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There was a time in my life when, determined to start and get out of the rat race, I met with my friends once a week and attended networking groups looking for the answer to a simple question: “Where is a good deal?”. In this process I had a partner: my friend Arturo, who was more or less along the same lines. We went from one place to another looking for a business.
Other times, like many, I would approach my friends or acquaintances who already had some success or whose business was growing. “Look at that” -he said to Arturo- “Pepe is doing well. There is the business, there is the money ”. And “The Business” could be literally anything: Selling houses, selling cars, selling gum, selling furniture, cleaning offices.
Then we analyzed them to “make a decision”, with words and phrases that we had learned in business courses. We asked “What is the Return on Investment of this business?” or “What type of platform do you require?” or “What can we learn from the Benchmark?” We were businessmen without businesses, without products, without customers and, of course, without money.
Not because we didn’t try, of course. During that decade we started or tried to start -some together, some separately- several businesses that failed: an “everything for the same price” store, a chain of vending machines, an app developer, a chair importer, a sandwich shop and even a worm farm! There was everything, but we just couldn’t find “the business”.
What were we doing wrong?
“All businesses are good businesses. But not all of them are for you ”.
This story is far from unique. It happens to thousands of young people and adults all over the world, every day of the week: after taking a business course or seminar, they decide they want to start a business. Then they “look for a business” among their friends or acquaintances, or with the same people who – coincidentally – already sold them the seminar.
If you go down the street, almost all the businesses you come across are viable businesses. That hardware store, that bakery, the painting on the poles and the spectacular signs. Everything is business. They are all good deals, but not all of them are for you.
Some are undoubtedly “better” businesses in strictly financial terms. Some have more profits, more sales or better returns. But beware! This is not the only parameter to choose a business to undertake. It is not even the most important. ROI is a great parameter to invest, but not to undertake. When it comes to undertaking, you have to start your search elsewhere.
And you already have that part. In fact, only YOU have it. There are thousands or millions of different businesses; But there is only one person with your DNA, your name and your surname, and that person is you. We are all unique in many ways and, above all, we are all born with a power that distinguishes us from others: that power is called TALENT.
PART ONE: THE TALENT
Talent is the first step to undertake. It is the set of abilities and natural powers that we are born with. Talent is a gift that is given to us, it is not up to us to have it; but it does depend on us to grow it, strengthen it and put it to work.
You have a particular skill set. Think what things are easier for you than for other people? What things come naturally to you? What subjects were easier for you in school? What things do other people say about you? Maybe your talent is numbers, maybe words, maybe relationships, maybe drawing, maybe sports.
We all have a talent. We may have more than one talent. But nobody, absolutely nobody, has all the talents. Talent is part of who we are . And if we choose a business or career aligned with our talent, then it will be much easier for us to find success there, stand out, sell, and grow.
Some people will tell you that “perseverance is more important than talent.” But they are wrong. If you’re not talented, it doesn’t matter how much perseverance you put in – you can never be the best. You might be “acceptable” or “sufficient”, but never the best. In clear terms:
- Talent without perseverance = Waste.
- Perseverance without talent = Mediocre.
- Talent and perseverance = Real advantage.
Therefore, the first step in starting a business or choosing a career is to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, What am I? What are my natural talents? – It can be anything. All talents can be turned into a business: artistic, sports, scientific, manual, mental, and social. There is money everywhere for those who know how to put themselves in their ideal place, in their element .
STEP TWO: FIND YOUR ELEMENT
Another common conception when looking for a business is “do what you love” or “follow your passion” or some variant of this concept because, they say, if you do what you love, you will never have to work, do you agree?
Following your passion is important when choosing a business, but it is not the most important thing. The first thing, as we saw, is to find your Talent. Once you have defined what your talents are, the next step is to follow your passion and place yourself in your element, that is, place yourself like a fish in water, in the best possible place to enhance your nature and your personality. A passion is something that you can do for many hours, without getting tired, without getting bored, and that you would do even if you were not paid. It is something that you enjoy, that you love and that makes time go by without realizing it.
