and carry around a notebook where you can write down observations about your reactions to work as if you were a science experiment. In his own life, Jim had a notebook titled “A Bug Called Jim” where he would scribble down observations about when he felt passionate or incredibly bored at work. From 15 years of paying attention, he found that he was most happy as “an entrepreneurial professor” rather than a Professor of Entrepreneurship, the post he had held at Stanford. Thus was born his business.
How can I push myself to take risks to grow my business? Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users urges us to Do Something Scary so that we continually learn and grow. The more clear you get about the work you want to be doing, the more bold you get at approaching clients or mentors that may seem far away and out of reach. I had a bit of trepidation when I sent my email to Guy sharing my post (the insecure part of me thought “He won’t have time to read your email! He must get hundreds from people every day who want to catch his interest!”). But I did it anyway. My true intention was just to share it with him since I thought he would enjoy it. And to my delight and surprise, he did enjoy it and shared it with others. Take a risk and ask for what you want. You really have nothing to lose.
I am more convinced than ever that the pursuit of a meaningful life is worth your time. Let me know what else you have found that helps identify your sweet spot.