For the final post in this series, I conclude with some of the most significant takeaways. This week covers the necessity of passion, my journey to productivity and organization, identifying what success means to you, and wrapping it all up with how and why I do what I do.
As usual, I encourage you to read on with an open mind.
Take what you need, leave what you don’t.
Lesson #29: Well-developed communication skills will take you far.
I would dare to say that good communication is perhaps the most crucial skill you can have in your personal skill set. It does not come naturally, either. Of course, some people may be born with a slight head start on the skillset. Perhaps their personality makes engaging with others a bit more natural, but generally speaking, communication skills require development.
Communication, at its simplest, is the act of transferring information from one place to another. It can be achieved in numerous ways. Often, communication is a combination of the following formats:
– vocally: using voice
– written: using printed or digital media such as books, magazines, websites, or emails
– visually: using logos, maps, charts, or graphs
– non-verbally: using body language, gestures, and the tone/pitch of voice
Communication is a two-way street. It involves both the transmission of information and the reception of information. How do you make sure your communications don’t get lost in translation?
Have you ever had a situation where you said something to someone, and you found out later it was received in a way you did not intend? I certainly have—many times. There have even been times where I’ve asked myself if I know how to communicate effectively with anyone because it seemed like no one understood what I was saying.
And, of course, being the little investigator that I am, I set out to find out why. This was when I began a journey of self-discovery, and it started with my personality type. I learned that my specific personality type has a really bad habit of expecting people to make intuitive leaps in their understanding.
For me, many things come intuitively in my knowledge. I can look at a situation and naturally see multiple ways it can play out, often 10 or 12 steps ahead. Some of that has come from experience, but much of it is because I’m naturally intuitive. When I learned this about myself, it helped me understand that I needed to be a little clearer when I laid out thoughts and ideas to others who may be less on the intuitive side. Even more, I began to learn about the different personalities around me and what their natural methods of communication were. I was shocked to learn that my personality only comprises about 3% of the total population. At that, only about 1% of the female population. I’m the rarity in certain things, so why should I expect others to conform to my methods? I should learn about them and how they best perceive information. If I know this, I can better communicate with them, and they can better understand me.
What’s even better? When others take the time to learn and understand my natural tendencies. Two people putting forth the same effort to communicate effectively with one another become incredibly efficient communicators.
Lesson #30: Critical thinking skills will afford you well.
Those who think critically tend to be instinctual problem-solvers. Albert Einstein once said: “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” It’s also worth noting that this is the same guy who said that, when given an hour to solve a problem, he’d likely spend five minutes on the solution and the other 55 minutes defining and researching the problem. This kind of patience and commitment to truly understanding a problem is a mark of a true critical thinker. It’s the main reason why solid critical thinking ability is essential to being an effective problem-solver.
Critical thinking skills can help you solve complex challenges that arise in life or career endeavors. What’s unfortunate is that I’m finding many younger potential employees lack the ability to think critically under pressure.
I have led and been a part of many different creative teams in my career. The most successful team members are always the ones who can look at a problem as a challenge instead of an obstacle. I believe they can do that because they are problem-solvers who take the initiative and bring solutions. It takes critical thinking skills to do that. These are the team members who come to me with a problem and potential solution, rather than just the problem. These are team members that keep us moving forward rather than bog down the team awaiting leadership to troubleshoot. Don’t get me wrong–there are times its the leadership’s job to get involved. But good team members with critical thinking skills are typically the ones who can keep things moving forward and problem-solve without everything screeching to a halt.
I believe that strong skills require exercising critical thinking skills more often. If you struggle with entertainment consumption every free moment you have, binge-watching shows or scrolling social media endlessly, perhaps take that time to exercise your problem-solving skills.
So, how do you develop critical thinking skills?
Become more self-aware. Learn more about how your mind works and lean into your strengths while being aware of your natural insufficiencies.
Develop foresight. Consider the repercussions of your decisions. How will it affect you and your future? How will it affect those around you and their futures? How will it affect other elements of your career or task? By thinking steps through a bit further, you can make better decisions in the moment.
