He is a dyslexic.
He dropped out of school at 16. He started a student magazine. No, he didn’t know anything about the print business. He then started a mail-order record company to run the magazine. From there, he went on to open a record shop and then a recording studio. Today, he has 200 companies in more than 30 countries. You can bet that Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson didn’t know too much or have the skillsets to run all the companies by himself.
You would win the bet. His secret? Probably, it can be summed up in one of his favorite sayings – “Screw it – just do it!”
That’s a mantra we could all use. Our limitations become our fears. Our fears stop us at the hurdles. But did you ever notice that “hurdle” is a noun as well as a verb? Here are seven tips to turn it and jump over your limitations.
Go With Your Strengths
On a collaborative project, your weaknesses will be blotted out by someone else’s strengths. Your strengths will compensate for someone else’s weakness. If you are going at it alone, you can only build something new from a position of strength. With limited means, focusing on your weaknesses will not only waste time, but the lack of motivation will probably sap your energy.
The secret is to find your strengths and align them with what you are trying to create. Even a Larry Page needed a Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt to grow Google.
Finding your strengths can be more intuitive especially if you are trying to uncover hidden professional skills. Ask your colleagues. Distill feedback and see what you are being praised for. Your work and the work you enjoy most is a hailing horn for your strengths.
Going with your strengths doesn’t mean that you forget about your weaknesses and stop improving. It means that you lead with your strengths and allow experience and time to improve your skills in other areas.
Get A Different Perspective
Fear before starting something new is common to all of us. What sets one apart is the perspective we bring to it. A simple way to change your perspective over a project is to look at it with different eyeballs. This exercise also helps with creativity and imagination.
If you are a creative, go for creative meetups. Arranging meetups is easy with social media and online avenues like Meetups and CircleMe. Akshata talked about the value of listening to the right people when trying to build confidence and start your own business.
Twitter is also a great tool to search for mentors in your area of interest. Mentors and people with the right advice can show you workarounds and collaborative opportunities that could compensate for your lack of skills. This leads us to the next point.
Find The Next Best Thing
Look for alternate solutions and work around the limiting problems. If problems are common, solutions can be too. Finding the next best thing on the Web is easy. You can post a query on Quora or ask Reddit.
Let’s apply this thought to my love for blogging. To take it forward, starting a professional WordPress blog takes serious commitment. I am limited by my lack of coding skills and also by time. Searching the Web, asking my colleagues and the community gives me several solutions – I can use any of the alternate blogging tools available today. I finally chose Squarespace which helps me balance all the requirements I need for a blog and vault over the lack of blog management skills.
If you feel limited by your design skills, search for design templates and work on them. If you feel limited by your coding skills but want to contribute to the Open Source movement, you can still volunteer. The point is – there’s always the next best thing with which you can at least take the first step.
Build The Girders
Henri Cartier-Bresson once said – “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” But if you want to learn photography, you have to click them. To build a blog, you have to write that first post, then the second one, and then the third. Only you mother might read them, but that is all about “building the girders” before the project takes shape. Every personal project will have a core area where you can apply your limited skills. The stage will come when those skills won’t be enough anymore, but till then you have to continue and build.
We are in a startup culture. You can apply the same philosophies to your personal project. Fear to start something and fail at it is common trait of every entrepreneur. Persistence is another. Follow insightful startup stories on places like Entrepreneur.com, Foundora, Does What, and Your Story (India specific). And yes, successful entrepreneurs discuss their skill hurdles and how they overcame them.
Go On A Learning Binge
Learning closes the skills gap and helps you cross the bridge towards your goals.
Attend workshops, meetups, conferences. You could advertise online and try a “skill swap” i.e. teaching someone something you know while learning from them in exchange. Volunteering to work for free hides many learning opportunities. The Web is filled with elearning short courses. Try these educational search engines to pick the needles from the haystacks. Keep learning.
Create A “Done” List
When you are flailing at the windmills with a limited skill set, celebrating every small victory is a positive dose. There is some merit in the idea of a Done List versus a blah To-Do list. Or you could turn a stodgy to-do list into a Do – Doing – Done list. You can turn any to-do app that allows you to customize your lists into a “Done” list. Or just open a Word / Google document and create your own. I personally use Trello which is a simple but powerful productivity management system available for free. You can also look into iDoneThis which is free for personal use.
“Done” lists are energizing scorecards as it is a running diary of your big wins over small obstacles.
The Bannister Effect
Let me sum up this post with this common idea from motivational psychology. Before Roger Bannister came along, the 4-minute mile was thought to be an impossibility. He broke the record (it stood for only 46 days)and since then many have crashed through that “unbreakable” record.
Many allude to it as a result of positive thinking, but it came about because of minute planning, hard work, and focused training. It also came with determination after his failure in the 1952 Olympics. He wasn’t the best runner of his time. He used the one unique skill he had to finetune his running – his medical training.
We only have to clear the weeds in our minds with some of the same attitude. Step up to the starting blocks, run, stumble, and leap over the hurdles. Come back and tell us your unique take on how to overcome limited skills with the can-do spirit.