Shortly before the end of the year, I was talking to Karyn Ruth White and the subject of resolutions came up. “I don’t really make them,” she said. “But I do sit down at the end of the year and write about ten lessons I’ve learned in the previous year.”
Then she added, “I’ve even had a couple of them published.” What began as a personal project, got shared with others.
Great idea, isn’t it?
While it could be argued that every business is informed and influenced by our personal experiences, a great deal of opportunity goes unused by people who fail to see the potential of putting that experience to work for them.
In order to create a profit center that grows out of your own life, there are four essential ingredients that need to be present. They are:
* Value Your Own Experience. Often the things that are easy and effortless for us are overlooked because we assume that what we can do, everyone can do. That’s almost never true.
Our special set of talents, skills and life experiences are a one-of-a-kind package, but we have to recognize why and how that can be valuable to others.
* High Self-awareness. Writer Carolyn See says, “I hope I’m wrong, but I imagine about 90 percent of the human race is snoozing along, just going through the motions.”
Staying awake for the journey is important if we are to find the gold in our lives.
* Generous Spirit. We must be convinced that what we have discovered will make other people’s lives richer, happier, healthier or smoother in some way. Keeping it to ourselves seems, well, selfish.
* Eager to Learn. Starting a business based on personal experience is just the entry point. It’s really an invitation to mastery if we use it to learn, grow and improve.
Personal experience lends itself to all sorts of enterprises. Here are some possibilities:
* Find a Better Way. Doris Drucker, the wife of management guru Peter Drucker, found a new opportunity for herself this way.
She writes, “For years my role as the wife of a professional speaker was to sit in the last row of an auditorium and shout ‘Louder!’ whenever my husband’s voice dropped. I decided that there had to be a better feedback device and if there wasn’t, I was going to invent one. Then I decided, at the age of 80-plus, that I would start a business to sell it.”
Solving a problem or simply finding a more effective way of doing something has been the start of many a successful business.
* Tell Your Story. Benjamin Franklin said we should all write something worth reading or live something worth writing.
Personal experience can be the basis for autobiography and how-to books, of course, but that’s not all. Workshops, seminars and consulting are other ways of making your experience pay.
You need to live it first, however. That may sound like common sense, but at least once a week I’ll get a call or letter like the one I got from a man in Idaho who went on at great length about how confused he was about what business to start, then added a p.s.saying he plans to organize a seminar on Discovering Your Purpose.
* Pay It Forward. A few years ago, Kevin Spacey was in a movie with that title and apparently the message of passing along our good to others took root.
Spacey took a year off from film making to put his energy into a website called Triggerstreet that is creating opportunities for the next generation of screenwriters.
Spacey says he realized that his considerable success was the result of others believing in him before he believed in himself and now he wants to pass that gift along to others.
Your experience could be utilized through teaching or mentoring those coming along behind you too.
If it’s time to plan a new profit center, take a fresh look at your own life. You may be sitting on a gold mine, you know.