Practice active listening. Do you ever find yourself mentally drifting when you’re listening to others? Are you thinking about the next question you want to ask or the argument you want to present? If so, you’re not actively listening. When you listen well, you can gain a much deeper understanding and ultimately ask better questions (which leads to better solutions).
Ask questions. This is especially important with teamwork. If you’re tasked with solving a problem, you need to understand how that problem and potential solutions will affect those involved.
Lesson #31: Passion and purpose often go hand in hand.
Sculptor Ra Paulette has a unique passion—he digs caves by hand and turns these created spaces into beautiful works of art. Using only a pickaxe, a scraper, and a wheelbarrow, Paulette has been digging these caves for over 30 years. His creative designs are remarkable, and they have helped pave the way for redefining the ways art can be experienced. In the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Cavedigger, Jeffery Karoff follows Paulette as he digs these cave sculptures into the Earth.
I personally don’t share Paulette’s passion for cave digging, but I can appreciate and admire the passion and effort that goes into this art form. In the documentary, Paulette explains, “When I’m working on a project, I’m totally obsessed. I’m thinking about it all day long. All night long, I’m dreaming…digging dreams. Most people who are engaged in physical labor aren’t having the fun that I’m having.”
Are you that passionate about the work you do? If not, your life may be missing an essential ingredient.
I find it interesting just how many people are miserable in their work. It’s not supposed to be that way! In part, I blame our work culture in this nation. Negative things like corporate greed have infiltrated the way many companies operate everything, including human resources. When I ask people about their work, more often than not, I’m met with, “It’s a job, and it pays the bills pretty well. I put in my time and then go home to enjoy my evenings and weekends.” This response makes me want to scream, “Life is not supposed to be this way!”
Of course, every job has tasks attached to it that may not be our favorite. But when you’re doing something you’re passionate about, working doesn’t feel so much like work. It’s fun, and life is way more fulfilling that way.
Interestingly, when I ask these same individuals about their passions, they often struggle to identify them, let alone discover how to turn those passions into something they can make a living in doing.
I often refer to these questions that John Maxwell recommends for helping individuals identify their passions:
- If you inherited so much money that you would never have to work again, what would you do with your time?
- What would you never give up because you love it so much?
- What hobbies have you pursued over the years and why? These may be clues that will tell you something about yourself.
- What are you naturally good at—so good that other people compliment you?
- When others consult you for advice, what do they ask you about?
- What are you curious about?
- What do you do better than anything else?
These questions can help you identify your passions and guide you to work that gives you a stronger sense of purpose.
Once you identify your passion, you have to pursue it. That pursuit will require some things of you, though. It will require time and sacrifice. If you want to turn your passion into your profession, you’re going to have to develop those skills and become the best.
Lesson #32: Define success on your terms, not everyone else’s.
Success isn’t necessarily defined by the amount of money you make. Shocker, I know. Remember Paulette from the last lesson? He doesn’t make much money, but he loves what he does and is happy. That is success to him.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who have a story that begins with working in a job they hated and felt they were a slave to. They made a lot of money yet felt they never had time to enjoy it. Then, they started to pursue their passions and managed to turn them into a profession. It often came with a sacrifice and a pay cut in the beginning. However, EVERY SINGLE ONE of the people I’ve talked to who left a high-paying career to pursue something that brought them joy has had zero regrets. They tell me that no amount of money could be worth sacrificing the new joy they have found in doing work that brings them such fulfillment.
I’m a testament to this myself. That example is part of my story. I remember when I took the leap from a job that gave me a consistent paycheck every single week to going into business for myself. It was scary, but a few months into it, I knew I could never go back. It wasn’t worth it. And of course, as I continued to grow and develop myself and my business, the money followed, but that wasn’t what it was all about. It was about my peace and freedom. I was able to really live life and enjoy it! I was free to do more, serve more, accomplish more, and give more.
My encouragement to you is to define what success means to you. Not your mom or dad, not your kids, not your friends, not your co-workers, not society, but you. For me, I relied heavily on my relationship with God, asking Him to help me find those things I was made for, and I believe He did just that. I’m far more fulfilled now than I ever was working a job just for a paycheck.
Lesson #33: Get and stay organized.
