If you’ve ever wondered “what am I good at?” or “what should I focus on in my life?” then we’ve got a killer conversation for you.
We received a great email from listener Tim Aton (text included below) and we spend the whole hour of this episode sharing 23 tips to uncover the best options for your life… even if you currently have no clue.
I list out a bunch of the ideas below, but be sure to listen to the conversation (and subscribe for follow up episodes) because there’s a lot more context for each one of these.
If you’re worried and frustrated and confused… you’re not alone. Let’s talk about what to do next.
Hope this show helps you out. Enjoy!
I’m Tim, former fizzler, hopefully soon to be one again. I am an avid follower of the podcast, and episode 77 (how to learn new skills) really spoke to me.
I realized that I’m not an expert at anything (yet), heck I’m still in college. Here’s the deal:
- Too many of my sentences start with “I.”
- I don’t know what I should spend the next year or two focusing on to eventually become an expert (and later a product or service).
So, I guess my question is, how do I know what I’m good at? It’s not obvious to me because the thing people are interested in learning from me, I don’t think is special. Does that make sense? So how do I figure out what that thing is exactly?
There may be skills that I have that would be good for a blog, podcast, ebook, whatever. But I can’t see them.
I’ve tried so many things only to find out that, 3 posts in, it’s not me.
When I ask friends and family, they can’t nail it on the head either. “Uh… you’re good at like… computer stuff…”
I have the willingness to write and the dream of a thriving audience… But how do I find what that THING is?
You’re the best.
~ Tim Aton
23 Career/Business Direction Tips:
1. Explore and widen your horizons. You can quickly get pigeon holed into a role that might not be best for you. Exploring has helped each of us discover more pieces of ourselves. Reading, traveling, talking to people in other careers and even doing different kinds of work. Experiences add up to a bigger understanding of what’s possible. Read widely. Travel. Explore. Develop some beliefs about the world. What bothers you about the way things are today? What would you like to see come to life in the world?
2. What’s obvious to you is amazing to others. (12m in Corbett does a little story time :).
3. You don’t know what you want, so give it time. Most of us don’t have that much to go on simply because we haven’t interacted with many different kinds of people. So give yourself time and space to explore and develop.
4. You don’t know what that thing you think you want is actually like. Your understanding of what “being a blogger” is or what “being an entrepreneur” is or what “being a butcher” is will change over time… and you have no sense of that right now, believing this thing you want — how it looks in your brain — is what it will actually be like. It won’t look like that. So be gentle with yourself and let life be a good teacher… come ready to learn.
5. Entrepreneurship is a long journey of many short cycles. (19m) You don’t see the early days of Seth Godin. You don’t see him fighting to build a company, the company that gave him the big pay day. You see him as a thought leader and want to be one too. Short cycles of growth. So pick your next cycle and focus on that (building one small thing maybe) instead of getting down on yourself for not being the big thing (the thought leader for example) already.
6. Focus on solving problems instead of trying to learn every skill you think you need. Learning is much more interesting when you apply it to a real problem. As you gain perspective you’ll find it’s less about skills and more about effectively solving problems… and learning the things you need to solve those problems along the way. Why not focus on doing small little projects without any regard for money?
- Justin Jackson’s Build and Launch is a good example of this.
- Find a problem you think you could solve for someone and take the pressure off. Don’t make it a lifelong pursuit.
- Try to differentiate between your skills and the problem you solve for people. You usually need multiple skills to solve any worthwhile problem.
- Scott Harrison wasn’t an expert on clean drinking water before he started Charity:Water. He had to learn a lot of skills to work towards a solution there.
7. Build a small, focused thing. (29m) ONE season of a podcast that answers one question. 12 blog posts that add up to ONE book… not a lifetime of being THIS entrepreneur. Clear, targeted, focused, it’s built to do one thing well. And you can take it or leave it when you’re done. It takes the pressure off.
8. Do the same as the one above, but focusing first on the audience. Focus on a very specific crew with a very specific problem and make a very specific thing for them. The audience, more specifically their problem, give you the rules of the game. So play that game for them.
9. Think of expertise not as an absolute thing, but as a continuum. (31m) Levels from 0-10. Greatest experts are a 10, but they may be terribly suited to teach others. If you’re a couple steps ahead of other people you could be much more helpful to more people. Corbett launching Think Traffic before he was an “expert” in building a thriving audience is a great example of this.
