- The most important first step in any great venture.
What great undertaking is next on your list of todos?
What do you hope to accomplish next? Hoping to knock out that screenplay? Want to move up the ladder at your current job? To get a new job? To start a new career? To go back to school? Maybe you hope to strike out and start an entrepreneurial venture. Or maybe you are thinking of settling down to start a family.
Well, hold up for just one second! Before you leap, take a moment and ask yourself the most important question of all…
Who am I right now?
When examining accomplished individuals, it can be tempting to focus on “what they did” with the hopes that we might replicate their efforts. Go to any panel Q&A with famous creators and you’ll hear attendees ask about eating habits, morning routines, favorite pencils, and so on. But inquiries like these miss what was likely the biggest factor in these individuals’ successes: successful people are often fundamentally suited to their ventures.
I know, I know… we don’t like to accept that idea. Because if that idea is true, it might mean that we have to accept another idea: that not all people are suited to all tasks. Which is true. If you don’t fundamentally enjoy risk-taking and dealing with ambiguity, then entrepreneurship probably isn’t for you. If you don’t like to spend hours, days, and weeks alone, then perhaps you should re-consider that bucket list wish to write a novel.
But there’s good news.
Knowing who you are – I mean really knowing who you are – can help you find your own success.
When you know what you makes you uniquely you, you can find out what you what you are uniquely suited to do. Or you can discover where you are deficient and work on fixing the problem before starting a venture. As humans, we are mutable beings, constantly forming and re-forming based on our experiences and our environments. Who you are right now is not who you were one year ago. Doing regular self-assessments can help you gauge and guide the direction of your growth and change.
Where should I focus my Self-Assessment?
Sitting down with a blank page and a pen and asking the question “Who am I?” is a pretty good place to start. But here are three questions you can answer.
What is my personality?
Personality type has been a topic deeply explored by the field of psychology. Carl Jung once divided people into archetypes. Many of the modern personality tests are in some way just repurposed versions of those archetypes: see the Meyers-Briggs and the DISC Profile. Which methodology you choose to use isn’t all that important – what’s important is that you know roughly where you fall.
This will help you understand a fundamental characteristic: what gives you energy, and what takes it away?
Is the venture you are considering one that fits your natural profile? This is not to say you can’t ever do anything that falls outside of “what comes naturally,” but knowing where you stand can help you develop coping mechanisms.
Businesses often pay thousands of dollars for consultants to come in and administer these assessments for their employees. You don’t have to pay a bunch of money to find out your current personality type – there are free tests you can take online that will give you the basic understanding you need to sanity check your next steps.
What are my personal values?
Knowing where you stand on your values is vital. What will you do, and what won’t you do? What can you compromise, and what won’t you budge on, under any circumstances?
If you start down a path that will ultimately force you abandon or compromise your values, you are setting yourself up for a stressful existence at best, complete failure at worst. If you personally value balance, should you really be pursuing a career that requires 80+ hour work weeks? If independence and spontaneity are currently your top two, should your really start a family?
You should be brutally honest with yourself on this question – the truth will eventually come out. Don’t let other people’s expectations guide you, either. So what if your mom wants you to start having babies – if you aren’t ready, you aren’t ready.
Again, people change, and so do their values. Maybe one day you will value family over independence, but if that’s not the case now don’t say it is. Do not base your assessment of what you value on what you “wish you valued,” because deep down, you know the truth.
What are my resources?
What do you have, right now, that will help you achieve your goals? What are you missing? Do a thorough inventory.
Some areas to consider:
- Money – Do you have an emergency fund in case things don’t go the way you planned? Have you been conservative in your estimates?
- Network – What connections (even tenuous) can you possible tap in your venture?
- Education and skills – Do you know what you need to know? Do you have unique experiences that make you particularly suited to your venture?
The best part about this section is that it is the one that can be most easily changed.
I’m done! What now?
Introspection and self-assessment are ongoing processes.
Remember to re-assess whenever you are considering a new venture, or just check in on a regular basis to make sure you have a good handle on the direction your change is taking. With honest, intimate, and thorough self-assessment, you gain just a bit more control over your own path and you will have a better chance of applying yourself to ventures for which you are uniquely suited.
Maybe someday someone will ask you what pencil you used.