The Dynamics Of Power And Control And Your Business


Thursday, 8.31pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control. – Epictetus

In the last post I started looking at demand and that’s a theme I want to continue here.

The goal for this post is to help you find out whether you have control over demand or not – and what your options are in both situations.

The oldest kind of control there is

The history of humanity is littered with examples of how one group of people organised things so that they could control another group.

I remember reading how, there was a time in the US where anyone could get control over land – as long as you were the right colour.

If there was a river teeming with fish you could build a canning factory across it and stop the people who had fished there for free for generations from being able to do that any more.

The only thing they could then do was get jobs in the factory to feed themselves.

This idea of a stream and control over that stream is an ancient practice.

From control of trade routes to control of your thoughts – that’s the model practised by every group that’s exercised power over others.

Traditionally, it’s been exercised using formal power – the power of the sword or gun.

But these days technology has created different streams and new equivalents of canning factories.

Take Google, for example.

The vast majority of people – all of us – are like fish swimming in the information ocean – and Google has built a gigantic factory that we all swim through.

Google has huge power because it controls demand – when people want something they start by asking Google and then Google decides where to send them and therefore who will serve them.

And the same goes for all the other mega services.

So what does this mean for you?

How to sup with the devil

You are advised to use a long spoon when you sup with the devil.

The Internet is a huge and complex place and the big businesses that have created effective monopolies in that space have done so because of us – because we use them.

And that’s not about to change in a hurry.

If Google doesn’t like your business you’re probably not going to have a business at all.

So, you do have to learn to live with Google – and somehow find yourself your own stream of demand to control.

But what does that stream look like?

What’s yours is mine and what’s mine’s me own

Your stream of demand is something that you control.

For example, if you have put in the effort to create process that brings in leads on the major platforms then that’s a huge asset.

Most people believe that what they do is the most important thing.

It’s not.

Focusing on what you do is like owning a canning factory – having the structure, the machinery, the people.

But what is it that made those canning factories in old America so profitable?

It was control of the river.

There is a constant dance going on between the people in the river and the people who want to put them in cans.

Every major player, from Apple to Facebook to Medium, need you to swim into their factories, of your own free will and get processed.

And it’s hard to escape.

Is there another way?

Most of us will never have the kind of control that these big firms have.

We have to rely, instead, on finding the smaller streams where we can build our own small factories.

The good news is that while the supply of actual rivers is finite – we’re only limited by our imagination and the needs of customers.

We live in a world where you can create your own rivers and fill them with fish.

Who would have thought, for example, that an idea like the Bullet Journal, would have taken over the imagination of millions of people and created a devoted following.

I have an article on this on the wall in front of me.

The old world is full of examples of people taking from other people because they had the power.

That old world is still there now – we’re still seeing this happening all around us.

But, at the same time, every one of us also has the opportunity to enter this new world where you are only limited by your own imagination.

And that’s a better place to be than any other time in history.

But, what you make of it still depends more on where you are, what surrounds you, than who you are.

Let’s dig into that in the next post.


Karthik Suresh

Why You Need To Understand The Nature Of Demand And If You Can Control It


Wednesday, 6.29pm

Sheffield, U.K.

I, myself, only want one advantage and, if you will give it to me, I will (when it comes to selling burgers) whip the pants off all of you!” “What advantage do you want?” they ask. A Starving Crowd!” – Gary Halbert

I want to spend some time discussing demand – making sense of demand and how it works.

The goal for this section is to help you figure out why someone will be interested in what you have to offer.

The difference between supply and demand

When most people hear the words “supply” and “demand” they think of it as terms that people who understand economics use.

You have supply and demand curves and price is set by where they intersect, for example.

But this kind of dry formulation misses much of the nuance that exists in the real world – and we’re going to try and uncover that here.

First of all, what is supply?

Supply has to do with anything you have that you can give someone else.

Sometimes they are real things – like oil and grapes and chocolate teapots.

Sometimes they’re less real, like ideas and opinions and analysis.

Supply has to be something you can give away.

For example, you have experience, but you can’t just give that to someone else.

You have to put it in a container that the other person can take – like a book or a course.

Or you can use that experience to do something that the other person wants doing.

As a copywriter, for example, you use your experience to create the words and the product is the document you email to your client.

