Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Tired of looking for work? Use your superpowers.

Yesterday the New York Times ran an article about how the frustrations of job searching have caused some unemployed Americans to stop looking altogether and start their own businesses. This news made me so happy that I literally jumped up and down in my apartment while reading the article. I know that entrepreneurship is the way forward in this country and I am so glad to hear reports that it is taking root.

So what if you are someone like my friend, Kelly, who has a corporate job that she's not all that thrilled with though she isn't quite sure what kind of business she'd like to start? You could follow Alex Lee's example as the CEO of OXO. He has an entrepreneurial spirit, though didn't want to start from scratch with his own idea. He wanted to find a small company that made good products, and use his skills, talents, and interests to grow the company. He found that at OXO.

You could also start by focusing on your superpowers rather than on an idea for a business. Seth Godin wrote a terrific blog post this morning about harnessing our superpowers - not anything a la X-Men but a superpower being something that we do very, very well. Maybe you are a great story teller. Perhaps you have a knack for translating numbers on a spreadsheet into a narrative that gets people excited about a business. You might be a whiz on Facebook and Twitter. Do you draw well? Do you have an eye for color or design? Perhaps you make the best melt-in-your mouth sugar cookies. You might be the best listener on the planet.

The point of Seth's post is that we all do something exceptionally well. The key to success as an entrepreneur is to start with your strengths. Build a business or join a small business where the majority of your time is spent doing the things you do best. It sounds so simple and yet think about how often we beat ourselves up every day for things we don't do well. Our so-called "areas of development" take over our entire career. Think about how destructive and devastating that is to our self-esteem, self-image, and confidence.

There is a young man featured in the New York Times article who got so frustrated and depressed looking for work that he just stopped doing it. Out of his house, he builds jellyfish tanks that allow the jellyfish to live longer, healthier lives in captivity than they do in traditional fish tanks. Huh? How successful could that venture possibly be? He recently sold a tank to a restaurant for $25,000. The time he spent building that tank for that restaurant was far more lucrative than the same amount of time he had spent looking for a job in a down economy.

We aren't in just another economic cycle. What we are experiencing is a step-change in the way our global economy grows and operates. Stop thinking about when your 401K and your company's stock price are going to bounce back up to their 2007 levels. Focus on the opportunity that's in front of each of us to contribute to the economy on our own terms with our own strengths as the very basis of our work. This is the way of the future.

The photo above was taken by Jim Wilson for the The New York Times and depicts Alex Andon with one of the jellyfish tanks he builds. He started his business after he was laid off.


Joshua said...

The Economist this week has a whole section on Entrepeneurship and how it's going to bring the world out of this recession. You should pick it up.

Christa said...

Thanks, Joshua! I will definitely pick that up and certainly will be writing about it.

All best,