Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Do what you are “best at” for happiness and fulfillment

Photo by Liz Cezat.
The end of a year and beginning of a New Year is often a time of reflection and resolutions. When thinking about what to write for this special blog post, I had no inspirational magic bullet. Yet, lately I’ve been thinking about Ed King and his practical yet profound advice to small business owners such as myself.
King is a retired Wayne State University Small Business adviser who remains a mentor and champion for multitudes of small business owners. I took an evening course of his and it has guided me for years. During the course, he insisted that we, as entrepreneurs, spend the majority of our time at work doing what we are best at. He used an example: Dr. Michael DeBakey, the famed heart surgeon who invented a device that led to the heart-lung machine, which paved the way for open-heart surgery, and who was a pioneer in heart transplantation – to name a few of his Texas-sized accomplishments.

What King found most impressive about the late Dr. DeBakey was that he went into surgery and only performed the portion of the surgery that he did best. He had directed other surgeons – associates or residents - to do other parts of the surgery, such as opening and closing the surgical site. This permitted Dr. DeBakey to perform thousands more surgeries. In the process, he saved many lives.
In the business world, King related this example to that of a coffee shop owner who worked best in her coffee shop interacting with customers and creating new coffee blends. Over time, she became immersed in the ancillary tasks, such as running errands and schlepping big bags of coffee beans. As a result, the business suffered and she wasn’t finding personal fulfillment either. The reason: she wasn’t doing what she was best at. She needed to direct her employees to do the heavy lifting so she could spend the bulk of her time interacting with customers and making great coffee.
Think about how this relates to you and your life. Are you doing the things that you are "best at" in your work world – whether you own a business or work as a director, manager or employee? If you’re not doing what you love to do and do well, think about transitioning in the next year to work that you love. It might even mean reorganizing your work to spend more time doing what you like and delegating what you aren’t so good at – preferably to someone who is good at the task and enjoys doing it. See the win-win here?
What I love to do and do best is to write, conduct interviews and do the project management – whether it’s for print, the web or presentations. This versatile skill set is well suited to marketing, public relations, fund raising and sales. This year, I’ve discovered it’s also good for sharing knowledge with others by being a trainer. I plan to do more training in the New Year.
In recent months, I’ve been working with a collaborative team on an Internet project. There’s a real need for a good writer who can organize a website, write snappy headlines and succinct copy, and keep tabs on all the moving parts and the people – working together to create new programs. The driving force for me is not only to work with creative professionals who are doing what they are “best at,” it’s also knowing how the end product will be used.
What I’m discovering is that maybe it’s not enough to do what you are “best at” but also to find the reason behind your desire for using that skill. You might find that there is a person or people behind your drive - because that’s often the true motivator for wanting to use one’s best talents to bring new things to light.
For Dr. DeBakey, it was saving patients' lives. For the coffee shop owner, it was sharing her knowledge and love of coffee with customers. For Ed King, it was helping business owners become successful. For me, it’s about communicating effectively to inspire, teach, influence and motivate people to take actions that will either improve their lives or the lives of others.
As we roll into a New Year, I have a sense of pride about my professional skills and my ability to deploy these skills to make a good living. Here’s something for you to think about: if you are doing work that you love, how can you make it even better? If you’re not doing what you love, isn’t it time to head in that direction?