Acquiring Self-Awareness As An Entrepreneur
Self-awareness is an important step towards self-mastery for an entrepreneur. But it is often seen by working professionals as a touchy-feely millennial buzz word having no value outside of a sociology course. However, this view of self-awareness is folly for any person serious about entrepreneurship. There is so much to gain from having a deep understanding of what comprises your personality. Critically evaluating your weaknesses, strengths, core beliefs, motivations, temperament, and emotions will put you ahead of your competition. Mastering the skill of internal reflection will make you better able to understand the actions and motives of others, including your customers. Think about how much better your professional and personal relationships would be if you had a clear understanding of how others perceive you.
I hate to break it to you, but self-awareness does not come from reading a book (or blog) or attending an awesome TedTalk. It also does not come about because someone tells you their opinion (professional or otherwise) of your personality. Becoming self-aware is a skill that is developed by you (keyword here being “self”) over time. It requires a consistent focus on the details that encompass your psyche, character, and demeanor. Do not misunderstand me. Books, seminars, and the like will assist you in this process by identifying and articulating key concepts, patterns, and character traits. But remember, conceptualizing self-awareness is not the same as intentionally engaging in a heightened state of awareness in every aspect of your life. You cannot change your bad habits, negative responses, or misguided beliefs if you do not recognize that you possess them. Because your success in business as an entrepreneur is closely aligned with your character, there is no better time to get started on the road to better self-awareness. Below is a roadmap to help get you started.
1. “Go Wide – Go Deep”
I can’t take credit for the title of this section. I learned about this concept while taking Troy Dean’s WordPress consultant’s course and it changed my life. One of the things Troy preaches is the importance of understanding a client’s needs and realizing they may not be willing to share or even know what they want. The “Go Wide-Go Deep” method allows you to strip away your client’s canned responses and trivial requests to get to the heart of what really matters to them. After doing a GWGD discovery session, clients often say that they never really thought to ask themselves in-depth questions about their business or their goals for the future.
So, how does GWGD help with gaining self-awareness? First, start by asking yourself, why. Why did I start my business? Why do I want to be an entrepreneur? Why did I pick this niche or industry to focus my business? Be expansive in the scope of questions you ask yourself. The goal at this stage is to open your mind to the broadest of possibilities. After you’ve crafted an exhaustive list of answers, its time to take a deep dive into your responses. Ask yourself, out of all of your responses to the first set of “why” questions, which is the most important. Pick the one that most resonates with what matters most to you and then repeat step one. After three to four rounds of the GWGD analysis, you will likely see certain themes or patterns that emerge. Use those nuggets of information as insights into your motivations. Decide whether you are on the right path towards attaining your goals or if you need to recalibrate your focus. This will take time but it is vital. Once you’ve made the necessary adjustments, do like Troy says and “Go Elevate.”
2. Learn from the Titanic and the S.S. Minnow
Over a century ago when the Titanic began its voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, it was a ship of dreams to those on board. It was spilling over with luxury and excesses that rivaled any vessel in existence at that time. Because no one imaged that such a perfect ship could be vulnerable to anything, no thought was given to how to respond to the unimaginable. Caution was thrown to the wind by those in authority with the hopes of attaining eternal glory. Contrast that with another famous ship. Now before you roll your eyes, I am aware that the S.S. Minnow is a fictional ship, and Gilligan and the gang was never stranded on an island. That’s not my point. The S.S. Minnow was not state of the art or dripping with finery like the Titanic. It was a simple charter boat with a crew of two. But unlike the Titanic, it’s crew was equipped to handle the unimaginable.
As a successful entrepreneur, you must not let fear, the pursuit of fame (or infamy), anger, or any other emotion dominate your decision-making. Understanding how you prepare for and manage the highs and lows of your professional and personal life is essential to your success. You will only trust yourself to effectively and efficiently make the right decisions when a crisis occurs after you’ve taken the time to learn how you respond under pressure. Self-awareness enables you to see through the noise and confusion that once distracted you. Committing to a decision, new idea, or business partner is easier when you know what drives you. Become an expert at knowing your patterns of business and behavior, and you will begin to recognize those traits in others.
3. Pursue Wisdom
You don’t know what you don’t know, but I promise you someone else does. Sometimes people seeking self-awareness only focus their efforts inwardly but fail to see the value of others. Someone has already made the same mistake you are about to make, so why become another statistic? Inward motivation and focus are a necessary part of attaining self-awareness. But so is a having a clear understanding of the world around you and how you fit into its grand scheme.
Learning from others will require a new level of maturity and patience that many new entrepreneurs have trouble developing. For most entrepreneurs starting out, you are in such a rush to prove to yourself and others that there is a market for your goods or services that you blindly take on anyone who sneezes in your direction as a client. You put up with the crappy clients who low ball you at every turn with belief that one day the perfect client will make everything better.
But as any entrepreneur seasoned with time and experience will tell you, sometimes closing the deal means striking out and starting over from the drawing board. Seeking out the wisdom of others will help you recognize that its okay to lose some battles in order to win the war. With practice, you will come to a point where you will not only identify which battles are worth your attention but also, where potential battles may arise. Wisdom comes with experience and that must be what guides you.
4. Remain Curious
One of the most precious things about the mind of a child is their ability to dream without limits. A child’s curiosity to understand the world around them stimulates their intellectual and personal growth. The more curious they are, the more they seek opportunities to learn. As an entrepreneur, you must stay curious if you hope to avoid becoming complacent after initial success. What if Steve Jobs stopped after he created the first Macintosh computer?
You cannot innovate if you lack curiosity. If you never ask yourself “what if” then you will never know what could be. The greatest innovators of the past all ask themselves “what if.” Your creativity in business depends on your level of curiosity. This may mean that you have to pull away from some of your social activities in order to stretch your curiosity muscles. Your success may come at the expense of hanging with the crowd. You may feel like the odd man out right now, but if you get swept away by your curiosity, you will find yourself ahead of a crowd desperately seeking to catch up to you.