Organization was (and sometimes still is) a harder one for me. I like to do, and explore, and achieve, and I used to view planning and organization as boring (you do not want to see what my apartments looked like in my early 20s).
Organization skills come a little more naturally to some than they do others, but it’s a skill everyone should develop. This is especially true if you plan on being your own boss. When you’re your own boss, there isn’t anyone else holding you accountable, and you may not have anyone else helping you remember all the little things you need to accomplish.
It is because of this that I am such a huge advocate for planning and project management systems. When I first started learning about the disciplines of planning and project management, I learned and used the FranklinPlanner System, and it legitimately changed my life.
I adopted a system for myself that I still use today. At the middle to end of each month, I begin planning and looking ahead to the following month. I make any appointments I may need (like the eye doctor, my hairstylist, nail appointments, birthdays, etc.) and get them on the calendar. Then, on Sundays, I plan for the week ahead. I break down the tasks I need to complete for the week into specific days. Then, each day when I finish my work, I carry over any unfinished tasks to the next day and take a few minutes to wrap my brain around what tomorrow looks like.
Using this system has enabled me to do and accomplish far more than I ever thought possible. I found my productivity skyrocketed to a level that many around me also couldn’t believe. One of the many reasons for this is that it cleared up some brain fog and increased efficiencies. When I knew what was ahead, I could strategically plan. I could run errands in an order that made sense, working my way across town and back. Also, I wasn’t trying to carry all these loose “to-do” items and details in my head. I trusted that when I completed one task, my list would be there for me, telling me what to do next. I couldn’t believe how much this increased my focus. Before, when I was working on a task, I would often be distracted by all the other things I knew I couldn’t forget, preventing me from focusing on the task at hand and giving it my undivided attention. This was leading to much faster mental exhaustion and caused the quality of my work to suffer. However, trusting that I had planned appropriately, I was able to lay down those worries and concerns, allowing me to concentrate and complete tasks faster.
If any of this sounds like you, I encourage you to find a planning system that works for you. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on it, and you may have to try a few different methods. Now I use a hybrid model of paper and digital planning as technology has evolved. The point is, you have to find what works for you and what helps you achieve your goals better and faster.
Lesson #34: Leave yourself some margin.
One thing I found happening once I mastered my planning system was that I would pack my days so full that I had no margin left for anything unexpected. This was especially true when I was still working full-time at a job and then trying to build my business on the nights and weekends. I hit a tipping point where I literally had to design my own planner pages with a schedule that began at five am and ended at midnight because I was filling up all those time-slots.
This was not sustainable. I made it work longer than I believe most people would (and it helped that I was single at the time), but then, one day, something happened. I got a flat tire, and this overwhelmed me far more than it should have. It wasn’t the flat tire itself that overwhelmed me; it was the fact that I knew my week did not afford me the extra hours this incident would consume. I had seriously overbooked, overcommitted, and overplanned. I had left zero margin in my schedule. I knew that this would be traded off with my precious sleep time, which was already too limited.
Things like this happened a few times, and then I learned–I have to leave myself more margin. I couldn’t keep running on an empty tank. I was leaving myself no time to rest, recharge, reflect, and recoup. I was always on the go. That’s when I committed to taking time out for myself.
Fast forward to today, and I have times blocked out on my calendar for me. Sometimes it’s for workouts, sometimes for study. Sometimes it’s for lunch with a friend, and sometimes it’s just because I know I’m going to need a mental break for the ambitious week ahead. I build these things into my schedule now. Doing this keeps me healthy, mentally sharp and keeps me from having a meltdown when something doesn’t go according to plan.
Lesson #35: Rely on more than yourself.
I really went back and forth on how to write this particular lesson. But in the end, my point in writing this series of blog posts is to share about my journey so far, the lessons I have learned, how I apply them to my life and why in hopes that you can find some nuggets that might help you find your own success. That said, I believe I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t include this lesson.
As stated at the beginning of this series, I rely heavily on my faith in all aspects of my life. This includes my work. I remember when I was making a transition from side-hustling as a freelancer to full-time entrepreneurship. There were many things I feared. How to compete with those who had been in the industry longer, how to make sure I was bringing in enough to support myself (and eventually, a team), and many of the other fears everyone who makes that leap faces.
