Sunday, October 16, 2011

Penelope Trunk gives wake-up call

I’ve fell for the promises “Find Your Passion,” “Get Unstuck,” “Follow your Bliss” all in five easy steps. Unfortunately, I’ve read the books, performed the exercises (well sort of) and attended the conferences. Where did they get me? Right back to where I started - stuck. That is until I listened to the interview Steven Roy had with Penelope Trunk. I learned more about goal setting in this one interview than with all the books and conferences combined.

Steven Roy is a 40-year old blogger who feels trapped in his day job. He hates working for someone else and wants to have his own business preferably something online. His goal is to be able to spend more time with his two young daughters. He writes the blog Ending the Grind and occasionally posts podcasts of his interviews with other bloggers.

Penelope Trunk is the author of the book Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success and writes at the Penelope Trunk Blog. It was in her post how to know what to look for that she linked to her interview with Steven.

At first Penelope’s response to Steven’s lack of any real goal seemed a bit brazen. Then I read some of her old blog posts on goal setting. The questions she asked Steven were nothing new. She has given advice on how to set goals and how to know ourselves over and over again. She became frustrated with Steven's lack of insight into how he wanted to live his life. For me the success of the interview is hearing a real life example of what you need to do and the questions you need to ask yourself to define your goals.

Penelope points out these are not goals:
Doing whatever it takes
To be home to spend time with your children. (This is the end result of a goal)
Building a blog readership (Not a good way to make money)
To be independently wealthy (This is for 5th graders)

To start with you have to be honest with your self and know where your strongest skills are.

Know your Myers Briggs score:
You can take the test for free here and here.
Since I get a different Myers Briggs result with each new test I take, I prefer the StrengthsFinder 2.0 though you do need to purchase Tom Rath's book StrengthsFinder 2.0 to take the assessment (you need the access key provided in the book).

Determine if you are inwardly or outwardly motivated:
According to Wikipedia:
Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on any external pressure.

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of the individual. Common extrinsic motivations are rewards like money and grades, coercion and threat of punishment. Competition is in general extrinsic because it encourages the performer to win and beat others, not to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the activity.

Why is this important for Steve? Externally motivated people are not particularly good bloggers.

Determine what you want to do with your days:
Everyone has to work eight hours a day. If you have a family to support, you have to work eight hours a day. What do you want to do with your time? Talk to people, market, write? How can you make those eight hours good?

To determine what you want to do look at someone’s life:
Don’t look for a career look for a life. There is no way to know what career you’d be happy in without doing it. Look at people’s life. How can you do what they do to have their life? A business and a life go hand in hand.

When you own your own business you are actually trading employers for clients. Clients can be much more demanding than an employer. If you lose a big client you can be out of business.  Think about all the time spent marketing new clients; most entrepreneurs work many more hours than eight hours a day. Is this the life you want?

How much risk can you handle:
Steve has a family and a wife who stays home with the kids.  If he quits his day job he will no longer have employer sponsored medical insurance, sick days, holiday pay or vacation time. He will be responsible for self employment tax and paying quarterly income tax estimates. I have heard that before you quit your day job your side business should be generating double your current salary.  Plus, remember half of all businesses fail within the first four years. I have known business owners who have mortgaged their homes, drained their 401(k) accounts and charged up their credit cards to start a business that eventually failed.

Learn about yourself by looking at your actions:
Penelope thinks Steve likes his job, if he didn't like it he would change it right now.  This one really hit home with me.  I talk about changing careers and quitting my day job all the time, but I never do anything about it.  Why? I like certain aspects of my day job more than the thought of changing jobs or careers.  I've hated my job in the past and have done whatever it took to find a new job. I think Steve's situation is similar, if he really hated his job he would move in with his in-laws and quit his job right now.

Lastly, Penelope gave advice on how to be a successful blogger:
Nobody wants to know how great you are. To be successful you need to add value to people’s lives. People want to watch you change.  People want to watch how others live their life and learn from it. Don't spend time on a blog if you don't know why you are writing it.

Writing a blog is a lousy way to make money:
Penelope wrote for free for seven years before she was able to make enough money to support her family.  A better way to make money online is to have a great landing page and understand Google. All the markets are search driven right now.  Use adWords and adsense; sell something to people that is under-monetized.

After listening to the interview this is what I think Steven should do:
I couldn't help but think of all those hours he spends working on his blog; his goal is to spend more time with his daughters. Why doesn't he use this time to be with them? His gripes are that he is not able to walk them to the bus stop in the morning or take time off to attend their activities. It sounds to me like he needs a job that is flexible.  Once he determines how he wants to spend his days - talking to people, marketing, or writing, he should seek out people who do this type of work with a flexible schedule. Then determine how to do what they do. He could use his blog to brainstorm his ideas and to network.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Discovering my strengths
How to pull yourself out of a slump
Who are you meant to be?

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