“Your element” – says Ken Robinson – “is the place where your talents and your passions meet.” Following only your passion can be a risky game, played by millions to poor results. “My dream is to sing,” says someone, but if you don’t have the vocal cords – a natural talent – then it doesn’t matter how much you “love” to sing. You will never go beyond being a common singer: there is not your career, nor your business, nor your mission.
Does it seem cruel to you? It is not. It is only realistic. If your dream is to be a footballer or a basketball player, the dream will be of little use if, like me, you have two left feet. Talentless passion leads nowhere and can become an inexhaustible source of frustration and defeat. So I repeat: do not seek business in what you love . Look for business in your element , which is the place where your talents and passions meet.
The same thing happens the other way around. Following a talent without the necessary passion to do it day and night, with perseverance and resilience, soon results in an abandoned career. In clear terms:
- Talent without passion: Boring job or failed business.
- Passion without talent: A great hobby. Is it fair!
- Talent and passion: Your element. It is the place where you can grow.
Looking for a business? Do not do it. Find YOUR business. The business where you can stand out – because of your talent – and what you can do even when things get difficult – because of your passion. Now yes: persevere.
STEP THREE: SOMEONE WANT IT
For many years I have moved in certain artistic circles, among writers, poets, theater actors and musicians. Many of them resent the fact that there is “no market” for their talents, and that they fail to achieve a standard of living. They eventually end up leaving their element and taking a job in order to support themselves. They have missed a great opportunity.
In many cases, the problem is not that they are not in their element, they are: they love their art and are good at it. But still they can’t take off, what is happening?
The third step is key, because it is a necessary condition for any business, and it is something that everyone can learn if they set their mind to it, but that many leave aside. The third step is to find a market for what you do in your element. And believe me: there is a market for everything, and even more so in such an interconnected world. I know successful artists as well as successful lawyers; and successful philosophers as well as successful salespeople. Before leaving your element, stop and ask yourself, is there really no one who shares my talents and passions and who, at the same time, is successful in business?
As Seth Godin states in his latest book Linchpins (Essentials), just because you learn to sell does not mean that you are losing your essence. Finding your market may mean transforming your product, searching for platforms, changing continents, or rethinking your entire career. The world won’t magically reward you for doing what you love to do – that’s why there are artists and inventors and failed athletes. You need to do what few want to do: design your element as a business and not just as a hobby .
This involves parts that may seem “boring.” Make a plan, budget, hire people, promote, have an accountant, pay taxes. This is where many stop, because they just don’t want all of these problems. They want a business that is fun 100% of the time, but that doesn’t exist. In clear terms:
- No market element = Frustration and abandonment.
- Market without element = Nonsense and drift.
- Element with market = Your ideal business.
THE ORDER OF THE FACTORS DOES AFFECT THE PRODUCT
It is these three elements, and in that order! The ones I recommend you take into account when looking for a job, a career or a business. Money is everywhere, but first you must know who you are and what you want. Finally, find the tools to offer a value that the market recognizes as useful.
Your unique mix of talent and passion accommodates dozens of different businesses. Before considering a definitive business, write down the list of 10 or 15 things that fit in your element. If you are a painter, for example, your business may be illustrating books, teaching others, setting up a gallery, or inventing a painting system for children. Don’t close to the first option, or the obvious option, or what everyone does! Think outside the box and come up with ways to live in your element and build business. Don’t settle for less.
The sum of the three steps mentioned results in a successful business. If we put it in mathematical terms:
Or, if you prefer, in graphic terms:
The three steps, and in that order, are necessary to find your ideal business. I’m sure you can do it. For now, stop looking for “a business”! and, instead, discover YOUR business, the one where you will find an exciting life, you will help others, you will get paid well for it and it will give a totally different meaning to your life than just looking for the next check.
On the contrary, once you have found your ideal business, you can put it at the service of other people and causes. Money is necessary, but it is not the end goal of our life. Find your element, make it business and help others. It’s a different way of thinking about success, don’t you think?
Now look for it and if you find it let me know! I will be very happy to hear from you.