A city is a crazy concrete jungle whose people at the end of each day somehow make a small step ahead against terrible odds. – Herb Caen
In my last post I talked about how you can improve the way in which you interact with others – by borrowing best practices from how children play.
Now it’s time to go back and take another look at who you are – who you really are and see what that shows you about the kind of business strategy that’s going to work for you.
Select an animal that you think describes you
Imagine you’re living in a jungle somewhere and all the animals gather at the local watering hole.
That’s a place where you can see all forms of life.
What do you think you’ll be?
Are you a herd animal, a deer among deer hiding in plain sight?
Are you hidden from view, submerged in the depths only surfacing when you want to and on your terms?
Are you a sleek, fast predator, always moving, eating what you kill?
Maybe you’re happy-go-lucky, hidden in the trees.
Or are you slower and more deliberate, so large that everyone leaves you alone?
Or are you a young version of any of these – waiting to see how life will turn out when you grow up?
Maybe you’re different from all these – there isn’t an animal that can describe you.
In which case, create an alien that you can work with – the selection of an animal is only so you have a big idea that you can dig into a little bit more.
What are the characteristics that you see in yourself?
Now that you’ve selected an animal it’s time to deepen your understanding of why you think you’re similar to it.
For example, let’s say you’ve picked a predator like the quick orange creature in the picture above.
What is it that you identify with in that creature?
Is it its speed, its aggression, its willingness to go after what it wants?
Perhaps you like the fact that it is a solitary animal, hunting on its own.
Or perhaps you’ve picked one that isn’t on the image – a busy ant or bee, working away to put away resources for later.
What kind of words would you use to describe your animal self?
Are you loyal, a good member of the herd, an unflappable personality, the fun animal?
How does that animal survive in its environment?
Any environment has dangers for your animal, both from predators and the land itself.
How do you survive?
Is it easy to find food and shelter or does your animal have to work hard to get everything it needs?
Is it in danger all the time or does it have few predators?
Or, like the alien, is it trying to find out what life is like and how to fit in?
What kind of niche does it dominate?
Survival is one thing but what you really need to understand is how your animal dominates its niche – because there is something where it is the best at what it does.
It’s easy with the big animals – they know they’re strong or fast or lethal.
But if you’re still in the early stages of your business you’re either a small big animal or a very small animal.
Perhaps you’re a baby elephant and it’s just going to take time to grow – but what if you’re a small bird or a burrowing mammal?
There’s still always a niche – something you’ve adapted to, something you fit perfectly.
Maybe it’s your animal’s skill at digging deep, going much further than anyone else.
Or maybe it’s created a symbiotic relationship, like those birds that perch on a crocodile’s back and clean its teeth – both getting something from each other.
Not many lions would see that as a sensible niche to want to occupy.
But, what’s the point of all this thinking – why should you find an animal you identify with and deepen your understanding of the characteristics you share?
Because it can help you figure out who you really are.
How can you use what you see in your own situation?
A lot of business advice out there says you need to do things like other people – people who have been successful.
Be like them – be outrageous, be sociable, be smart.
But the problem is that you can’t be anyone but you – it’s really quite impossible for you to become someone else.
Pick anyone you like – there are big names from big companies who will come to mind quickly.
Can you really be like any one of them?
Can you possibly have the same experiences, the same breaks, the same chances, the same insights as them?
And even if you did, will it be the same for you?
Clearly that’s not possible – and the one thing that you have to realise is that you have to be you – build on what you are and what you have rather than trying to be anyone else.
Get rid of that copycat thinking.
All you need to know is that you will thrive in the niche where you have the best fit – and so your job is to find that niche.
It may be that you work best in a herd – that a team matters for you.
In that case, get a job, work at a company that recognises and rewards your talents.
If you are a lone wolf, make sure that you don’t rely on anyone else for resources.
Carry your office in your backpack and be ready to work anywhere.
If you’re slow and deliberate and want to become as big as you possibly can – then raise money, build a team and create a business with economies of scale – where the bigger you are the stronger your position.
Everyone thinks that there is a perfect life, a perfect business.
There is only what is perfect for you.
It’s the principle that makes the world possible – we couldn’t exist in a world where only lions or only elephants existed.
You need bees and ants and gorillas.
The world does, anyway.
Unfortunately for the world humans see their role as changing all that, so animals find it hard to adapt to the speed at which their environment is changing.
But you’re human, you can do something about the situation you’re in.
You can start by figuring out your niche and dominating it.
And then when you have a solid base – a sound foundation – maybe you can think about how you can help the others on the planet.
Especially the ones who haven’t got the chances you’ve been given.