Earlier this year, I taught a seminar called "The First Step" for entrepreneurs at the Wharton Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Many SBDC clients are starting their first business. They often come to the class wondering whether they are doing the right thing by taking this big leap into starting their own business. One of the best exercises I've found for answering this question is to use an adapted form of Jim Collins’ HedgeHog Concept' from his phenomenal book Good to Great. (BTW I just discovered that, on Jim's Web site he has a fabulous diagnostic tool which covers this - for a business - and the rest of the concepts from his book! Way to go, Jim!)
I call my (slightly) modified approach the "Sweet Spot" by applying Jim's ideas to the individual. I encourage my students to draw out the figure below on a full sheet of paper.
Start to write in answers to the questions below. Try to generate as many honest answers to these three questions as you can. Use a pencil so you can move them around.
A) What are you most passionate about?
- What gives you the "fire in your belly"?
- When you wake up in the morning, what do you most desire?
- What are your dreams?
- What can keep you awake long after your body says its time to sleep?
Don't limit yourself - even if its "riding horses" or "changing the world" - nothing is off limits. As long as you could live-eat-sleep-breath this, its a deep enough passion to make the list.
B) What can you be "best in the world" at?
- What comes most easily to you, even though it may be difficult for others?
- What sets you apart from skills?
Maybe its specific to your family, your village or your way of life, but its seeking those areas in your life where you have natural talents. Again, don't worry about the other questions here - for example, I'm really good at lifting heavy objects (well - less so than I used to be!) - even though I would hate making a living doing that. It goes on the list.
C) What will people pay you to do?
- What are the activities you can perform and the skills that you have that people will pay for?
- How many ways can you think of that you could make a living?
While the work should theoretically pay enough that you could live on it, don't get hung up on which jobs "pay more" at this point.
I suggest people spend 5 - 10 minutes filling out the three circles. When you're finished, tape it to your fridge or your office wall. Every day or so, take a look and think about the circles. When you recall a strength you have during a conversation - or someone gives you a complement - jot it down and get it on your "sweet spot" chart.
If you are lucky, you'll have a couple of items to stew on that are inside your sweet spot from the get-go. If not, you will often find a merging between two or three items that create a new category. For example, you might be a teacher and a horse-lover. While no one will realistically pay you to ride horses (unless your DNA made you a great jockey), you might find a meaningful career as a horse-riding instructor.
I wish you a delicious journey in zeroing in on your sweet spot!