My semester at Columbia Business School definitely moved at the speed of light. Courses on leadership, accounting, finance, economics and more opened my eyes to the moving parts of business in a way I’d only hoped for, but not dreamed of. After a meeting where I stepped back and evaluated my key takeaways from my course on leadership, I realized that it is vital to think of your career as a company, and of yourself as the founder and CEO. In other words, I realized that each and everyone of us should consider ourselves an entrepreneur, the sole leader in charge of starting, organizing and operating a successful professional career. After this semester, I have identified five essential steps toward your personal revolution: a recategorization of self as entrepreneur.
First, you must take a personal inventory. Before stepping into your role as founder and CEO of Self, you need to take stock of your current toolkit for success. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Which areas of capability, aptitude and personality comprise who you are as you are right now? Are you well known for your incredible knowledge of marketing, your years of experience in managing teams, your skill at doing mental math, or your resilience in the face of adversity? If so, that knowledge, experience, skill or personality trait is part of your current toolkit, and should be given pride of place in your planning for the future. And if you aren’t yet sure about the above, do your best to figure it out. After all, as the Yogi Bhajan put it, “You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are.”
Second, identify a problem with your market and seek to solve it. In this case, you are looking for the areas where you can best add value, where your skills are most needed, and therefore what your purpose/niche is. In order to do this, you need to stay open, agile and receptive. In real-word terms, you need wide-ranging exposure to what’s out there. Stay current on the news, read both fiction and non-fiction literature, whether those are novels, essays, memoirs or biographies, and network! I cannot say how underestimated other people are in the search for one’s purpose. Lastly, never discount an idea because you appear to lack the resources or an easy way to realize it. Write down each one and give it the dignity and respect of being put on a page, no matter how outlandish it may seem.
Third, take time out for creativity and self-renewal. After a while, it is important to take a step back from the noise and feedback of the world, taking what works and scrapping what does not in order to create the vision that will serve as your entrepreneurial map. This requires introspection, reflection and space for decompression. This equates to a company’s meetings about their strategic positioning and plans for the future, and should be treated as such– too many people think that taking time out for solitude and self-reflection is unnecessary. For us, for entrepreneurs of Self, that notion is to be eliminated!
Fourth, solidify your passion! There are often schools of thought that are at odds with one another. For instance, a popular idea in modern American culture is that ‘love’ should precede marriage. This is at odds with the idea that ‘love’ grows after marriage, with the caveat that the definition of love itself might differ in these two concepts. With respect to entrepreneurship of Self, it is important to identify where, how and when passion is meant to happen and then thrive. It is the belief of many that you are meant to identify your passion, pursue it, and experience success as a result. I have found that this is not necessarily a realistic undertaking; it is important that you’re actually adding value and/or entering a niche. It is not always probable or even likely that your already existing passions will also happen to be the perfect business idea or space for you to enter. With that said, passion can be and should be built from the ground up in a successful business. Effective leaders can inspire passion in their vision for a common goal, and as a successful entrepreneur of Self, that describes you!
Finally, do not be afraid to take risks. Entrepreneurship is never an easy pursuit; it involves a level of bravery and self-possession not many can claim. Here, the name of the game is calculated risk. Being willing to take a risk does not mean jumping in before doing any research. It means allowing yourself the opportunity to leave the beaten path and do things that don’t promise a 100% guaranteed outcome, since that is often where truly visionary innovations lie. Afraid to go out of state for college, pursue that graduate degree, or ask for that raise? If you have weighed the costs and benefits and believe that there is a real chance of success not going along the safest route, go for it!
As we leave 2017 and head towards another year with limitless potential for success, these are the five steps we must take in order to start 2018 on the best note possible. Next year, may we all move towards becoming an #EntrepreneurOfSelf and remember to always #PracticeExcellence.