I want to kick it off my series on Entrepreneurship for Developers (get it delivered via email here) with a subject I love most in business but one that is also absolutely key to surviving and thriving as a entrepreneur: Knowing yourself.
In 2008 when I started iThemes, I had a fairly vague inventory of my strengths, skills, talents, my weaknesses and areas I loathed. I did know what interested me most and what did not interest me in the least about starting and running a business.
But for the last six years I’ve had the chance to experience almost every area in business and really understand what I naturally love and am excellent at (few things) and what I hate with every essence of my fiber and that suck the life out of me (God help me – it’s accounting and legal crap).
I believe in constantly optimizing your business and your personal happiness with it. The happier and fulfilled you as the entrepreneur the better and more successful your business will be. Period.
Thus, I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life actively seeking to learn more about myself and I’m still not done. But here’s what what I’ve learned so far ….
Learn you, where your specific genius lies and what gives you the most pleasure and joy in your work first and foremost.
I realize this might sound simplistic, but this is foundational. It’s essential to start here.
If you as the entrepreneur aren’t happy and fulfilled overall, then you’re simply a slave. The master just goes by a different name and the work is exponentially harder because you are now in a prison of your own making. Also, your personal reputation, financial, emotional and physical well-being happen to be supremely affected by it.
Entrepreneurship for me is about freedom to pick and choose the work, the team and the customers and clients.
So if you’re not happy and fulfilled as a whole in your business, your entrepreneurial system has a big glaring bug in it.
But thankfully, that’s easy to identify … either you’re not doing the work you were meant and gifted to do, you have the wrong people around you, or you serving the wrong people.
But for now, we’re just going to talk about you and the work that you do.
Thus, you need to start learning more and more about yourself starting today. What you’re good, great and exceptional at doing. What you are mediocre and ridiculously terrible at (even though you arrogantly think you’re great at everything). What drains the happiness, joy, energy and life from your body quicker than anything else. What makes you happy and fulfilled. What activities and tasks produce “flow.” What the unique genius you bring to your business that can’t be copied, delegated, or artificially created in a lab.
And then systematically, religiously, ruthlessly, deliberately over time seek to delegate the rest of that filthy crap you’re not suited to do to other people who happen to get their “flow” and joy and jollies from those activities to come alongside and help you. (It’s a win-win for them, by the way, because they are secretly thinking the same thing about what you do!)
There are some things you maybe can’t delegate, ever. I still have to talk to our landlord. I still have to talk to attorneys from time to time. I still have to have to do financial meetings and talk about money. I still have to fire people and sometimes step in and be a manager. I hate all those things and throw a baby fit when I have to do them.
But I put on my big boy pants and still do them. And for the most part, somewhat happily, because I rarely have to do them now after 6 years of testing, optimizing, refining and … yes, identifying people better suited for it and trusting, training and delegating.
I know it’s just part of the gig … and a cheap price of admission for getting to play 95% of the time, doing all the things I enjoy but also provide the most value to our team, company and customers.
But if I had to do those other things EVERY day for MOST of the day, I’d quit. That’s a waste of my time, strengths, skills, passions and energy.
I’ve found though that all this often has to be learned over time and with experience. It’s often trial and error, which can be somewhat costly. Sometimes you think you’re really good at something and the fact is you actually suck very very badly at it. In fact, the best way to learn to delegate for those who have control issues and simply just can’t let go … is to be miserable doing them for a long, long time.
Here are some tools and resources that have helped me the most:
- StrengthsFinder — we have our entire team take this discovery tool and reference our Strengths almost daily. It’s one of the best tools I’ve found to figure out my personal “flow” and best as well as others on my team. Knowing these can help shape how you fit best in your business.
- Myers-Briggs Personality Test (Kiersey Sorter) — I took this in college and it’s something I’ve referenced and thought about almost every week of my life since. Again, knowing you, how you make decisions, gather information is so helpful.
- 5 Love Languages — this is more a relationship tool but it has rich benefits for you and your business. Knowing how you give and receive love is so key to success, happiness and fulfillment. We all want to be loved, including the team you recruit and gather around you.
- Coaches and counsel — we currently engage about 4 coaches in our business. But having outside, expert, honest perspectives is so helpful. Find people who are truth-tellers, but want your ultimate best without regard for their selfish gain.
- Purposeful Paychecks: How to find Lasting Career Happiness (PDF download) — the book where I talk a lot about work-life alignment a lot
Once you start learning more and more about yourself, then you can begin to figure out how you and your unique talents and gifts fit in with your overall business goals and plans.
So get to know you better. So you can be you at your best.