We help people create places people love.

July 31, 2019

For your business to succeed, you need to stop doubting your talents

Level Up drawing

It’s time to silence the voices of doubt inside you so you can level up your business.

This isn’t a matter of fake it until you make it. Nope. We’re all somewhere along the path of who we want to be, and who we are right now.

What I’m talking about here are those ignored “other” things you’ve learned along the way … those unacknowledged skills that have become hidden strengths … those untapped opportunities to grow your impact.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • We’re too small to …
  • I’ll never have time to learn how to …
  • I’ve got to be the expert before I can …
  • I wish I had time to understand marketing, but we’re too …
  • I could impact my customers more, but they only see me as …
  • I’m not a “business” person so …
  • I’m too young …
  • I’m too old …

The doubts go on and on and on!

Self-doubt gets in the way of embracing the realities that are right in front of us. These are the things we ignore that we need to embrace so our businesses can get from where we are to where we dream of going.

The doubts, voices, and labels we allow to define us are stopping us from creating the impact on the world our customers and communities need.

Unlock and unleash your new powers.

Life and careers are a lot like a video game. For the first few levels, we’ve gotta master the basic controls, but as we progress and unlock new powers, the way we play the game fundamentally changes.

It’s like being a sword-wielding ranger who learns a spell or two along the way … sooner or later that magic has to be unleashed if you’re going to succeed.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my community impact clients turned to someone and said, “James is a sneaky good writer.” It caught me a little off guard, but for the first time that I can remember, I didn’t correct him. Instead, I said thanks and acknowledged that these days I do indeed do quite a lot of writing.

Why is this a big deal?

Laurel’s a big fan of Brené Brown soooooo…. The story I’ve been telling myself for many years is “Because I am a designer, I’m not a writer” or “Because I failed Engish in High School, I’m not a Writer” or even better “Because I am scared to mess up, I’m not a writer.”

  • Even as I wrote headlines for campaigns … “Not a writer.”
  • As I wrote storyboards and scripts for customer interactions and commercials … “Not a writer.”
  • As I wrote and edited branding and marketing copy for project after project … “Not a writer.”
  • As I wrote countless blog posts, ad copy, case studies, and more … “Not a writer!”
  • While creating and co-writing a guidebook to help other designers make social impact … “Not a writer!”
  • And, even as I was writing over 450 interpretive signs … I would tell myself and others that “I am not a writer!”

Not a writer? Not my mantra … not anymore.

The fact is, that I spend almost as much time writing as I do designing and creating strategies each week. That’s surely something my 11th-grade summer school English teacher would get a good laugh out of.

What about you?

We can’t be good at everything right out of the gate. When you look at all the skills you’ve had to acquire to be of service and value to your customers, where have you been stretched?

  • Are you a behind-the-scenes leader waiting to blossom?
  • Are you a master delegator?
  • Are you scaled to be nimble?
  • Have you become great at empathy and understanding your customer’s needs?
  • Are you an introvert who’s learned how to bravely stand up and tell your brand’s story?
  • Maybe you’re even a sneaky good writer?

How can you tell if your hidden strength is worth developing and not just another thing on your to-do list? It’s not always obvious to you, even if it is for others.

For me … I was being hit in the head with a rock, but pretended it wasn’t happening.

Time after time, I was asked if I could write copy for projects and I said no, but I know who to call. Copy was always something we outsourced and managed, but overtime it began to weasel its way into my to-do list. I’d find folks asking me to write things for them because they liked what I wrote for myself.

What are your customers asking for?

More specifically, what kinds of problems are they asking you to solve? Listening requires patience and perspective. Ask your colleagues and clients, what do they value most about you? Ask them, where they’ve seen you grow? Ask them, what are their toughest challenges?

I won’t lie. Writing is often hard for me.
So is design.
So is illustration.
So is facilitation.
So is strategy.
So is animation.
So is accounting.
So is coding.

So is saying no to the things that take energy away instead of giving it back to me.

That’s ultimately the deciding factor for me. Writing is something that offers fulfillment to me AND helps my clients solve their business challenges. Since it’s another path along the creative process, it makes me a better designer too.

Many of those things listed above are skills I’ve had to learn while growing my own business. Over the last few years, I’ve thankfully gotten better at determining which of those tasks are better left to others and which ones are aligned with my talents.

So … what new powers are you adding?

The economy and your customers will continue to evolve … they always do. That’s life. The world does not sit still and we’ve all got to grow with it … the good news is you probably already are.

Whatever your ignored strengths are, I’m sure there is a way to bring them out into the light and put them to use.

Sometimes we just need to see ourselves with new eyes. Who knows … You might even have a completely new line of business hidden inside of you that the rest of us just can’t wait for.

Go get it!


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