â€œLife’s too short to hang out with people who aren’t resourceful.â€
There is one common trait that all successful entrepreneurs share and itâ€™s probably not what you think. No, itâ€™s not a winning smile or an outgoing personality. (Although that certainly has helped me. Wink wink.) Itâ€™s not even a background in business, sales, or marketing. Itâ€™s resourcefulness. All of the successful solopreneurs and small business owners I know are also some of the most resource-savvy people I know.
It breaks my heart to see new entrepreneurs flounder and fail when setting up their businessesâ€”missing out on opportunities, struggling with confidence, and taking class after class to try and fill in perceived gaps of knowledge from other subject matter experts. Donâ€™t get me wrong: Itâ€™s not that there isnâ€™t a lot to be gained from experts on subjects with which we arenâ€™t familiar.Â But when we take such classes from a place of perceived helplessness, they are merely compounding the problem. We forget our inherent ability and the biological imperative we all share not only to survive in this world, but also to thrive.Â And how do we do that? Well, we learn how to use our resources, people.
How to Be Resourceful
Remember when you were a kid and youâ€™d ask, â€œwhy? why? why?â€ a thousand times, why? (And your mother would sigh deeply, roll her eyes, and then tell you to go look it up. Or was that just my mom?) Well that gift will serve you well, my friend, even as an adult. My insatiable curiosity has driven me to embrace a child-like interest in the world around me and to seek the answers to the questions of my life like a bear searches for sweet, sweet honey. Whether itâ€™s why an aardvark looks so flippinâ€™ weird or how to become a baby panda handler, Iâ€™ve used the Five Ws + H (Who, What, When, Where, Why + How) I learned in grade school to help me figure out the answers to all of lifeâ€™s Googlable questions.
Speaking of Google…
â€œSearch Engineâ€ it.
I remember when I discovered the internet and opened Mosaic (an ancient web browser, if such a thing exists) for the first time. The World Wide Web!? A giant database of knowledge zooming around the world in a series of tubes? Sign me up!Â Â Back in the day, when I would spend hours searching the internet on a wide array of topics, the search results were spotty and it was much harder to find appropriately topical information. But then, God created Google. (and on the 7th day? We searched.)Â The truth is that internet search engines are your friend. Hell, be it email, in-app help documents, or a good old fashioned encyclopedia, search functionality in general is your friend!
Iâ€™m always floored by how many simple, easily searchable questions I have been asked throughout my career and how, as a result of my own curiosity and passion for information, people think I know everything. I mean, Iâ€™m smart and have a knack for retaining even the most banal celebrity trivia (Harrison Ford used to be a carpenter!), but most of the time when someone asks a question I donâ€™t know the answer to? I just look it up. And voila! Iâ€™m a â€œgeniusâ€ who â€œrocksâ€. Yeah, thatâ€™s right, Mick Jagger: reference librarians and I are the rockstars now.
Spoiler Alert: Soylent Green is People!
(or â€œThe Benefits of Targeted Crowdsourcingâ€)
What I really mean is that all the information of the worldâ€”from the very first cave painting to the Encylopedia Britannicaâ€”was compiled by other humans. Thatâ€™s right: there are other people in the world whose sole job is to gather and record information for the people of the world. Besides search engines, Iâ€™ve found that sometimes I can ask my social network (such as Facebook or Twitter) to help connect me with targeted ideas and information when the internet canâ€™t.Â From locating a good web designer to getting an opinion on whether I should wear taupe or black pantyhose (â€œYou shouldnâ€™t wear pantyhose because this isnâ€™t 1993.â€), targeted crowdsourcing can be the best way to find a well-qualified answer (and a few wise-ass comments that are sure to amuse or annoy) from your network of friends. Whatâ€™s great about targeted crowdsourcing is that while sometimes itâ€™s a crapshoot on whether you get a good answer or not, the information you do receive is from people you generally know and trust and whoâ€™ve done the hard work of narrowing and pre-qualifying the information youâ€™re looking for before you! That means their mistake doesnâ€™t have to be your mistake and what could potentially be an overwhelming search on a popular subjectâ€”like web designers or when did they bring back the Lâ€™Eggs Egg packagingâ€” can be narrowed down relatively quickly based on a smaller source of trusted individuals.
Cultivate Relationships with Connectors and Mavens.Â
Speaking of a network of friendsâ€¦
In Malcolm Gladwellâ€™s book, â€œThe Tipping Point,â€ he references three types of people that help create a social â€œepidemicâ€â€”The Connector, The Maven, or The Salesperson. Whether itâ€™s a viral video or the utterly incomprehensible popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, these people are critical to getting information and ideas out into the world in a big way. Mavens are collectors of information, usually on a particular topic or in a certain field, while Connectors have wide social networks and LOVE using them. The reason targeted crowdsourcing (above) works is because itâ€™s a social network that helps connect you with some serious connoisseurs of information (aka Mavens).
