What you think about yourself… and what everyone else thinks

Alex Shye’s post on internal and external mirrors got me thinking about an awesome exercise I learned about a year ago. Reid Hoffman’s book the Startup of You never seemed to take off like I thought it would. I bought it and I really liked it.

I’ve been selling professionally for a long time (relative to the length of my career). Something I’ve always felt was tough is/was selling myself. The question “What makes me special etc etc?”┬áis a difficult one to answer. It’s not for lack of confidence or desire. It just never seemed as easy as selling a product.

Anyways, the Startup of You takes on this challenge in the first chapter of the book. They layout three elements for you to consider when defining your competitive advantage, just like you would for a normal startup.

Assets – This is an inventory of what you currently have. Hard assets being the money in your pocket and other physical posessions. Soft assets being your traits and skills.

Aspirations – Your core values, wishes, ideas, goals, and all that jazz.

Market Realities – This is the tough one. Where do you stand in the market? If the market doesn’t need what you’re selling… well shit.

While I found this to be insightful and it got me a long way in better defining how to sell myself, my favorite exercise was at the end of the chapter. The reason I think this exercise is so great is because it makes you examine yourself, and then you have others tell you what they think about you as well. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Start by writing down your assets as you see them.
  2. After you’ve done that, pick some people in your network that you’ve worked with and that know you well.
  3. Ask them about your soft assets. Specifically, what do they see as your greatest strengths? If they had to come to you for help/advice, what would it be for?

What really surpised me about the exercise was that 3 or so people indicated that they thought my memory was a big asset for me. “I remember stuff about people” was not on the list I wrote down. So the fun really starts when you get interesting answers. You’re able to measure how you are perceived to those that have worked closely with you. Additionally, you’re about to get a ton of compliments and it feels good no matter how forced it is.

If this sounds interesting to you at all, you should read the book. It’s a very quick read and really helpful.
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