During that time, I was reading a lot of books. Business books, faith books, personal development books, the list goes on. I read one book that spoke to entrepreneurs of the Christian faith, and it had a statement in it that has stuck with me through every problem and challenge I’ve had to face:
“By God’s grace, as professionals and entrepreneurs, our potential is immeasurable and unlimited. Our creations should be fresh and innovative. We should be ahead of the curve. Why? Because the creator of the universe lives within us. Wherever we are located, we should be thriving leaders in our professions and industries. If we aren’t, this brings us to ask ourselves the question, ‘Do we really know who we are, and are we distinguishing ourselves?’ We should believe that nothing is impossible for us, and that God will do through us exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think. The available inward power of His Holy Spirit is immeasurable within us. So, we should allow God to expand our vision, dream big, believe, and move forward with corresponding actions.” – John Bevere, Good or God
Whether you believe the same things I do regarding God and faith, this statement has resonated with me for years. Now, when faced with a problem or challenge, the first place I take it is to God, and I believe that’s why my company has had some of the experiences it has. I believe it’s why I have many of the clients and projects I have. I believe it’s why I have had many of the wonderful team members I’ve had. I also believe it’s a key to why I now have more opportunities and success beyond Raine Digital. I genuinely rely on the Holy Spirit within to guide me in the things I do, and it’s paid off well for me. I often ask God to help me learn and do the things I can’t do in and of myself. I ask Him for wisdom in the decisions I make. I invite Him into my life and business daily, and I’ve experienced His hand on the things I do time and time again.
Bonus Lesson: Once you’ve tasted a life of significance, no other life will satisfy.
If I had to sum up all these ‘lessons’ and the impact they have had on my journey, I would have to say that once you’ve tasted a life of significance, no other kind of life will satisfy. I believe that this is why (for me) I could never go back to working a job for just a paycheck. It’s also why I can’t be enticed by financial gain any longer. I enjoy the peace, joy, and fulfillment that comes from being a difference-maker in my career. Anything else I do has to bring me that level of significance.
As I’ve built Raine Digital, I’ve had some business leaders approach me about selling, and some offer to invest. Most of them I knew right away weren’t the right fit, or I wasn’t ready to sell the business. However, one time, I entertained a conversation regarding an investor. This individual had a couple of brands that could have been complementary to our service lineup and vice versa.
The potential cash injection could have really helped us go to the next level, and I did have some pressure from my leadership team at the time to pursue this opportunity. After a couple of meetings, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it just didn’t feel right. I believe they felt that way, too, because the conversations sort of just fell off the table, and their interactions with us became cold and harsh.
Today, I’m so incredibly grateful I did not pursue that offer. The changes and opportunities that came along later were a much better pivot. They allowed us not just to survive but thrive in new and different ways (even after all the challenges that came in 2020 on both personal and professional levels). However, in my reflection time, I’ve evaluated that time period and that interest, and I believe I unlocked the reason why that offer wasn’t enticing to me and didn’t feel right.
While there was alignment between our businesses, I believe a key factor could have resulted in headaches, frustration, and friction down the road. Recounting conversations with this potential investor, they were far more money motivated than I am. Don’t get me wrong–I’m in business to make money, but that’s secondary to being in business to make a difference in the lives of my clients and those they serve. This individual wasn’t necessarily greedy, and they cared very much for their team, but they were after domination in their industries, and their push to dominate so aggressively raised concerns about the stability of those growth rates and goals. They were after massive, quick growth and scalability. Alternatively, I am after big achievements that make big impacts. I’m going after SIGNIFICANCE and POSITIVE INFLUENCE more than I’m after PROFITS, and that’s not how the majority of the business world works.
Learning and acknowledging this about myself and my business has helped me run opportunities and decisions through this filter. This stance, along with the core values we live by, has cost us team members. At times it hurt, but that purging made room for better-aligned opportunities and pivots.
Remember, you are in control of your own life. Once you identify and refine the things that matter most to you, you’re more likely to live a life of significance and success on your terms.