2011 began with President Barack Obama telling us in the State of the Union Address that we need to reinvent ourselves and our businesses as we move forward. This week’s stock market drop has ramped up that challenge.
So how do you reinvent?
As I have observed innovators and practiced the art of reinventing myself, I have identified six skills that all creative innovators have in common. They aren’t technical. You don’t have to be highly educated or talented to use these skills. You only have to be open to the possibilities around you and seize the opportunities the universe and God put before you. Here is what it takes to become a “self re-inventor.”
Skill One: Observe Details
The first skill is the ability to closely observe details, particularly those of other people’s behaviour. For you it might mean having to reposition your focus, of becoming alert and aware of folks around you. The clues you observe will give you an advantage over those who talk and don’t observe.
Jane Shafron of YourStoryHere, LLC says she and her husband, both attorneys, switched careers in their 40’s and created a new business as personal historians making bespoke personal history documentaries. They had to do some retraining – “(We) found great courses at our local community college – video, editing, lighting, Photoshop, and voice acting and oral history classes. (We) found a good mentor at SCORE. Set out to delight each and every one of our clients.”
Jane and her husband have won two film awards for best documentary and then started helping individuals preserve their story on video for future generations. Jane says the two of them “now own a business we love while helping people preserve their personal stories for future generations. It came from an attention to details that others overlook.
Skill Two: Leaders First Listen
Before they talk, leaders use their listening skills. In most conversations, people will tell stories about themselves. Re-inventors listen. Your greatest skill in leadership is the ability to initially keep your mouth closed and your ears open to listen for trends, ideas and opinions.
Allison Suter, Elite Nutritional Coach says this: “I have spent the past 12 years completely surrounded by men. If you are not familiar with the guitar industry (her former career), it is about 90% men. I traveled all over the world talking to men, selling to men and of course…hanging out with men. In order for my marketing to be effective I had to study my male client down to the shoes they wore. I spent many years studying men’s behaviour, eating habits and social habits.
Over the course of many years, I met men who are committed to being single, many who longed for a relationship and plenty who lived in a dead marriage. I became obsessed with studying the masculine and feminine complementing differences. I extensively studied nutrition and how our foods effect our mood, physic and zest for life. (Now) I am an elite nutrition coach that specialises in supporting men who experience low energy, frustration around work and who want to experience a hot relationship and ignite her to crave you.”
Employing keen listening skills around the men she worked with, networked with and sold to helped Allison create her reinvention.
Skill Three: Ask the Right Questions
The second skill is questioning – an ability to ask “what if”, “why”, and “why not” questions that challenge the status quo and open up the bigger picture. Reinvention leaders constantly question the status quo. They ask questions like, “Why does that work in this place?” If you want to get ahead in the market, you need to go to your most loyal customers and ask them why they buy from or do business with you. It might surprise you.
Juanita Kelly, founder of Goddess Magazine, the Juanita Kelly Foundation and fashion entrepreneur was bold enough to ask the right person questions. “My advice to all (of) you business owners are to never feel comfortable being just that, keep wanting to show your clients what you can offer them and how it’s better than all the rest that’s out there; always stay on your toes because your competition is always going to try and out-think you.
Keep trying to surpass previous goals by asking staffers what they think about an idea, be open to their perspectives because they may see it in a different way than you imaged it. Lastly, stay open to criticism by your staff, ask them what their having issues with and how they’d going about changing or fixing it; being a growing company and entrepreneur you never going into anything knowing the business from the beginning to the end.”
By asking questions, Juanita pulled off a reinvention that surpassed his dreams. The better the questions you ask, the better the answers you will receive.
Skill Four: Risk & Experiment
The fourth skill is the ability to experiment – the people we studied are always trying on new experiences and exploring new worlds. You have to have the courage to take risks.
Reinvention is a gamble. In fact, Daniel Dravot, professional blackjack player says, “I sold my hotel business. Due to partnership problems, I did not have enough money to retire. I had to be creative.
An old passion of mine was blackjack. I went to my bookshelf and started to reread all the books on card counting. I read them this time with the intent of taking 5,000 dollars and testing my mettle.
Five years later, I make over six figures a year. I travel with my wife and we see the great sites all over America. I wrote a book and made a DVD… They are both best sellers on Amazon.”
Only through repeated trial and error do you learn and grow. With failure comes growth, but only if you are open to learning from your failures.
Skill Five: Associating Unrelated Areas
Professor Jeff Dyer of Brigham Young University calls the next skill “associating.” He says, “It’s a cognitive skill that allows creative people to make connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas
Associating is the skill that Julie Austin, inventor, entrepreneur and speaker used. Julie invented Swiggies, wrist water bottles for adults and kids. She says, “I have 15 years of experience in creating a product from scratch and getting it into markets around the world, all by myself. I financed, manufactured, promoted, and distributed a product from the ground up without any bank loans, experience or venture capital. That’s incredibly valuable information that I’m now capitalising on. Public speaking is a natural progression from TV host/actor/writer (my previous career).
I’m now able to help others create their own products and businesses without the HUGE learning curve I went through. I can save them hundreds of thousands of dollars with my shortcuts.”
Julie took several unrelated areas and associated them with her desire and circumstances to reinvent herself and her career.
Skill Six: Build Your Network
Finally, self-reinventors are excellent at networking with others from whom they can learn. John Paul Engel, author and founder of Knowledge Capital says, “I co-founded a nonprofit triathlon club that I have grown from 4 to 123 people. I began volunteering with local groups. One of my mentors taught me the more you help others the better your life becomes. I taught middle school and high school classes, and I helped Big Brothers Big Sisters, Junior Achievement, and our local YMCA.
I started doing work for whatever anyone would pay me. Finally, one of the businesses that I helped turned me on to a client that I have been working with for over 2 years. Step by step I am rebuilding my business. One of my original clients has come back to work with me. A portion of everything I make goes into my nonprofit work with youth.
I am now teaching as an adjunct professor at a local college. Finally, I wrote a book that brings advice from some of the most successful people in the world to students, teachers, and parents for free.” What a great network he has built! Who do you network with?
Each of these individuals had no prior knowledge about the journey they were about to embark on. They found themselves in un-comfortable positions, though and made decisions based on their skill-sets, their heart’s desire and their interests. As Juanita Kelly puts it, “Being an entrepreneur you should never stay the same; it’s all about pushing to better yourself as a business owner and at the same time the company.” Re-inventors start by being un-comfortable with the status quo (whether it is from within or in their environment) and go from there.
Where are you going?