But, just because you can do it or make it or teach it – it doesn’t mean that someone wants it.

That depends on demand – on someone else and what they want or need.

It’s all too easy to think that supply is what’s important – what can you do, what can you make?

But what’s worth doing or worth making depends on demand – especially if your project is supposed to operate as a business rather than as a hobby.

The two main types of demand

The academic and consultant John Seddon came up the idea that there are different types of demand.

But before we dig into that we need to back up and look at what “work” means to us.

Look at your to-do list – the tasks you’ve got to do.

These tasks are your work – they’re the actionable elements of your day-to-day practice.

But why are those tasks on your list – how did they come into existence in the first place?

The chances are that they’ve been created for one of two reasons – and Seddon calls these value demand and failure demand.

Understanding value demand

The way to make sense of value demand is to think of it as something you or someone else wants doing.

Create a brochure, paint a wall, design an extension.

The person who wants this doing – the prospective customer – is going to get something they want if you do your job right – if you satisfy their value demands.

Now, this is where you have to be careful that you don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you can supply something you’re meeting someone’s value demands.

Sometimes people just don’t want your peanut powered mousetrap.

In fact, they don’t want mousetraps at all – they want a humane way of getting rid of their pest problem.

People change, and that means what they want also changes.

Value demand is not a fixed, unchanging thing – you understand it by understanding what your customers want.

Understanding failure demand

There’s another kind of work that needs doing which results from things going wrong.

Copy being grammatically incorrect, the paint not quite applied right, a wall in the wrong place in your extension.

This is failure demand – fixing things that have gone wrong in the process.

It looks like work but it’s not value adding work – it adds costs for everyone.

The supplier is spending more fixing the problem and the customer is spending more sorting out the problem.

Now what happens if you build a business around failure demand?

It might be a cost recovery service – going after people for things that have gone wrong.

Being an amulance chaser, for example.

Failure demand can be a lucrative business – as long as you aren’t the one creating the failures in the first place.

In that case it can be an expensive mistake.

What you want to do is design your own business to reduce failure demand.

Don’t add controls and checks if things go wrong – fix the things that made them go wrong in the first place.

That frees you up to do more work that meets value demand – what customers wanted all along.

The importance of positioning in controlling demand

What’s clear is that you can build a business around value demand or failure demand – as long as you’re delivering value or fixing someone else’s failures.

Either way, however, what matters is that you can come across the demand in the first place.

And you can only do that if you’re positioned at the place where demand makes itself visible.

We’ll look at that positioning in some more detail in the next post.


Karthik Suresh

How To Define Your Circle Of Competence


Monday, 8.12pm

Sheffield, U.K.

People judge you really quickly, at first just on your facial features. There are two dimensions – warmth and competence. You can think of them as trustworthiness and strength. They’re first judging you on warmth; evaluating whether or not you are trustworthy. That’s much more important to them than whether or not you’re competent. – Amy Cuddy

In the last section we looked at value and how to create it.

In this section we’ll dig a little deeper into the components of value and see how they fit with your own circumstances.

There are a number of things you might look to do when you start a project.

Some of these you’ll be good at, and not so good at others.

When you look at your list you’ll also see that some are essential, core to achieving the outcome you’ve set for yourself, while others are non-core and don’t help you move in the direction you want to go in.

You need different strategies to deal with the resulting combinations of tasks and a good way to focus is to get clear on your circle of competence – helped by the 2×2 matrix in the image above.

Master your core tasks

Peter Drucker once talked about how the two main tasks in any business were marketing and innovation.

And that’s true – these are two core elements that you have to master.

Mastery, in this case, is not just about technical mastery – for example a command of the mechanics of placing an ad in a magazine or creating online ads.

Those are techniques of marketing and while important, they’re not the things that really matter here.

What you have to master is the strategy you’re going to use – the key ideas that you have about how you’re going to innovate and market your business.

For example, if you plan to start a commodity business selling things online then your strategy has to be one where you master the art of selling on the Internet.

Which, in a nutshell, comes down to making sure you give people all the information they need to make a decision when they come across your product.

On the other hand, if you sell a complex consultancy service your marketing needs to be structured around setting up quality conversations with prospects.

It comes down to listening and understand what people need.

In the same manner, innovation with online sales is about making sure that the algorithms favour your content by using the best practices possible.

