How to achieve fulfillment and focus in business, life, and transitions

“The Authentic You”…what’s that mean anyway? Many people and businesses struggle with this concept, what it means, and how it can be powerful for them. I continually readdress this in my life and business and find new insight every time I really dig deep into it. What is one way you can find this “authenticity” in your business and life and why is it important? Let’s find out.

Authenticity, as I’d like to explore it, really means that experience and ‘way of being’ that is most in tune with your values, beliefs, experiences, and actions. It is where you feel most at peace and purposeful.  It’s also fulfillment can be found, where focus lies, where energy can be derived, and where your relationships thrive.  This applies to your personal life, the organizations you lead, as well as the business you have built.

Venn

The concept I’d like to explore was popularized in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great and is known there as the Hedgehog Concept.  You can find his exploration of the concept in his book as well as his website.  I’d like to expand on it a bit to really generate it’s potential energy for you.  The concept goes like this: Imagine a Venn diagram of 3 overlapping circles or spheres (representing 3 dimensions of your life or business).  What you’re ultimately looking for is the overlap or intersection between these three areas.  First, the question is “What can you be or are you best in the world at?”.  Second area are the answers to “What are you most passionate about?” and finally third, “What drives your economic engine?”.  In answering all three separately, if the exercise works for you and you have some level of success in business or life, you’ll find common elements across all three areas.  This final common set is what I’d call “the authentic you”, if looked at in your personal life but it is also true for your business as well, which is Collins’ focus.

I’d like to expand on those 3 questions with variants in the following ways:

  1. What can you be or are you best in the world at?
    1. Other Variants
      1. What are your competitive or unfair advantages?
      2. What are your best capabilities or skills?
      3. What is 'ethos' in your life?
        1. Ethos is a term in Greek philosophy popularly explored by Aristotle in Rhetoric. I take this to mean more deeply: your relationships to your community, it's values, extrinsically to you.
  2. What are you most passionate about?
    1. Other Variants
      1. What kinds of activities and work bring you the most energy and excitement?
        1. People sometimes get wrapped up in "passion" and what it means whereas most people could rather easily answer what gives them energy and excitement?
      2. What is 'pathos' in your life?
        1. Aristotle. What is intrinsically, to you, exciting and energizing about your work, activities, relationships, interests, and life in general?
  3. What drives your economic engine?
    1. Other Variants
      1. How best can you serve the world?
      2. What skills/capabilities do you have that are marketable or will people pay you a premium for?
      3. What is 'logos' in your life?
        1. Aristotle did not mean it this precisely but I mean this question to ask "what are those demonstrable, quantifiable, or justifiable value added accomplishments in your life?"

Can you see how asking the question in the variety of ways listed above may come up with different answers or at least produce a broader set of interesting results?  How about “how best can you serve the world?” This question steps outside what could make money and into areas that may be difficult to monetize but nonetheless are important to serving the world and using your talents productively to create value no matter what.  How about mixing in Aristotle’s Rhetoric Pathos, Ethos, and Logos?  I do no justice to these concepts here but I found them an interesting exercise to think about them in the context of authenticity. Perhaps this is what Aristotle really meant in how using these themes in our communications, in the order he suggests (Pathos – emotion, ethos – ethics and why it matters to the receiver, and logos – oh ya, what are the facts behind what I’m saying, or the reality independent of you and us?).

One more degree of expansion on this exercise could be putting yourself in other peoples or stakeholders shoes and ask yourself the same question, and really do your best to truly take on this ‘others’ perspective.  In your personal life, what would your spouse say? Best Friend? Mom/Dad? Children? Neighbor?  From a business perspective, what would a superior say? What about a subordinate? A competitor? Business Partner? Mentor? Co-worker? Taking on these perspectives in a really meaningful and authentic way is a mind expanding exercise in and of itself but finding more depth/breadth here could prove really valuable. The obvious next step would be to actually ask these stakeholders what they’d say in their own words (would you share the words/thoughts you come up with for them?).

I believe this exercise is very powerful at any time but none more so as when we seek a transition or transformation in our lives.  If we’re not in touch with these authentic ‘way’s of being’ in our life and businesses the path to valuable and successful transitions can be fraught with mis-steps, mis-alignments, lack of fulfillment, or many other hazards.  I challenge my readers to write down answers to these questions and share with others, it could be an enlightening experience and keep giving extended value into the future for having done so!

David Prestin