As a young, twenty-something, I had just left a promising career at a major accounting firm in order to pursue the entrepreneurial dream. I thought I was making a career choice. But I was wrong. It quickly became apparent that I had, in fact, made a lifestyle choice.
When I left the accounting firm, nothing about my decision could be confined to the 9-5 hours. My family was impacted; my free time was impacted; and most interestingly, the skills I was learning as an entrepreneur were, in turn, impacting my everyday choices, utterly unrelated to my business.
As an entrepreneur making bold moves, I began to get recruited to strategy sessions for other companies – and even strategic planning retreats at my kids’ school. My transition to entrepreneurship, involvement in strategy sessions for various organizations, and the development of strategic plans for these organizations got me thinking. What if we planned our lives the same way successful entrepreneurs and executives build their businesses? Could entrepreneurial skills help me live my best life? Suddenly, I had a thesis I needed to test.
The Skill Set
For the better part of a decade, I’ve interviewed successful CEOs and budding entrepreneurs regarding the implementation of entrepreneurial skills and strategic planning into their personal lives. The results have enabled me to crowd-source best practices in life.
But what skills are we talking about? I believe there are three broad skill sets that are tremendously useful for helping us proactively manage our personal life:
1. Avoiding the Traps
There are many social and mental traps that drain our batteries and distract us from our key goals. The “immediacy trap,” for instance, causes us to focus on what matters now, at the expense of what matters most. The “busyness trap” leads us to value activity over impact. Successful entrepreneurs learn to cut through the clutter – if we lose focus in our personal lives, we’ll find ourselves on the surefire path to failure, with consequences more dire than closing shop.
2. Establishing Core Principles
To escape these traps we need a set of values, or core principles, that guide the decisions we make, prevent us from defaulting toward a path we don’t want, and refocus us when we’ve detoured. If the traps are habits, dispositions and frames-of-mind that prevent us from building the futures we want, the core principles guide us in making the pivots and course corrections that help us stay aligned with our plan for life.
For example, relentless initiative and disciplined focus help us progress in living our best life. Alignment enables us to sync competing tasks or relationships and re-purpose them toward the pursuit of our overarching goal. Perspective keeps our eye on what we value most when the busyness of the day-to-day creeps in. With all of the noise in our lives, as in business, core principles help us rise above the fray and determine which path to pursue.
3. Employing Tools Deliberately
Finally, we need effective tools that help us transform our principles into executable choices and drive our actions on a daily basis. My family has had much success employing a dream board on the wall of my home office to remind us of what we hope to become, where we hope to go, and who we’d like to meet. Other tools might include reinventing your to-do list, so that it reflects your long-term personal, family, and professional goals, or getting leverage on our time by identifying strategic initiatives to kill two or three birds with one stone.
Ultimately, humans are tool-making creatures. Much of technology entrepreneurship is about creating new (or re-purposing old) innovations that businesses and consumers need to make effective decisions. Putting some of that same inventiveness and ingenuity into the tools and technologies we use to manage our personal lives will go a long way.
Too many of the successful entrepreneurs I know fail to apply the strategic planning skills they used to achieve stellar professional results into their personal lives. But the reality is that the problems we face in life and the problems we face as entrepreneurs look a lot alike. This is why I truly believe entrepreneurial skills are for everyone. After all, entrepreneurship is about pursuing the future opportunities we believe to be most valuable. And certainly we want to pursue worthwhile opportunities in our personal lives; we just need to identify how.
Jack Crawford, Jr. is an EO Sacramento member and founder of Velocity Venture Capital. If you’d like to learn more about his research project, which looks at the ways entrepreneurs apply strategic planning skills to their personal lives, check out the Power Up for Life Facebook page.
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