10. Be a leading learner. What do you want to learn? Do a small season or project on that as an excuse to learn that thing… because teaching is sometimes the best form of learning.
11. Go to work for someone you respect or a company solving a problem you’re interested in. Become an apprentice! You’ll pickup so many skills so much quicker than doing it all on your own. There’s so much value in going to work for a small business or with someone who you admire.
- Reach high and adjacent… could be in your direct interest but doesn’t have to be.
- Make a list of people you admire… Gary V, Seth Godin, Minimalist Baker, Pat Flynn, John Dumas, Amy Poehler, Louis CK, Bob Goff, Don Miller, Josh Shipp, Tara Gentile, Wayne White, Michael Hyatt, conference organizers… whoever! And then hound them down, try to get a job with them, make them coffee, show up and don’t leave until they kick you out… just for an opportunity to work under them and absorb some of how they come at business.
- Samuel Hulick at UserOnboard apprenticed under Rob Walling.
- Before you contact them, get to know just about everything they’ve done… often times the person most interested in the job gets the job.
- Listen to every interview on Mixergy or entrepreneur on fire and make a list of those who’s voices you’re intrigued by.
12. Join a startup or take a risky job. (40m) Same as above, but with the small difference of being in on something early on. You’ll learn tons about those early stage startup questions.
13. The admire shadow question: Ask yourself, of all the people you admire (dead or alive, famous or not), who do you most think you’re heading towards? Who do you most think you’re, sort of, on the path of? It’s hard to answer, but come up with a few answers. Ask some friends too. My wife’s answer for me was really crazy for me. This is another way of getting to “play” with what could happen.
14. Decide what “the work” is and focus on that. The work will be your substance. “I want to do this to become famous.” A lot of us fantasize about fame. The best way to get famous is to do good work because the work, the output, is the substance… not just your ability to hack your way into getting people to pay attention to you. Eventually people realize there’s no real work there.
15. Do something that’s hot and new where few people are experts. (52m) Fads happen. Things build and become popular. Notice these things and jump on it because in the beginning there are few people who are experts and you have a good shot at becoming one of the world’s leaders on that thing. Bitcoin, smart homes, paleo diets and intermittent fasting are good examples in recent time.
16. Do it with someone. Bring in 1 or 2 friends on that specific project. Teaming up with someone changes how you look at things, calls you to the table. There’s something to be said for working on a team. “I would take working on a team any day over being a solo entrepreneur.” ~ Barrett
17. Live your g&%*am life! (59m) Don’t put everything on hold. Enjoy yourself. The point isn’t to find the thing you’re an expert at, it’s to enjoy yourself and your world. You will always be so much more than your niche.
18. Be really useful. I think of design. I got really useful in that. But never all the way in. I have a lot of all the way in designer friends. I envy their usefulness. I don’t envy that they have to be useful to others to be of value. I can do my own thing, but I won’t get to be as good at design as I’d like.
19. Learn how to finish something. Get over your procrastination and distraction. Get into Fizzle for a dollar, take the productivity course, do the AAAC list exercise and never live the same again.
20. EVERYTHING is a gamble and there are NO right answers. In your life, in business and in every creative venture! In the great book Adventures in Screenwriting, William Goldman talks about how executives at film companies are paid to guess which scripts are gonna be big movies… and they have no clue. They don’t know at the script level. They don’t know at the casting level. They don’t know when the movie’s finished, even! One executive said “if I said ‘yes’ for every ‘no’ I gave to a movie, and ‘no’ to every ‘yes’, I think I would have come out with the same ratio of successes.” Get Comfortable with the discomfort of no guarantees.
21. EVERYTHING take compromise. You’ll never get it the way it lives in your head. Acknowledge that and move on, being grateful for anything you get.
22. Make it an adventure. It’s not an adventure until everything goes to shit. And when everything goes to shit grab your Indiana Jones hat and go on an adventure.
- Another take on this: treat it like a game. In real life you get wrapped up in a very emotional, biological, cortisol and craziness cycle when we think about all this shit. If you can make it a game, zoom out and realize you’ve got a controller in your hands and you can make your character do whatever you want, it can help make these decisions fun and interesting instead of insane and terrifying.
23. Personality tests can help. The Enneagram has been the most important for me. Strength Finders, myers briggs were ok. These things can give you some handholds to navigate yourself and some language to help you understand what’s right in your wheelhouse and what you’ve just learned to fit in.
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