If a blueprint for success exists, I imagine it would be pretty complicated. Lots of moving parts. Something only the engineer of the universe could understand. But I also believe there’s nothing so big that it can’t be broken down into its smaller elements. So, if we were to zoom in on this blueprint, what would we see first?
Yourself, of course! If you’re going to imagine along with me, you might as well make yourself center stage (or center-blueprint). How would you sketch yourself onto the blueprint for success?
To do this, you must know yourself – inside and out. You need to catalogue your strengths, talents, and skills. This is who you are and what you can do right now. It’s not who you want to be or want to do. No superpowers or invisibility allowed.
You Are the Foundation
If you get stuck on this part, don’t forget there are people out there who know you all too well. Ask them for help. And honesty. Be thorough because you are blueprinting a one-of-a-kind individual. You don’t have to be an expert in everything you write down.
After that’s done, write down your passions, interests, fascinations, and obsessions. (Us guys gruffly refer to them as “hobbies” or “stuff we like.”)
Now, step back and look at what you’ve written down. This makes up one unique person. But how many people know all of that about you? I’m guessing not too many. We need to take care of that. The blueprint of success starts with you, but it doesn’t end with you. You need a framework on which to extend your reach, and that’s where the next stage is important.
Extend Your Reach
If you’re serious about being successful, then you must get serious about self-promotion. Since you probably don’t have a huge advertising budget, it’s best to start with what is free – social media.
Yes, I know. You either love it or hate it. But you want to be successful, right? Billions of people worldwide use social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are just a few. It’s highly likely that the people you need to connect with are also using social media.
You don’t have to do anything crazy, confrontational, or complicated to get attention. Just remember that you are presenting yourself as a person first and a product second. What can you do on social media, you ask? You can help people solve problems. Write articles or blogs. Introduce two people who might be able to help each other. Make thoughtful comments. Be positive and supportive.
Small Steps to Start Out
You probably won’t believe me, but after you have been regularly posting, blogging, and tweeting – whatever it takes to stay in the forefront of peoples’ minds – stuff will start to happen. Probably not big stuff. In fact, I hope it’s not big stuff because frankly, that might be overwhelming if you’re not ready for it. But interesting things will happen. Maybe more people check out your LinkedIn profile, or you’re invited to an event related to your industry or passion.
This is happening because you have been stirring the pot and keeping yourself visible. Some of these things may be unexpected or even kind of scary, like giving a small talk to a small group of businesspeople – or your boss inviting you to lunch. You might have the urge to backpedal straight into your cubicle and lose yourself in a spreadsheet.
Remember the blueprint? You’re not doing anything earth-shattering. You’re just putting yourself out there, working on yourself, keeping your eyes peeled and ears open. When you say “yes” to what’s uncertain and unfamiliar, you start down a different path.
Which path? I don’t know because it’s your path, and only you know how to follow it.
“Two Steps Forward, One Step Back” is Still Progress
Since it’s in the forefront of your mind that you’re aiming for success, the path might lead you to start your own company. All this time, as you built on yourself and your connections, an idea was percolating. You’ve seen something that everyone else has missed. Something that the world wants and will pay for.
Your idea might only pay the bills, or maybe it fizzles like a damp Roman candle. But if you’re smart – and you are because you’re on this blueprint for success – you’ll seek out the Ones Who Know for feedback. Maybe they’re mentors, early adopters, or helpful colleagues. (You have lots of connections now because you built a strong social media framework.) You consult the Ones Who Know and go back to the whiteboard and tweak what you’re 98.9% sure will work.
Along the way, you learn even more. As a company of one, you learn to do a lot, and those new skills supplement your strengths, giving you confidence and resilience. You fail again, but since you were smart and didn’t go into lavish debt to develop your product or service, it’s not too bad. You lick your wounds, commiserate with loved ones, and pick it up again.
Only you can decide the next step. It’s your blueprint, and it’s more than halfway completed.
You might stay the course and make more adjustments based on experiments and feedback. Or you might take a different path using what you’ve learned along the way. You have stopped thinking about stopping because you have realized that if you keep yourself in the middle of things, something is going to happen. Some people call it luck. Some call it serendipity.
You Learn by Doing
You and your fledgling company launch the product with fanfare and the revenue pours in. Success will come, but when it does, it surprises you. Because you’re still going to have problems. Of course! You have a company with living, breathing people who are just as talented and smart as you, but about twice as opinionated and outspoken.
You’re going to have to grow some CEO skills – and fast. Your innate talents, the skills you started out with, and even the new skills you acquired along the way aren’t helping you now. Where’s that blueprint? Damn! Nothing on there about CEO skills.
It turns out that CEO skills aren’t documented anywhere. Oh, and there are no rules or recipes for startups. You’re going to have to take care of your people by learning to be a CEO. Crash course in company culture, communication, decision-making, and adaptability.
Look back at that blueprint now and laugh. Do you recognize yourself? You can’t stop to pat yourself on the back because you have a company to run.
Keep Creating and Connecting
The company has a life of its own, and it’s your job to ensure it will be there in the future. You might have others who do the innovating for you now, while you weave a strong web of connections between employees and customers. Or maybe it’s the other way around and you can set aside some time every day for tinkering with a new idea, trying a new experiment, or testing the limits of your curiosity.
There you have it – a complete blueprint for success. And to think it all started with one simple step… writing down your strengths, talents, skills, and passions. So, what are you waiting for?