Focus on Your Dream

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We'd all love to make a fabulous living doing what we love to do. And often it's really possible.

Yet, I was speaking with someone who wanted to make a living as an artist. This isn't any particular person, because I've had this conversation with folks numerous times. And, it's not always about art. Sometimes it's about coaching. Sometimes it's about cooking. Sometimes it's about walking dogs.

They spoke to me at length about how much they loved doing art, and how it fed their soul, and how important it was to their well-being. Very inspiring stuff, and it felt great. But, when I asked them, "How do you want to help other people with your artwork?" they couldn't answer me.

"It's art! It exists for its own sake. It should have value in and of itself."

This person was right. Art does exist for its own sake. And it does have value in and of itself. But, there is a difference between doing something purely to please yourself, and doing something with a consciousness that you are giving and serving others.

While there are many reasons to start a business, there is only one essential reason that allows it to thrive: helping people with some challenge they are facing. Income in a business only comes from customers. While funding may come from loans, or angel investors, or venture capitalists, eventually the allowance runs dry, as we saw in the 1990's with the dot-com bust.

Customers only buy when you are helping them with their needs and challenges.

We humans are complex creatures, with many needs and desires that have to be met in order to have a fulfilling life. I'm aware right now of my needs for creativity, truth, fun, adventure, love, intimacy, friendship, community, provision, food, shelter and heat (it's winter!), contribution, spiritual connection- I could go on and on.

When you're self-employed, especially when you are in the resource intensive phase of a start-up, it often seems that your business encompasses your whole life. And, this can lead you down a treacherous path of trying to get all of your needs met through your business.

If you try to take care of these kinds of personal needs only through your business, you will probably sink it, because you might unconsciously make decisions to soothe yourself, rather than really serve your business and your customers.

But, if you don't take care of these very legitimate needs at all, you will be performing a slow form of suicide.

Are you trying to make a business out of a personal need that has nothing to do with your desire to contribute to other's well-being? Are you neglecting your personal needs and killing yourself, your business, and your family?

Keys to Living the Dream

? If you truly want to make it a business, then you'll want to focus on these four things:

1. Get crystal clear on the problem you want to solve, and what it's really like for those who are facing the problem, and apply your creativity in providing a solution.
2. More than just the solution, how will you deliver the solution so that it can be most easily accessed and used by your customers?
3. More than providing and delivering the solution, how will you reach those people so they know the solution exists?
4. More than reaching the people, and providing and delivering the solution, what does your business itself need so that it can continue to do, and improve upon, the first three, so more and more people get help?

? If you aren't sparked by any of those four things around an activity, you may have something that you prefer to keep as a hobby.

1. A hobby doesn't necessarily solve problems for others.
2. It's primarily for you and your enjoyment and growth.
3. It's less important whether you reach other people, unless you want the social aspect.

Although enjoyment, self-growth, education, and socializing can and should be met through business, the primary enlivening influence in a business is one of service and contribution. And, if you are having trouble sticking with the four business focuses, try this Action Step:

? Identify your needs. Especially ones that aren't being met.

Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication, lists many, many universal human needs. The Center for Nonviolent Communication has a list of needs here: http://www.cnvc.org/needs.htm.

If you can scan through the list and identify any particularly strong needs you have that aren't being met, you'll have a clue as to where you might be unconsciously trying to use your business to soothe yourself.

Example: I have a need for creativity, and one way I love to meet that need is in cooking. A day in the kitchen really does it for me. But, I decided long ago that I didn't want to be a professional chef, and instead treat it as recreation. Very satisfying. When I'm feeling that particular urge for creativity, I don't try to make my business do back flips, I just take some time off, and spend it in the kitchen. Bon apetit!

Once you begin to meet those unmet needs, look back at the four business focuses, and unleash your creativity. Your business just may end up as a very useful, and thus valuable, work of art.
Entrepreneurship
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