Strengths and Streams: Part II

Identifying Strengths and Revenue Streams: Part II

This is part II of the post Identifying Strengths and Revenue Streams.

How you can brainstorm to find your “strengths and streams.”

“Strengths” are the opposite of weaknesses.  Weaknesses make you feel weak, whereas strengths make you feel strong.  “Streams” refers to revenue streams, which is any and all the ways in which you can or have made money in the past.  Brainstorming is the act of recording as many different ideas as possible in a short time without criticizing them as you go.  Save the criticizing (analysis) for after the brainstorming session.  Sometimes bad ideas can help you think of good ideas, so write down any idea that comes to you during this time.  Ready? Here we go. Answer the following questions in order to help you identify your “strengths and streams”:

Strengths Test – 10 Questions

  1. What makes you feel strong?
  2. What makes you feel weak?
  3. What activities are you not just good at, but also feel good doing?
  4. What revenue streams do you have, no matter how large or small?
  5. What are some ways you have made money in the past, which you no longer do?
  6. What are some areas or ideas of things you have thought of doing, but for one reason or another never got around to doing?
  7. Have you noticed any changes in technology lately that would make something easier for someone to do something?
  8. Have you noticed a change in the demographics around where you live that might open a possibility for a new product or service?
  9. Have you noticed any “cuckoos in the nest” where something that wasn’t supposed to happen did, or something was an unexpected success?
  10. Have you noticed any examples of something that was supposed to succeed, but didn’t? What could you do to adapt to this new reality?

When I was young I used to collect aluminum cans to recycle for money.  As I got older I collected antiques to resell.  Later on I bought books to resell online or through local book dealers.  These were all retail activities which involved both labor and a product.  Eventually I started trading labor for revenue, which is called service.  I began doing computer repair and web design.  Eventually people began paying me for my advice and I became a business analyst.  Internet marketing is a mix of product and service because you are using your labor to help sell a product that you yourself do not deliver.  The service is in the promotion, marketing, and advertising of the product.  Anyone can do this using the free tools like the Thirty Day Challenge and other websites like Managing Actions which teach you how to be more effective by first changing how you think, in order to change how you act.

Limiting Factors

In order to be successful, you’ll need to overcome obstacles.  The first obstacle you’ll face is your own limiting thoughts so you’ll need to know how to deal with those right away.  An example of a negative thought is, “I can’t raise $8,000 to $10,000 in 2 to 4 weeks.  That’s impossible.” The first step is to realize that you are having a limiting thought, acknowledge it, then let it go.  Just because your brain creates a thought, doesn’t make it true.  Learn to manage your thoughts in order to manage your actions.

The second factor is the people you associate with.  In the same way that you have a greater chance of smoking if you live or hang around smokers or that you have a greater chance of gaining weight if the person or people you live with or work around are already overweight, if the people you hang around or not successful, are not following their dreams, or do not have multiple streams of income, then they are a limiting factor.  If you want to change, then you’ll need to spend less time with these people.

Next Steps

Every meeting should have two things: minutes and action items.  We have just had a meeting here.  This article is our minutes.  The action items are as follows:

Erich: use all available tools and resources to build and promote the identified websites in order to profit from Internet Marketing.

You: take some time to define the problems you are having, where you want to go, and what you want to accomplish, this will become your goal.

Erich: measure the success or failure of the Internet Marketing campaign, determined by the metric, revenue per man-hour.

You: brainstorm to identify your “strengths and streams” – find what makes you strong and what makes you weak, then write down all forms of income past and present.

Erich: update the personal finance measurements with increased net worth, revenue, profit, and savings from the Internet Marketing campaign.

You: manage your thoughts in order to better manage your actions. Notice when you are having a limiting thought, acknowledge it, then let it go.

Summary


This is not a get rich quick scheme.  This is about how to set a goal, make a plan, and execute (ready, aim, fire).  There is no “thing” that can make you rich, if that is your goal.  There is only you.  Mitch Hedberg said it best when he joked, “I bought a jump rope — but man, that thing’s just a rope. You have to do the jump part yourself.” [Thanks, Johnny] No blog, no self-help book, and no business can help you succeed more than a determination and drive within yourself.  If that is missing, everything else is just a rope.

Determining Your Purpose in Life or Process

Brainstorming

Occasionally, you should take time out to stop and evaluate why you are doing the things that you are doing.  Slow down to think if what you’re doing is the best idea or not. Brainstorm with pen and paper (yes, actually grab a pad of paper and a pencil).  The best ideas come by brainstorming, which provides an opportunity to evaluate your productivity, your methodology, and your overall goal. Brainstorming brings diversity of knowledge and perspectives effective for a more forward looking career. Brainstorming is a great activity, but it’s also good to talk to someone about what you are doing, in order to help establish the purpose.

Mentor Review

Take someone you admire out to lunch and pick their brain.  Tell them about what you are doing to get feedback from them.  Write down their responses, whether you believe them or not, and thank them for their time.  Make sure you pay for their meal.  Successful people like to share what they know (that’s why I have this blog) so don’t be afraid to ask them.

