The Personal Acronym

Almost every entrepreneur has heard about the acronym, SWOT. It stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Typically the SWOT analysis is used as a corporate assessment. We gauge each of these areas relative to our own businesses and then create strategies to respond accordingly. But there is another application of the SWOT analysis that I’ve rarely (maybe never) heard utilized. And that is to perform a personal SWOT analysis. As the entrepreneur, it is a good practice to self-perform the SWOT. But it would also be enlightening to have a peer or trusted colleague do the same to gain an additional perspective.

We start this process by analyzing our personal Strengths. Are we strong leaders – if so, how is this demonstrated? Are we persevering? Do we have exemplary resilience in the face of adversity? Perhaps we have a strong innovative flair. Could we safely say that we are calm, patient, kind or generous? We should identify and assess the strengths that matter most.

Seeing our Weaknesses may not be so easy especially if we aren’t an introspective type. This may require help from that trusted colleague or a peer who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Do we have a temper? Does our ego ever get in the way? Do we always treat others with respect? Are we perceived to be of high integrity? Do we give up too easily? Maybe we have a tendency to lose focus.

Analyzing our Opportunities is an exercise in determining whether our glass is half empty or half full. Think about what we personally have the potential to do. Could we become more philanthropic? Is there a mentoring or coaching opportunity in our future? Do we begin speaking at industry conferences? Perhaps we could develop a new product or service. Ultimately this is about how we can become more fulfilled as human beings as well as becoming even more valuable to our enterprise.

Finally we must look at our Threats. Could our lifestyle be a threat to our health? Is there a lurking situation that could degrade our financial security? Does our mindset work for or against us? When we evaluate Threats in a corporate sense we generally are contemplating external pressures that we may think are beyond our control. As we consider Threats from a personal standpoint we find that most will be of an internal nature. We can be our best friend or our worst enemy.

Once we complete an honest and realistic personal SWOT assessment, we need to take the next step of creating strategies that bolster our Strengths; resolve our Weaknesses; take full advantage of our Opportunities, and eliminate our Threats. The ensuing plan can become the centerpiece for leading a balanced work and personal life. And revisiting it often will ensure its implementation.

A personal SWOT analysis can be an invigorating and exhilarating process. When done in concert with a SWOT for a company, the results can be a powerful catalyst for positive change in both the entrepreneur and his or her enterprise.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

SWOT-Analysis

Knock-Knock . . .

Knock-knock. Who’s there? Problem. Problem who? This childhood riddle is emblematic of a common perspective that many of our daily encounters present problems for us. But are they really problems? I’m sure that an argument can be made that anything a bit perplexing or where a less-than-favorable outcome is realized, could be considered a problem. But why do we choose to believe this so often? Some of us by nature are problem-solvers (I’ve been known to fall in this category) and so we may see situations as problems to be solved. But I submit that there is a different way to look at this.

For the last many years, I’ve become more and more inclined to be an “opportunity-seeker.” And what a difference it makes to see things as less problematic and more opportunistic. Obviously this is a subtle shift in mindset – does it really matter what we call it? I believe that it does because of how we tend to react internally to problems versus opportunities. Some of our natural feelings when facing a problem may be dread, fear, surprise, fatigue, victimization, overload, resignation, procrastination and apathy. All of these feelings are cloaked in negativity. Of course there are positive ways to view problems and many of us may do so; but I’ll bet that the natural tendency is to focus more on the negative perspective.

On the other hand, becoming an “opportunity-seeker” is a proactive and positive manner in which to move through challenging situations. Notice my language here. I didn’t talk about “facing” a problem. I didn’t talk about a “resolution.” Instead I used the words “move through challenging situations.” This sounds effortless but it’s not. However, the process of “moving through challenging situations” does not have to be filled with our own emotional downside drama. And there’s one component to being an “opportunity-seeker” that makes it all worthwhile in my view. We get to unleash our creativity.

Creativity is one of the most positive energies that we can experience. It’s much more expansive than just figuring out how to fix something. Metaphorically speaking, creativity enables us to make things bigger and better. I’m sure you’ve felt the frustration of trying to put together a puzzle where you simply can’t find the right piece. We just want to “fix” the situation by finding the missing piece and moving on – right? Contrast this with taking a pile of Lego® pieces and building an object right out of our minds-eye. That’s the difference between being a problem-solver and an opportunity seeker. Some situations will always require finding the right piece to the puzzle no matter how creative we want to be. But we can find a way to harness our creativity in every situation. In the literal case of the puzzle, perhaps we can become more imaginative in the way we sift through the pieces to find the right one. Or maybe we make a game out of it.

