The Plot Thickens
Posted By: Ali Anderson
I have no earthly idea how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop. It’s certainly worth knowing because at some point in my Trivial Pursuit-playing future, I’m sure to take the game-winning pie slice with the answer to that mystery. It’s just that there are so many variables involved. Like tongue surface area; am I licking the Tootsie Roll Pop or is Gene Simmons? Or how about technique; are we talking about vertical licks or some kind of swirly, involves-a-lot-of-spit technique? It’s a conundrum that has confounded me since childhood.
That’s kind of how I felt about Karen Buckley’s business exercise this week. It was a gigantic Tootsie Roll Pop that I kept licking and licking. And then slobbering all over. Karen asked us to examine our outer business identity in connection with our inner business identity to see where there was alignment and conflict. All that licking was exhausting, but I finally got to that chewy, chocolaty center and I found something unexpected; I can learn a lot by comparing how others see me with how I see myself.
But before I continue, I need you all to promise you won’t run screaming for the hills like I just made you listen to an American Idol medley. This week I resorted to – wait for it…graphs. I needed a way to visualize these competing identities.
I hear crickets. Anyone still there? Let’s dig in and take it a step further.
Considering my photography talent and business skills, I perceive myself on the middle of the spectrum between okay and great. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into my craft, but let’s face it: I’m still new. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s a reality. Opposite to that, I perceive others see my talent on the spectrum as slightly better than okay, but I still have a ways to go. Now stay with me while I plot myself on a graph. When you put those two perceptions together, I fall right about here:
OK, good. So if I want to be successful in the photography business, I want to be consistently moving towards that upper right hand corner of the graph where I’m confident in my talent and other people are too. But how do I improve? There’s a graph for that.
Hey you. In the back of the class. If you’re still awake, here’s the way I see it:
- If you fall in the bottom right corner, you need to Market Yourself: You think you’re great, but no one knows it, so you need to get your brand out there. Entire blogs are devoted to this kind of thing; one of my go-to blogs is Jeff Jochum’s Startup-Strategy.com.
- If you fall in the top left corner, you need to Improve Yourself: Everyone else thinks you’re great, but you have some confidence issues, so you need to work on improving your skills. Shoot, take classes, shoot and might I be so bold as to suggest getting yourself to the nearest CONFIDENCE workshop? And you should also get out there and shoot.
- If you fall in the bottom left corner, you need to Rethink Yourself: This is a tough one. This doesn’t mean you quit. This means it takes a lot of work, commitment and reflection about what your talents are and where you can do the most good with them.
- Realize Yourself: This is where you want to be; inner and outer identities reconciled. Living in this quadrant seems perfectly unattainable, but having it there gets you pointed in the right direction.
So I thought about what I need to do to move myself to where I want to be in the upper corner. I decided I would do two things to market myself and one thing to improve my talent.
- First, my chiropractor has been asking me to hang some work in her office for months: stop procrastinating, Ali.
- Second, I have a business, but no business cards to hand out. I’ll hand out at least twelve in the next month.
- And third, I am going to take the night photography course I’ve been wanting to take for months now. And an added bonus – no one in the class will refer to me as, “Hey, Mom”.
When I start putting action into my ideas, my graph starts to look a little less like an algebra quiz and more like something I can actually use.
I’m certain there are so many other ways to evaluate your place in life and in business. But when I was trying to reconcile my inner identity with my outer identity, thinking of it like this actually made sense to me. If it makes sense to you, feel free to print the chart, make any modifications to improve it and see where you are. If it seems completely useless to you, go ahead and print the chart anyway and you can put my head on it for your next game of darts.
Either way, leave me a comment and let me know where you are on the chart. I really want to know!
And personally, when I need a little added motivation, I just use this chart instead: