There’s an old saying that goes, “If you do what you are good at, and what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think that’s true! When you are doing something you are truly, naturally good at, you go into the zone and hours pass – and you don’t even notice!

So why is it that we are so quick to take jobs and start businesses that don’t match well with our natural abilities and affinities? My guess is that we’ve been conditioned to think that you cannot enjoy work. That’s just not true! You can get a lot of enjoyment out of every moment you work if you take the time to identify your natural strengths and build your business around them. Do you know your strengths? Can you identify the skills and expertise you have that will help you build and grow your business?

A year or so ago did a creativity exercise from Jim Krause’s book D30 – Exercises for Designers about crafting an inventory of your creative skills and talents. It’s a great little book with lots of fun ideas about creativity. As I was going through that exercise I found that, because I was in the business-building mindset, my inventory turned into a business planning session. So I’m sharing my version of the exercise here to help you identify the strengths you naturally have that you can use to build and grow your business. (It’s a great confidence booster too!)

Let’s get started!

  • Tools: pen and paper only (no computers allowed!), audible timer
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Atmosphere: Identify a distraction-free zone and set aside uninterrupted time for this assignment.

Skip your computer for this exercise, use an old fashioned pen and paper. Studies show that your brain reacts differently when you write longhand over typing, and this is the type of exercise where we need your brain to be fully engaged.  Another great thing about this brainstorming activity is that it will send all this information to the forefront of your brain where it will be ready to connect with the ideas, planning and discoveries you make as you build and grow your business. Your brain will be pre-programmed to look for ways of using what is on this list as you move forward with your business.

PART 1 – Write a list of everything you are good at.

Set Timer for 15 minutes

Write down anything and everything that comes to mind. Don’t just write about things related to your products or services or your strengths related to running a business. Write down everything. If you are good at fixing cars, write about it, and if you’re also good with mathematics and can bake a cake, write down a thing or two about those talents too. The main point here is to keep your pen moving as steadily as possible and to keep your train of thought flowing for the entire fifteen minutes.

PART 2 – What do you need to improve?

Set timer for 15 minutes

Next it’s time to think about what improvements you’d like to see in your talents and skills. Write about talents you would like to develop from scratch as well. Include ideas for any area of your life (personal or business) that comes to mind.

PART 3 – What is your vision for the future?

Set timer for 20 minutes

This final segment is relatively wide open and the instructions are simple: Set your timer and write about specific visions – small and large – of what you would love to see happening in your future. This could be your business goals or personal goals. Maybe you want to write a book about how your business could expand into a different area of the market you never explored before or maybe you want to complete the Ironman in Hawaii.

The first few items on this list might be easy and have been swimming around in your head for years. That’s great. Write a few sentences about those and then move on. Reach deeper for new ideas and remember as you write that there are no bad ideas when brainstorming. Think about how you can combine some of your strengths from Part 1 with the skills you want to develop in Part 2.

Don’t edit yourself… just keep your thoughts flowing and the pen moving for the whole time. If you’re still writing when the timer goes off, keep going. Write until all the ideas are out of your mind and onto the paper.

DONE – now forget about it!

When you finish with this exercise, put this list aside and don’t go back to it just yet. If you’ve written all this down in a notebook, use a paperclip to close these pages so you don’t feel tempted to come back to it. You want these thoughts to marinate in your brain and let your mind take over. We’ll come back to it later, but for now, just set it aside.