Category Archives: Transitions

Five Steps to Discovering Your Potential

Remember when you were a child? Did your parents, a teacher, or someone else in your life tell you about all the great things you could be: an astronaut, doctor, or Olympic athlete? We may not have understood it then, but this person was helping us unlock our potential. For too many of us, the reason we do not fly is that we persist in seeing ourselves as earthworms, not just tied to the ground, but destined to eat dirt for the rest of our lives.

candlelight

About eighteen months into my chaplain career, I was given the dubious honor of being made supply officer. Soon after I found that no one in the command had any idea of what or how much supplies we had on hand. Ever the practical one, I took an inventory at all the chapels and offices under our control. Among the many things I uncovered were over 40,000 candles. This may not seem so surprising but consider that we used only about 1000 to 1500 per year. We had at least a 26-year supply. Meanwhile, I kept getting requisitions for more candles.

Thinking about it earlier today, I was struck by how much light was lost through having these tens of thousands of candles sit idle. The intensity of light is measured in something called a footcandle, "the illuminance cast on a surface by a one-candela source one foot away." In a way, our ability to shine can be measured in footcandles, or maybe legcandles. How much legwork are we willing to devote to finding the things at which we are brilliant?

Here is a five-step plan for discovering your potential:

  1. Talk to friends and family. Ask them to tell you about the traits and skills they admire about you.
  2. Examine the lives of people you respect. What talents do you share in common? Which ones would you like to develop?
  3. Read several biographies of great people. The Penguin Lives series is a great set of short books. Highlight or list the abilities you share with them. Are there others that you can cultivate in yourself?
  4. Perform a skills assessment or meet with a vocational counselor who can do one. Be honest but not overly critical. List your accomplishments that support your evaluation.
  5. Take the lists and lay them side-by-side or make a spreadsheet with them. Which ones do people agree on? Which ones surprise you? These especially help you unlock latent talent.

Each of us has an internal luminance. Are we going to bury it in some unexamined storeroom? Or are we going to take inventory, uncover out hidden stock, and one by one light these candles until our brilliance shines through for all to see?

What did you uncover when you searched for your potential? How much still lays concealed? What is holding you back from taking stock?

Military Doctrine Guiding Business Planning

One of the many advantages veterans enjoy in entrepreneurship is the doctrine we learned during our years of service. And while part of the vocabulary of warfighting is inappropriate to civilian business, still the concepts can be quickly adapted to give us direction as we start and run our companies.

Rabs in Marine Corps Cammies

For example, Marine Corps doctrine on warfighting recognizes three levels of war

  1. Strategic – the art of winning wars by establishing goals, assigning forces, providing assets, and imposing conditions on the use of force.
  2. Operational – the art and science of winning campaigns, it links the strategic and tactical levels, including deciding when, where, and under what conditions to engage the enemy.
  3. Tactical – the art and science of winning engagements through the concepts and methods used to accomplish a particular mission and achieve the objectives of the campaign.

So how do we translate these ideas to business planning? The same three levels apply:

  1. Strategic – This is our business idea, mission statement, and goals. Also, it is our evaluation of the types of expertise our business requires, especially those we do not have ourselves, and the capital and equipment we need to be successful.
  2. Operational – This is our assessment of the profile of the clients or customer with whom we are most likely to be successful, where we can come in contact with them, the timing of our marketing efforts, and how we can set the stage to be most effective in attracting their patronage.
  3. Tactical – This is our step-by-step plan through which we will act to obtain these clients or customers.

For example, when I decided to go back into business, initially I worked at the strategic level. I assessed my skills, researched business ideas, and gauged the market for them and their chances of success. Having selected the one I wanted to pursue I developed my mission statement and goals and determined funding and other materials I needed to move forward.

Having clarified my strategic thinking, my planning shifted to the operational level. While my main clientele, veterans and service members, was obvious, less so were the individuals through whom I could expand my reach to them. Through networking, I found people who help veterans transition to civilian life, then planned how and where I could contact others in the same positions and stay in touch with them. Next, I set a calendar for my marketing effort. As I formed my plans at the operational level I periodically reviewed my strategic plans to ensure I was heading in the right direction but also to decide if my strategy needed to be revised.

Once my operational plan was fairly well developed I created materials, scripts, and email and telephone lists of the people I needed to contact and started doing so. Did my materials motivate them to act from the get go? Did my scripts immediately convince them of the greatness of my program? No and no. Indeed my early presentations were as much about refining my tactics as they were about persuading people to help me. I revised my tactics, periodically reviewed my operational plan in light of the overall response to my marketing effort, and shifted my strategy as the assets I had available changed.

At each stage of planning, I wrote down the major points and the reasoning supporting these decisions. As I move forward, I use my version of another Marine Corps doctrine, maneuver warfare (which I will talk about in another post) to continually appraise my success and make adjustments at all three levels.

So take the doctrine of your branch of the military and adapt it to your business planning. If you are not a veteran, take a look at the Marine Corps doctrine.

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