But youâ€™ll notice this particular section is about cultivating relationships with Connectors and Mavens, and that is the key point here: When it comes to your invaluable resources, youâ€™ve got to give a little before you take a little (or in some cases, a lot).
Hereâ€™s an example of what I mean: As the â€œPaul Revereâ€ of my online community (i.e., a Connector/Maven), I get a lot of people who ask me a lot of questions. I get â€œtaggedâ€ (on Facebook) more than a New York subway train in the 1980s. I also get direct messages and emails from random individuals wanting (publicly available or easily accessible) information from me directly.
I donâ€™t mean to sound bitter. I really donâ€™t. The simple truth is I love helping connect people with awesome ideas and information. But I am so much more inclined to help someone with whom I have a relationshipâ€”someone who takes time to be interested and engaged in my life and cultivates a relationship with me because they care about meâ€”not just my value as an information receptacle. If I wanted to be solely in the business of handing out information, I would have taken a job as a Public Information Officer. (Google it.)
Remember, when it comes to your favorite Connectors and Mavens, a little thoughtfulness goes a long way.
Complement yourself (by hiring or partnering with great people.)
Of course, some of us just arenâ€™t naturally resourceful and thatâ€™s okay, as long as you know your strengths and find ways to complement your own approach to life and business with people who are inclined to â€œGoogle it.â€
Remember, when it comes to your business, â€œresourcesâ€ can include money, equipment, AND people, so if you know that you arenâ€™t always the most creatively enterprising spirit, hire or partner with great people who areâ€”such as Connectors, Mavens, Fact Finders/Researchers, or Follow-throughs. Perhaps you have a natural proclivity towards kicking things off and can partner with someone who is better at following through to conclusion. Or maybe youâ€™re a really great Salesperson, but need someone whoâ€™s an awesome Connector to grow your network. The right complementary working relationships can take your business from bummer to boffo! The key, though, is to have an agreement in place before you end up burning bridges instead of building helpful relationships.
â€œI Donâ€™t Knowâ€ is never an answer.
What if you couldnâ€™t utter the words, â€œI donâ€™t knowâ€â€”not even in the privacy of your own head? As a coach who helps entrepreneurs get their work out into the world, Iâ€™ll often say to a client who proclaims not to know an answer to a question I pose, â€œPretend you do know.â€ Their response is usually a huge sigh and a moment of silence, invariably followed by a series of potential ideas and solutions to whatever seemingly impossible mountain they want to climb. Itâ€™s always surprising how enterprising we can be when faced with no other alternative than to creatively leverage our resources all by ourselves.
When I was a kid and had a question, my mom always encouraged resourcefulness by telling me to â€œgo look it upâ€ in a dictionary or our encyclopedias. And while I would do as she commanded with just a teensy bit of attitude, her insistence that I learn to become more self-sufficientâ€”except when it came to my creative culinary adventures using an ovenâ€”was one of the most valuable gifts she gave me. (And itâ€™s also how I learned to properly pronounce â€œsubtleâ€ before I ended up sounding like some kind of rube.)
Yes, itâ€™s wonderful to ask for help and sometimes that is the best and only way to overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacles on our heroâ€™s journey. However, those times when we give up too soon and assume a mantle of helplessness, we miss out on honing our own innate love of puzzle-cracking and the triumphant joy of figuring it out on our own.
Resourcefulness is a muscle you can build, but only if you try. So if you struggle with being resourceful, the next time you find yourself looking for a recommendation for a great virtual assistant, advice on how to get a cherry pie stain out of your shirt, or where to find your login for your web hosting provider, instead of doing what you always do to find the information, try to do it differently. Try finding it yourself or leveraging your network in a totally different way. Running your own successful business not only requires passion and tenacity, but creativity and the ability â€œto deal well with new or difficult situations and to find solutions to problems,â€ which is literally the definition of â€œresourceful.â€
How do I know? Well, I looked it up, of course.
Â Some Researcher Porn For You
- Â Research at Google
- eHow: How to Discover the Expert in You
- Helpouts by Google
- ArtcyclopediaÂ – everything you ever wanted to know about art.
- Internet Public Library
- Library of Congress
- How to Be Resourceful – WikiHow Edition
- Pro.comÂ – a new way to get your home’s to-do list DONE.
- Project Gutenberg – free ebooks