Innovation with offline sales is about being able to empathise with your prospect – see through their eyes and create what they need.

You shouldn’t ask someone else to take on the job of working out the right strategy to do marketing or innovation in your business.

It’s too important to be delegated – and it must sit with you.

You can get help thinking through the strategy, and help implementing it from technology experts – but you have to take responsibility for the direction of travel, for the strategy itself.

And that means putting aside enough time to work on the task until you master it.

So, the next thing is to work out where you can free up your time.

Automate non-core tasks

There are lots of things you might be capable of doing, even good at doing.

But they aren’t things that are core to your business.

These are tasks like administration, filing, invoicing.

They are hugely important, if you don’t send out invoices you’re not going to get paid.

So, they have to be done – but do they have to be done by you?

The starting point here for most people is to ask whether what they want to do can be automated.

There are lots of online services that help with this particular problem – especially when it comes to sending out invoices.

But, if you’re any good with spreadsheets you can build most of the same functionality for yourself.

In fact, it’s probably a good idea to get good enough at spreadsheets so you can automate most of this kind of work.

You might not be the kind of person that likes to use a spreadsheet – but it’s often a lot easier than having to deal with hiring and managing an individual.

The traditional answer to this kind of space – the stuff you can do but that’s non-core – is to get someone else to do it.

Hire someone, get a contractor.

These days, however, the first thing you should do is figure out whether it can be done by a program.

If it’s not worth you doing, then maybe it’s not worth anyone else doing either.

These costs are overhead costs – they are non-value adding.

That means you spend money to get them done but they don’t make you any more money as a result.

These kinds of costs have a nasty habit of creeping up unless you’re very careful.

An investment in automation is expensive in time up front but it saves you a lot of headaches later on.

Hire in support only when you absolutely have to do it.

But, when it comes to experts – get the best you can find.

Get help when you need it from specialists

If you have settled on a strategy that works for you and made sure that you have the time to work on it by automating the other work you have to do, it’s time to think about your support team.

If you focus on making sure customers can find you through excellent marketing and master the art of innovation – understanding what products and services they really really need – then you will know exactly what work needs to be done.

And if it’s not something you’re the best at doing, get in someone who is.

For example, if you’ve worked out a business development strategy for your consultancy client – then when it comes to implementation make sure you have a great copywriter, graphic designer and online marketing specialist on your team – if those are things you aren’t good at.

You don’t need to have them on your payroll, but make it easy for them to work with you – and pay them well.

You’re better off paying someone a higher rate than they ask for, and insisting on their best work delivered as fast as possible than you are going for the cheapest bid.

You want to partner with people that have integrity, people you can trust.

When you do that you can rely on the job getting done.

And you have to do one last thing to sleep easy at night.

Stop doing everything else

You have to stop doing the things that don’t need to be done – the things that you’re not good at and that aren’t core to your business.

In the beginning you might try lots of things, give yourself lots of tasks.

Say “Yes!” to everything.

But over time you’ll start to get a feel for the things that help you make progress and the things that don’t.

You should never feel guilty about abandoning something that doesn’t work.

If this book isn’t useful stop reading now.

If a marketing approach isn’t working – stop doing it.

Abandoning something is not a sign of failure – it’s a pragmatic assessment of whether something is worth doing or not.

You can always pick up the book later if you find it’s useful.

The key is designing something that works for you

The essential idea of the circle of competence is knowing where it is – where the boundary lies between what you’re good at and what you’re not.

But, when you run a business it’s not as simple as that.

You can’t just lock yourself away and do what you’re good at.

You have to also do what’s good for the business – but you don’t have to do it all yourself.

You can leverage the power of technology and the power of partnerships to expand your circle of competence.

But you still need to know where to stop – the boundary between doing things that are useful and things are not.

The boundary that separates value creating activity from value destroying activity.

Another way of looking at this is through the idea of value demand and failure demand, a concept created by John Seddon.

We’ll look at a template for assessing that tomorrow.


Karthik Suresh

How To Understand The Value You Provide And Under What Terms


Sunday, 8.23pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. – Albert Einstein

As I continue with the Getting Started book project there are a few things that will be different if you’ve been reading these posts for a while.

I’m going to use the images to experiment with graphical organiser templates – the kinds of things you can fill in as you explore an idea, so you might see more images like the one in this post – a framework with some initial ideas as an example.

Each post will also have a more clearly defined goal – something that you can achieve along with a strategy – a play out of a playbook or a beat or a scene that shows you how to do it.

Not all at once, of course, not perfectly – because this is an iterative process as I work through a rough draft.

In this post we’ll look at what you can do with those resources – and where you should focus your time and attention.

The goal is to get a clear understanding of how you personally create value.

The definition of value depends on who is doing the defining

As is so often the case, Warren Buffett has a quote that’s worth starting from to understand the idea of value.

Price is what you pay; value is what you get.

In the last post we looked at understanding the resources you have – the ones that you will have under all circumstances.

The core resources are made up of the training you’ve received, the skills you’ve developed and the tools you control.

Just having these resources does not, however, mean that you’ve created value.

You actually need to create some thing in the first place – a thing from which value emerges.

Let’s say you make a clay pot during your first ever pottery class.

Does it have value?

To an experienced and discerning collector of ceramics your first attempt at creating a pot probably has no value whatsoever – she simply wouldn’t bother to name a price.

But if you’re three and it’s for your mother – then that pot is priceless – its value is infinite.

The cup on my desk that has the footprints and handprints of my once-three year old is not for sale.

Unfortunately, once you grow up, you rarely find people who believe in you quite as much as your mum does.

So you have to start thinking about how other people define value, and it’s probably not in the way you first think.

For example, let’s take three basic resources that most people will have to one extent or another.

Can you read, write and do maths?

Is that valuable?

If a customer is looking for a researcher, a copywriter or a programmer, then it’s likely that you have something that they will value – your ability to digest and understand complex information, your skills at crafting clear and compelling copy and your ability to think logically and create computer programs that work.

This is worth understanding clearly.

Just because you can read something doesn’t mean that you have value.

What matters is whether you can read what someone else needs you to read, understand that material, and produce a research report that is useful to them.

Value emerges from how well you do that task in the eyes of the person who needs you to do it.

What people assume is that value is something they have, something that’s in them that they give you.

The crucial thing to understand is that you have to produce something – you have to bring a thing into existence that you give to the other person – and then value is created only when they think it is.

What you have to get clear in your own mind is what is that thing – what is it that you’re going to produce.

Do you have the resources you need to create value?

To produce anything you need resources like the core ones discussed earlier in this section.

In the same way you want to create value for someone else – these things are of value to you – someone else gave them to you.

Going back to my simple example, you learned to read, write and do maths at school – you were given these skills that are now of value to you.

You may have more items on your list – your art skills, for example or your ability at multiple programming languages.

All these are things you value and they are the resources you can use to create value.

What you have to be clear about is whether you can do these things well – well enough to compete with other people out there.

You don’t need to be the best at what you do – but you do need to be good.

If you aren’t good yet then you’ve got to spend some time getting good before you’re going to be in a position where you can create value.

But that’s something that’s entirely within your control and it comes down to focus and practice.

In my own consulting experience the three skills I’ve put down – reading, writing and maths – have been absolutely fundamental to the work I’ve done for the last twenty years.

And it’s surprising how few people you can hire that can demonstrate a mastery of these three basic skills.

Your field may be different, so you should list at least three things that you have that you value.

Now, let’s see what you can do with them.

Which value creating activities are worth doing?

Some people are lucky – they’re naturally good at lots of things.

You’re rewarded for this at school – being good gets you lots of stickers and good marks and positive report cards.

It’s easy to conclude from the experience of youth that being good at everything matters – and being better at everything than everyone else is the way you get ahead.

But that isn’t the case – what matters is what’s worth doing for you.

Most of us aren’t going to be included in that list of people who are better than everyone else.

We’re going to be rubbish at a lot of things – but there will be some things that we’ve shown we’re good at doing.

I don’t know what that is for you – it probably depends on what you saw grown-ups doing when you were young, the kind of resources you had growing up, the kind of people you hung around.

But there will be something – a thing you’ve got in your head, a skill you’ve got in your hands, resources that you control – that you know you can do, that you’re good at.

If you don’t know this yet – that’s ok, it just means you have to spend some more time learning what those things are by trying out different activities and experimenting to see what you like doing.

It’s the thing you’ve always done – you can’t remember a time when you didn’t do this thing.

If that thing is on your list – it’s time to look at it in some more detail.

There’s a good chance it’s the key to setting yourself apart – because you’ve become better at doing this over time.

There’s really just one thing you need to ask yourself when it comes to deciding how you create value.

How easily can someone else do this thing you do?

This is the crucial question that can often make the difference between your project succeeding or failing.

If you showed a prospect this thing you’ve made will they say, “Well, anyone can do that.”

Or will they say, “Wow, I could never do that.”

Anyone can buy goods from a wholesaler and sell them at a market stall.

Fewer people can design their own art and sell them at a market stall.

Would you be more likely to buy trinkets at a stall or buy artwork straight from the artist in front of you?

Obviously, it depends on you – your definition of value.

All else being equal, however, people are more likely to value what they cannot get from anyone else.

Which is why you need to be clear on who is setting the terms for value creation in your negotiation with a prospect.

Are you setting the terms for the value exchange?

If someone knows what they want done and give you a scope of work then you’re being hired as an employee or as a contractor.

You’re going to do what is needed of you – and the value you bring is in the form of your labour.

You’re exchanging time for money – and that is a perfectly respectable form of value exchange.

If you want to start your own business, however, you have to start setting the terms for the value exchange.

This means that you “propose” the scope of work – you set out what you will do and what the other person will get from you.

You can’t control how they think or react, but if you put something in front of them that you believe is useful to them, and they agree – then you will have created value.

Now it’s about agreeing on a price for the exchange.

Something we’ll address later in this book.

Is this what you really want to do?

By now you should have whittled down your resources to the most valuable – the ones that you can do well and are the hardest for others to do.

But it’s also important that the things you can create with these resources at the things you actually want to spend the rest of your life creating.

Or at least, a very significant portion of your life.

It’s much easier to stay the course if you’re doing something you like doing.

Perhaps you’ve found a niche where you can create value but it’s a tiring, miserable existence.

Maybe you think that’s worth it because when you’ve made your millions you can sit back and do nothing.

That’s up to you.

For the rest of us, life is going to be much more enjoyable if you design it to fit you rather than forcing yourself to fit into someone else’s life.

And you’ll get to the right design when what you value helps you create things that other people value enough to pay you.

This value thing is important and so tomorrow I’m going to look at it again through the lens of the “circle of competence” idea.

Or not – it might be something else, we’ll see.


Karthik Suresh

How To Understand What Resources You Really Have


Saturday, 8.15pm

Sheffield, U.K.

One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control. It’s just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else’s web server, you’re defenceless. You’re putty in the hands of whoever developed that software. – Richard Stallman

As I carry on with this book project, you’ll find related posts on the Getting Started category in the blog.

In the last few posts I covered methods to help you understand your situation better – both in terms of your own strengths and characteristics, and in the nature of the interactions you have with others.

In this post I want to look at resources, because the kind of resources you have and control are going to have a very strong influence on what you can and can’t do.

The resources you have limit what you can do

It’s not enough to believe in yourself, to have faith and will – you need to have the resources required to take action – resources that you can marshal and organise.

For a long time control of resources was all that mattered.

If you owned land or owned a mine – you had a resource you could control and exploit.

And the way you gained control of that resource was by the use of power – the power of force that your ancestors wielded and the power of the law that protects what they gave you.

It’s hard for some people to realise that some of the things they take for granted are actually resources handed down to them over generations.

If you were born in a modern industrialised country you take its huge resources for granted – from the education system to the opportunities for work.

Even in those societies, however, you have injustice – and that injustice can be seen in the resources that disadvantaged people have.

But this book is not about society and the fact that different people have different amounts of resources.

Facts are facts – they exist – and the facts will change as situations change.

What matters, however, is what resources you have right now – because they will limit what you can do with your projects.

What resources do you have that cannot be taken away?

The first thing to evaluate are the resources you have that exist within your body.

What’s in your brain? Did you do a degree in a particular subject or have you learned the social skills needed to work with people effectively?

You might be a trained engineer or you might have spent years working the phones in a call centre.

Both experiences will have given you knowledge – knowledge of how systems work and how people respond – and this is knowledge that cannot be taken away.

You will have also picked up skills along the way, things you can make with your hands.

