When you’re an entrepreneur or building something, it’s scarily easy to feel directionless, disillusioned, and not trust your own voice. Plateauing out sucks, but staying there is worse.
A lot of why we beat ourselves up is due to the lack of forward movement or inertia. It’s dangerously easy to fall into this state, and not as easy to shake it off. A few pointers helps:
Get out of the building: Whatever it is that you are upto, stop confining it to just the walls of your cabin or your living room. Step out, meet a wide range of peers or better, leaders. Understand what they’re about and how they go about their days, habits and lead their teams.
Stop looking for role models: Instead, keep an eye out for individual traits. Things that you want to develop, in your way, voice and style.
Appoint a board of directors: You need a personal board of directors, or people who can root for you in specific walks of your life! These would be the people you can rely on for advice and feedback. Don’t look for answers from them, but better ways for you to think to come up with the answers.
Your support crew at work: Your manager can appear as a hostile superior, but flip the power dynamic. Think of your manager as a partner in your journey who can help you better if you articulate clearly where you want to go, and why that’s the right thing.
Set goals: Self advocacy is incredibly useful to help identify growth areas and help articulate it to the people who can help you in the journey
Draw out a map!
Self reflection is often a scary and ambiguous exercise for a lot of us. With a map, maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. The map is built upon 3 dimensions to help pull apart different areas to explore:
The Scope: Concentric circles from the center. For example, if you’re a founder, your role has 3 scopes of impact:
Items can be listed across these scopes, and live on the boundaries too.
People vs Products: This makes your x-axis.
We tend to focus on the products we build.
However, being an effective teammate is much more than that.
The impact on people is as important as the launch.
Past vs Future: This makes your y-axis.
The top half would be the last 6 months
The bottom half would be the goals for the next 6 months.
Let’s begin with a rewind
Pick up the breadcrumbs. Review every surface of productivity you have. The calendar, slack chats, todo lists, project Management tools, coffee meetings, 1:1s, e-mails (every one of them)
Now, ask yourself:
What did you do?
Why was it hard?
What did you learn?
💖 ⭐ 🚫 Map
Plot the top half of your map now, and ask yourself:
What was your role for each item?
Label as: learning, doing, leading, or teaching
What did you love doing?
💖 those items
What are you uniquely good at (as told to your teammates)?
⭐ those items
What did you hate doing?
🚫 those items
💎 Identify Themes
Now, you have the basics to identify themes. You may see the things you are most comfortable in, or take the most amount of joy in doing. Take this to your personal board of directors and see if they agree with what you’ve discovered about yourself.
With this information, craft out your narrative. This is almost an elevator pitch for just you.
I am strong at …
I am the go-to person for …
I am at my best when partnered with …
Predicting the future is hard, but improving yourself to take it on, need not be.
Set a foundation: The bottom half of your map is now for the next half. Transfer the things you plan to continue
Identify opportunities: Growth lies in doing new things. Add any new projects, interests that align with your narrative. f you have an empty quadrant, try something new! What is something you’d like to learn or someone you’d like to learn from? Ask the people around you for ideas or collaborations.
Double down: Your narrative holds what you are strong at. How can you expand on it? Double down on your strengths.
Rebalance: It’s easy to add dozens of new oppourtunities, but only to feel overwhelmed about it. Now, go back to your personal board of directors on what’s to prioritize and rebalance out.
Once done, filter your near final 6 month map with a few questions:
What fuels you?
Star the things that you will continue to do because they give you energy and sustain you.
Where are the gaps that your company/team needs filled?
Talk with your manager about your unique role. Star the items that no one else can do.
What are the things you can deprioritize for now?
Cross out items you enjoy, but need to scale back or postpone, to avoid getting stretched too thin.
Once you have a clear vision of where you want to focus next, then it’s all about followthrough. Co-conspirators and accountability buddies are key. Share your goals and intentions with your friends. Find people who have similar goals and go after them together. Draft it into a goals doc and share it with your manager, your team, and your peers. Who knows, you might inspire someone else to think about their own goals a little differently.
Reflection has helped me immensely to better plan, understand and be deliberate about my time, priorities and confidence in building things.