Technology Review

Also, keep yourself up on new technology and continue educating yourself to keep yourself alive and fresh.  It’s easy to become stale no matter what business you’re in.  Try to spend at least 2-3 hours a week just researching and finding new ideas.  It’s hard to break away from the normal routine but brainstorming with new ideas is refreshing and can renew enthusiasm.  This is part of innovation and entrepreneurship, which looks for innovations in changes in technology, among other things.  It could be that the way you have been doing things is no longer relevant at worst or at the very least, no longer efficient.  Ask yourself the following four questions:

1. Is there any new technology I could be using? — Technology may have become more efficient since you first developed your original time-saving method. Relying on an old template could be costing you time and money.
2. Have I learned any new ideas lately that I need to apply here? — You may have acquired some new skills or read about some new ideas that will handle your project even better than the time-saving technique that you are using now.
3. Are there new requirements that mean that I need to review this process? — The client may have updated his or her requirements for their projects. Using your old template or time-saving tools may not meet the client’s newest requirements.
4. Are there any other new tools I could be using? — There may be new tools or resources available to do the work that weren’t originally available when you developed your template.

Personal Brainstorming

At least once a month I block off an hour to go into a dark room and just wait for ideas to come.  I don’t anticipate thinking about any one thing, but there is something about the pitch black silence that allows great ideas to surface.  I’ve had many revelations, not just about business or problem solving, but figuring out why I thought certain ways about certain things.  It’s a chance to re-evaluate all aspects of your life and help you determine your purpose in life or in process.

Top 10 Ways to Live a Purpose-Filled Life

[Edit: I wrote this post before I heard about Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. Shortly afterward I found out about it and so I wanted to share a link to his book here. I’ve been listening to it on CD in the car. It’s a great book and it may change your life. 09/13/2009]

1. Don’t Assume

I wasn’t being very purposeful when I went to open a door that didn’t budge and ran right into it or when I went to push a shovel down into the ground and hurt my foot when it hit a rock. In both cases I was assuming the door and the shovel would act as they always had. The door would open with little effort and the shovel would slide neatly into the earth. It made me wonder, “What else am I assuming about my life?” This leads us to number 2.

2. Ask Why

Ask yourself why you’re doing the things you are doing. Why do you live where you live and work where you work? Why are you friends with your friends? There may be good reason, but there may also not be. If you haven’t asked yourself “Why,” before, start asking and start living a purpose-filled life. There should be a reason for everything you do. This leads us to number 3.

3. Give Reasons

What is the reason you are doing what you are doing? This is different then asking yourself, “Why.” For example, if you answered the question above about why you live where you live, the answer may have been, “Because it’s near where I work, there are good schools here, and it’s where I’ve always lived.” Those are all reasons, which then need analyzed, kind of like playing the 5 Why’s Game. If you’ve never played it, its simply the act of asking yourself, “Why,” four more times after the initial first, “Why.” In this way, you can find out the reason you are doing things. Lets use the response to the question as the first answer in the 5 Why’s Game.

  1. Why do you live where you live? Because it’s near where I work, there are good schools here, and it’s where I’ve always lived.
  2. Why? I don’t like a long commute, I have kids, and my family is here.
  3. Why? I have never had to drive very far to work, because I wanted them, because that is where they moved to.
  4. Why? I have never looked for jobs farther away, because my parents had them, because they found a better job here.
  5. Why? Because I’m comfortable with the job I have, because their parents had them, because this place used to be growing.

The game doesn’t have to have three threads in it like this one did, but it gives us a glimpse into how you might then ask yourself a new question, “My relatives left their relatives and came here when this place was growing. Is there any value in staying or should I keep looking outside of where I am comfortable for my children’s sake?” This is the kind of dialogue that knowing the reasons behind something can generate.

4. Take Ownership

Have someone or something to tie you to this earth. This is a reason for your being. For some it is a job. For others it is their children or partner. It could be all of these things, but if you don’t have anything to build, fix, keep, protect, or improve, then you will find yourself drifting far from living a purpose-filled life. Have you ever left a job or wanted to leave your job because you felt like you weren’t needed or because you had no stake in the outcome of the business? Either you didn’t take ownership or you were not allowed to take ownership and so you withered or are withering.

5. Exact Standards

Set thresholds to avoid slippery slopes and compromises that you might make along the way. If you decide that you want to live a certain way, and you start to slip away from that life, what are the consequences of that? Draw a line in the sand and declare in writing what you stand for. Create a mission statement if you have to. This can guide your life just as it guides businesses everyday.

6. Create Procedures

A purposeful life is predictable, but has the ability to change. You may expect one thing, but if it doesn’t happen, you implement the contingency plan. You know the procedure because you created it. You are prepared. This is the difference between assuming and predicting. Predictions contain contingencies whereas assuming does not. If I go to open a door by pushing on it and assume it will open, but it doesn’t – I may hurt myself when I run into it. If I go to open a door expecting it to open, but with the contingency that it might not, I will be prepared for it not opening and be able to protect myself.

7. Have Faith

Believe in something greater than yourself. The universe is too big, never mind the relative enormity of the Earth, for our brains to live purposefully if we truly believe that there is no more to this life than what we can see and feel with our own eyes and ears. Your spirit, whether you believe you have one or not, will be crushed over time.

8. Love Some

Love someone or something. Be passionate. This is like ownership, but you can’t own another human being or the acts like gardening, playing in a band, or eating chocolate. Nothing drives the human spirit like the power of love. It is cliché to say, but true nonetheless.

9. Leave Behind

Live your life so as to leave something behind. In 100 years will anyone know you had ever existed? Some people write books. Some people’s legacy is their children. This is a matter of faith and procedure as you will not know what lies ahead after you are gone, but you are preparing for it. Pass on knowledge, help the downtrodden, pay it forward. These are the things that lead to a purpose-filled life.

10. Be Purposeful

Be intentional, exacting, reasonable, or whatever words you can think of that relate to being purposeful. If you want your life to have a purpose, if you want to leave a legacy, if you want to love more, learn more, and live more, be purposeful in all that you do. Live a purpose-filled life.