These two types of resources – knowledge and skills – are the kinds of things you put down on a resume.

And the main thing about these resources is that they travel with you wherever you go.

What resources do you control?

Resources you control are of a different type from those that exist within your body.

When you’re doing a job you’re provided with these – a computer, software, equipment of one kind or another.

It’s possible that your business needs some large equipment, the kind of stuff you need to buy or lease – in which case you’re going to need some kind of capital.

Let’s leave those kinds of resources to one side for a while.

The kind of resources I’m thinking of here are the ones you personally have and can control.

These days that really comes down to hardware and software in a huge range of professions.

And that makes these resources available to many more people – because you have options.

For example, if I were to think about the key resources I use to create the material you’re reading here – what I need is a computer and software.

In particular, I rely on GNU/Linux because it’s free software.

Free as in free speech rather than free beer.

Free as in freedom.

That matters to me, because hardware is cheap these days, you can always get an old computer that still works.

If you’re a poor student from a disadvantaged background – you’ll actually get a lot of proprietary software thrown at you for free.

They want you to be a consumer, after all.

But if you really want to create something that you control then, for the first time in history, you have access to tools that you can control entirely – tools that cannot be taken from you because of the way they’ve been put into the world.

This may not be important to you – after all a tool that you can purchase and use is still a tool you can control.

But it’s important to me – it’s important that I can write these words and publish them without having to ask for permission from anyone else – and host the whole thing on my own computer if I wanted to.

And, of course, if you want to work with others you’re going to need to have tools that you’re both willing to use.

The market will settle those issues.

But the fundamental question that you need to answer is what tools do you have that are under your control – what would you still be able to use if you didn’t have a job tomorrow.

Those tools are precious and you need to take good care of them.

What other resources can you rely on?

There are a number of other resources that you will find are accessible to you.

Many of these are free, like email and social networks, and they give you the ability to work on the same basis as anyone anywhere else in the world.

Except, that’s not entirely true.

You can do that, with hard work and persistence, but when a product is free to use, then you’re the thing they’re selling to others.

You just need to get used to that and learn how to play the game.

There is a cost to everything so it shouldn’t surprise you that you have to pay a price to grow your business.

What you have to do here is make a list of the resources you can access – including the personal relationships you have and the places where you have spent time establishing your reputation.

We’ll come back to these later.

What would you do if you lost a resource?

An important thing to think through is what would you do if you lost a resource.

You’re unlikely to lose your training, but what if you suffered a disability?

How might that change things?

Could you keep working if your eyesight started to fail or if were unable to use your hands because of carpal tunnel syndrome?

This isn’t about being morbid but about facing up to what you would do if things went wrong – and whether you could keep doing what you’ve spent a lot of time working on – even if you have to make some changes.

Do you need more resources?

If you’ve made this first list of resources – what you might call your core resources – what does that tell you?

Do you feel like you have everything you need at the moment?

Or do you need to spend more time learning or more time practising your skills?

One of the things about getting started is knowing when to start.

Starting before you’re ready sounds like a good idea in theory – but really, you still need to have some resources in place.

Quitting your job and starting your market-stall business may seem like a great idea – but you will probably end up spending a lot of your own money learning how to keep your business alive.

Perhaps you should consider spending someone else’s money on training yourself first.

Remember – resources are the things you have right now.

If there are things you still need you should probably first figure out how to get them.

What do you need to do next?

The goal of this step – of analysing your resources – is to understand whether you’re ready or not to take the next step – and what kind of step that should be.

At a bare minimum, you need to know what needs to be done, you should have the skills to do it, and you should have the tools you need to get it done.

If you don’t have these three core requirements ticked off, then you need to spend some time working on that.

If you need training, go and get it.

If you need to develop your skills, practice them.

If you need tools go and buy them or learn how to use free software to get the job done.

All this takes time and money and effort – resources don’t just appear out of thin air.

You have to do the work.

When you’ve made that list of resources – made it as long as possible – it’s time to do the next thing.

Work out which of those are the most important.

We’ll look at that tomorrow.


Karthik Suresh

What Kind Of Animal Are You – And Why You Can’t Be Anything Else?


Friday, 8.04pm

Sheffield, U.K.

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 isn’t.

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.


Karthik Suresh

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