I have wasted many years being busy; not being purposeful.
I was reading a book entitled EntreLeadeship by Dave Ramsey. This is a personal how-to to develop your business by focusing on people. Since Ramsey runs an SME in the US, he requires team members (he does not call them staff) to have entrepreneurial leadership – the ability to take risks to build a thriving business, growing good teams along the way. He empowers his people and delegates responsibilities. He demands that everyone be passionate about the business because that drives results beyond the job description. As an entrepreneur myself, I totally subscribe to his thinking. While most of the book does not uncover anything new, it is a gem because it reminds us to do things that we thought that we already knew; things that we may have taken for granted. In this article, I focus on one of them – the personal mission statement.
I started my first entrepreneurial entity in 1996; and had been my own boss for the better part of the last 20 years, with the exception of the time in 2014 when I joined a largish training company as Chief Operating Officer for a year and a half. During all this time, I really cannot recall when I had a personal mission statement. As a business owner, obviously my mission was to work my behind off to make as much money for the company. As a trainer, I was focused on creating the best programme that I could develop. As the business developer, I was constantly looking for new opportunities. As the leader, I was constantly trying to bring my people to the next level. So one can say that I have always been very busy as the business owner. If being busy was my mission, then I think I’d score an A. But that is NOT a worthwhile mission. There is no tangible outcome to busyness. So reading Ramsey’s book reminded me I have not accomplished much more than hitting revenue targets. That, again, is not a mission.
Components of a personal mission statement
Ramsey quotes career coach and author of 48 Days to the Work that You Love, Dan Miller, who shares that a personal mission statement should contain the following components:
Your skills and abilities
Your personality traits, and
Your values, dreams and passions
So, for the very first time, I will attempt to develop my personal mission statement in this article “live” – meaning I will use this post to annotate my thoughts, and from there, derive my personal mission statement without censoring any thoughts. Let us see where this leads me to, and hopefully, we will learn something new...
My skills and abilities
I have been a teacher all my life, although not mainstream. I started teaching by tutoring school kids while I was in university. I didn’t do it for the money because I was employed by the government and was on scholarship, so that was illegal. Instead, I did it because I was asked to help. Soon I became very good at it, and found that I could explain science and maths concepts very well – much better than the textbooks, and much better than many school teachers. I normally break concepts down into bite-sized elements, giving them a real-world feel to it. I use first principles in explaining everything so that my students could always go back to the fundamentals and work their way back up whenever they forgot certain formulas. I was using diagrams to explain maths concepts long before these were introduced in primary school – yes, it had been THAT long ago! When I got married, many of my nephews and nieces came through me for maths and science tuition, and most of them scored A. It is therefore not surprising that I am now in the business of teaching. I use my skills and abilities to teach business and cognitive ideas from first principles and in ways that are NOT mainstream. So I suppose that should be an element of my personal mission statement.
My personality traits
I am lucky that I have an assessment system called the Success Quotient Intelligence to identify behavioural traits in users, so I know for sure what my traits are. My key traits are my strategic thinking ability, my risk appetite, my speed of execution, and on the downside, my lack of detail orientation. As one who embraces the hypothesis-driven process, I am comfortable going into a business opportunity, or a situation, without having all the information. (I suppose my lack of detail orientation helps here!) All I do is limit the downside, and from there, look and learn. I am comfortable navigating in the dark, preferring to trust my own judgement, my own abilities, to get me there. I never blame anyone for where I end up, because I have depended on my own skills to get me there. If there was anyone to blame, it would be me. Interestingly enough, there are not many people with these traits and it means that there is an opportunity for me to link the two together – my ability to teach and my ability to navigate in uncertainty – to develop my mission statement. Hmmm...things seem to be shaping up here.
My values, dreams and passions
While I would like to say that I have the dream of becoming a multi-millionaire, I am aware this is not the path for me. They say that a fool and his money are soon parted, and I know that I have been a fool with money. I am not spendthrift, in a sense that I don’t go out and buy an expensive watch the minute I have some money; and I don’t gamble. But with my risk appetite, I am happy to bet my last dollar on something that is unproven, just to find out where it would lead me. I am comfortable over-extending myself to grab an opportunity. In a way, I am the fool who goes in where angels fear to tread. For many, this is not prudent, and that is correct!
So, my dream is not to be a multi-millionaire! In actual fact, my dream is to work; to find a piece of land somewhere (obviously not in Singapore!), learn to live off it, and live out my life with my wife in peace, far away from the madding crowd. My dream is not to be in need of money, because I have all that I need. But it does not mean that I am not teaching! One of the reasons why I am already developing online courses, and creating partnerships around the world, is so that I can continue that work even while I’m waiting for the crops to grow, for the trees to bear fruit, for the animals to breed. And perhaps from that vantage point, my dream to contribute to society in my own little way.
Oh! And there is one more thing that I have recently become passionate about – helping late forties, early fifties PMEs (professionals, managers and executives) who are out of a job find their own footing without having to sacrifice their lifestyle and earning potential! As you may know, once a 45-year-old, or older, professional, earning between $10,000 to $20,000, loses his job in Singapore, it is very difficult for him to secure another one with that same amount of pay. In fact, the government is telling them that they need to take a pay cut, re-skill, and work in a new company. Let’s be honest! How can a person who may have been working in one industry for more than 20 years, earning such a high salary, now be forced to start from the bottom in another? Even with the wage schemes that they have in place, the professional will still not be able to find a job, and is forced to sacrifice his earning potential and lifestyle at the time when he is at the peak of his career! In a sense, my personal story is mimicking this, and my hypothesis is that all PMEs can create a business and support their own lifestyle so that they won’t need to “downgrade” and become less and less, losing their self-worth in the process! I have founded my new startup company to test this very notion!
Putting them together
Now that I have candidly answered these questions, putting them together, I get a personal mission statement like this:
“Helping mid-career out-of-job PMEs grow their lifestyle and earning potential through empowered business-building, teaching them to embrace uncertainty, mitigating the downside and building the upside, through effective learning techniques.”
What do you think about that?
To me, I am amazed that this simple exercise has allowed me to come up with something so profound as this – at least it is to me! The thing is, this exercise is not rocket science, and anyone can do this with little or no prompting. Yet, for someone who is in this business of helping people, it is a shame really that I didn’t have a personal mission statement until now! And therein lies the rub! The fact that the activity was so simple, and the fact that we know about having a mission statement for the longest time, we think that we don’t need to do this exercise – well I didn’t! But what it has shown me is that by not doing this, I have wasted many years of my life being busy; not being purposeful. So if you are like me, you might not have crafted your personal mission statement for a while now. Why don’t you take the next 30 minutes (that’s all I took) to look at your skills and talent, your personality traits, and your vision and dreams and come up with your very own personal mission statement?
Like me, you might be surprised by what you come up with!
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