Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How to Identify Your Resources

I've just placed the quote below in my "Favorite Quotes" box over there in the sidebar. Read it, and take a moment to let it sink in:
"A strategy is a vision with identified resources. If you haven't identified your resources, you just have a hope that something will happen." -- Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey
OK, so you've read it and really mulled it over, have you? I know it's not particularly sonorous or poetic or catchy, but it is profoundly helpful. I heard McCaffrey say this at a conference I had to attend for work, and out of the fuzz of stuff that just didn't apply to me or my life, this rang out like a bell.

Perhaps you're like me, and you're a person with big dreams, a vision for what you want your life to look like, but that's as far as you get. You stop, because like me, you have no idea where to start. I have spent a tragically large portion of my life in just this paralyzed state, primarily because no one had ever told me that 1) I needed resources to execute a vision, and 2) how to go about identifying the aforementioned resources.

You need not waste any more time paralyzed, because if you have a vision or goal, you will now have a strategy for achieving it.

Here's what you need to do:
  1. Identify your vision or goal in concrete terms. Be specific. So, for example: "I want to open my own business selling widgets by the end of 2008."
  2. Identify your personality resources. You can do this in several ways. Ask people what your strengths and weaknesses are, or create a list yourself, being honest and as objective as possible. Or take a personality test like the kind I wrote about. Figure out what you have going for you and what is working against you before you invest anything or commit to a big decision. This way you can be sure to harness your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses.
  3. Identify your time resources. When do you have the most amount of time to achieve what you want? Afternoons, evenings, mornings, a lunch hour? See that time as a resource instead of just something to kill or get through.
  4. Identify your financial resources. These aren't actually as important as most people think, though it is good to know where you stand. If you have a savings cushion, that helps you feel less fear when you start your business, and if you know you don't have one, but you want one, you can start saving. If you don't have a lot of extra dough lying around, don't worry. There are plenty of ways to convince other people to give you money if your idea is good enough and you're willing to work hard.
  5. Identify your social resources. Make a list of every single person you know who could possibly, even tangentially, help you achieve your vision. Go as far back into the past as you need to, and remember that most people want to help friends or family. If you want to open up a business selling widgets, but you don't know any widget salespeople, first start with anyone you already know who sells something or owns their own business and start asking advice. Then expand your social resources through networking events and friends of friends.
  6. Identify organizational resources. When I started on my quest to become a full-time freelance writer and editor, I had no idea how many organizations, blogs, professional associations and other businesses existed to support freelancers. Seek these out and absorb all the information they have to share. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when so many have gone before, and they have made it relatively painless to learn from them.
  7. Identify educational resources. Perhaps you already have a background in business or writing or beer-making because you majored in this in college, or you worked a job that taught you skills you need in your new venture. Use this knowledge to your advantage! And if you don't have this education, find out where you can get it. There are classes in person and online on almost any conceivable topic. If there aren't, find a person doing what you want to do, and finagle a way for them to share their expertise with you.
  8. Identify role models/mentors in books or in person. As I did my research, I found that people who were very successful had published books on how to do what I wanted to do. Their books and other writings gave me models to emulate and aspire to. These real-life inspirations can do wonders for your morale and faith in yourself.
OK, so now that you've identified your resources, I'm betting you feel a little bit more confident, like your dream is actually doable! This is why you need to know what you have supporting you before you can execute, and why without identified resources, paralysis sets in.

Once you know what you've got going for you, a plan emerges from the fuzziness of the vision, and you can begin to see what steps you need to take.

As we approach the end of the year and the come upon the dreaded Time of Resolutions, begin by identifying your resources first, and then set your resolutions. With a strategy in place, they may actually get done!

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Anonymous said...

"I found that people who were very successful had published books on how to do what I wanted to do. Their books and other writings gave me models to emulate and aspire to."

Hi Tiffany,

Do you think that you could post some more of these books which you've found helpful? I saw the Anti 9 to 5 Guide...Are there any others?


Sarah (K)

Tiffany Hamburger said...

Hi Sarah--
well, of course, it depends on what you want to do. For me, as a writer, I turned to books on writing. Right now, I'm finding the Renegade Writer's series of books helpful--the authors are Linda Formichelli and Diana Burell. Others include writing inspiration books by Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg, and E.M. Forster. But for breaking out of the cube and changing careers, for my money there really is no better guide than the Anti-9-to-5 Guide. If you're curious about other topics, or you can be more specific on what you're interested in, I'll be happy to recommend away! :-)