When we choose to stop seeing challenging situations as problems we cease limiting ourselves to being only problem-solvers. Moving through challenging situations by looking for opportunities to be creative opens the way for feelings of joy, accomplishment, euphoria, happiness and satisfaction. Knock-knock. Who’s there? Opportunity!

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

flyingcar

The Eeyore Effect

Once upon a time there was a donkey; a very sour, pessimistic, woe-is-me, black-cloud-hanging-over-his-head donkey. Do you ever feel like this Winnie the Pooh character, Eeyore? What sort of a load are you carrying? As entrepreneurs we may often feel like that load is very heavy. As a result, our productivity is stunted and our emotional state is negatively impacted.

Feeling the weight of the world can be triggered by so many things. And feeling the weight of the world can have a compounding effect and further escalate our woes. Perhaps we are experiencing a health challenge of some sort. What happens to our functionality when we don’t feel good? Our focus isn’t as sharp and we may be more prone to making mistakes. Realizing this, we try even harder to focus; end up having tunnel vision, and miss something important happening outside of our line of sight.

Maybe we’re having a relationship issue. A member of our team is causing severe problems in the office, and is making outrageous, false and highly personal statements that are very hurtful. We find ourselves dwelling on what is being said about us and become distracted to the point that we miss the signals of dissatisfaction from one of our clients. By the time we realize what is happening, things are spinning out of control and we become even more beaten down.

Entrepreneurship is all about solving problems. We make a clear choice about how we are going to deal with what may be perceived as “the load we carry.” We are most effective when we don’t accept the problems as our own. How can we say that we aren’t going to accept a situation that is ours and only ours? The previously mentioned health challenge isn’t someone else’s problem, is it? True enough. But the key word here is accept. We can view a challenge as a load that we must shoulder, or we can look at it as a problem we must solve. If our mindset is that a problem is a load to carry, then it’s likely that we’ll see all of our problems as loads to carry. If each problem represents a 50-pound weight, three problems are the equivalent of carrying 150-pounds on our back.

Rather than carry our challenges as weights on our back, we can choose to embrace them as opportunities to demonstrate our creativity; our resolve; our discipline, and our skill. In so doing, we refuse to “accept” our challenges as problems. We refuse to carry a load of any sort. Our mindset is that of clinical detachment. How many times have you seen someone appear to juggle a multitude of issues in an apparently effortless manner? And even more impressive is that while doing so they always maintain a sunny disposition. This ability is more than just resilience. It’s not allowing the load to be placed on our back in the first place.

We must draw a line in the sand with respect to whether or not we will allow our challenges to result in problems that accumulate as weights on our back. Seeing our challenges as golden opportunities is a sure-fire winning formula.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

eeyore

Perceptive Passion.

Question: Why is it that many entrepreneurs seem so animated about what they do?

Answer: There’s no doubt – entrepreneurs are a different breed of cat. Successful entrepreneurs somehow seem to live in a “zone.” Things always seem to go right for them. It’s almost like they have a sixth sense about everything. How does this happen?

It’s all about perspective. Some people see what they do for a living as a job. Others see it as a career. Successful entrepreneurs live it as a passion. Their vocation may have started out as a job and progressed into the career phase. But somewhere along the line something clicked and it became a passion. I remember when I graduated from college and went to work for the firm that I’m still with. My first position was a job and I hated it. But I was intrigued enough to stick with it and before long it became a career. I knew it was what I wanted to do for a long, long time. This was followed by years of toil, angst and stress – certainly not the most fun period of my life. Then it was as if the clouds parted and the sun began to shine.

For me the difference was the realization that I was actually living the dream I always had. My creativity level was off the charts and I was truly having a lot of fun. I never sought the passion I was feeling, but gradually it was just there. Today I understand that it was all about mindset. Had I willfully focused on changing my perspective I might have succeeded in reaching the passion stage much sooner. I’m lucky that the gradual shift in my mindset occurred. I wonder how many would-be entrepreneurs never achieve this gradual shift.

Intentionally changing your perspective is the key to moving past job and career and into a state of passion about what you love to do. This means understanding that everything you experience can build toward the good you desire. Look for the silver linings. Look for opportunities. Dwelling on what may seem negative is a passion killer. Use these situations as a challenge to learn perseverance and problem-solving. And this will lead to the silver linings and opportunities.