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You’ve Just Lost A Job, Not Everything

You’ve Just Lost A Job, Not Everything

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you don’t know exactly how to answer the question, “What do you do?”

The most common answer I hear at meetups and networking events is reciting a job title and job description.

“I’m a business analyst.”

“I’m a marketing assistant.”

“I’m a financial analyst.”

“I’m a coach.”

I’ve given this type of answer before where my whole identity is attached to a job title, yet over the years I’ve realized that a job title is a label you put on yourself that does not define who you are. The problem with having your identity tied to a specific job is that if something happens like getting laid off or fired, your sense of self-worth suffers, making you think that the world is over and your life has no purpose.

Losing a job doesn’t mean the end of the world. What looks like a setback could very well be the opportunity you’ve been looking for to make a meaningful change.

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The key is diversifying your skills and remaining grateful.

Back in August, I received a notice that would change my perspective on life and work forever: I was laid off. I remember standing in the back of the room looking around and seeing mixed emotions as we continued listening to the “we are restructuring operations” speech. I left the room right after finding out we were going to get an extra month of salary to help us out in this transition.

A transition in life is a very fragile stage in our lives that put us in a gray area, and it can become our greatest setback or our most powerful opportunity. A transition always leads to uncertainty because we are not familiar with what’s ahead and emotions often go crazy. Our brain automatically starts looking for solutions to this seemingly terrible transition and we make decisions based out of fear rather than from a place of love.

I remember as I was walking through the hallway back to my cubicle, I couldn’t help thinking about what was coming next.

How am I going to pay rent?

My car?

Credit card bills?

Student loans?

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Groceries?

Chipotle with extra guacamole?

I need to apply for new jobs, interview like crazy, and take the first job offer that comes to me.

These and many other thoughts were running through my head all at the same time. I acknowledged them and let them flow without presenting any resistance. I realized all my thoughts were coming from a place of fear, leading me toward finding the most comfortable solutions.

Instead, I remained calm and did NOTHING!

I avoided the temptation of trying to find a quick fix and took it as an opportunity to really choose myself for once in my life. For years I held corporate positions in the mortgage and finance industry, making good money but not feeling fulfilled — and a part of me knew it was time for a change. I saw this as an opportunity to be intentional about my next step and find what makes me come alive.

I asked myself: What is the worst that can happen if for once in my life I decide to do something that I’m passionate about and try it out for one month?

I decided to give intentional experimentation a try, know more about myself, and figure out the kind of person I want to become. Adam Poswolsky, author of “The Quarter-Life Breakthrough”, mentions how it’s important to develop a breakthrough career mindset, becoming intentional about the kind of job opportunities young adults want to take on where every opportunity takes you closer to your true purpose and interests. The reward of intentional experimentation is to find meaningful work while experimenting with a variety of opportunities until you find that one thing that makes you fulfilled.

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Here’s what happened once I decided to experiment with different opportunities after losing my job:

Traveling

Traveling has given me a new perspective on the world. It has also given me the opportunity to sit back, meditate, and embrace life for what it is and not for what I want it to be. Too many times, we get caught up in the everyday hustle and sometimes we forget what’s really important.  I first learned about meditation during our Costa Rica retreat back in October when I took my first-ever yoga class surrounded by fresh rainforest air, an abundance of local flora and fauna, tropical birds singing, gentle breezes, and the sound of the rushing river. One of the most important benefits I get from meditating is learnign how to organize my thoughts and emotions, helping me decide what really matters.

The people I’ve met throughout my travels have made all the difference. Being surrounded by people passionate about life, traveling, and refusing to settle inspires me keep pushing forward towards what I want out of life.

Writing

I fell in love with the power of the written word a long time ago, but I never really developed a writing habit. Ever since being laid off, I’ve been writing more often and getting my ideas out of my head, reflecting on things that matter to me, and sharing them with the world. I even started my own blog where I write about personal development, crafting stories from my own personal experiences and interviewing other people going through their own transitions. While developing a daily writing habit, I have learned how to be vulnerable, honest, and transparent.  Lately, I’ve been developing a habit of meditating through writing where I get to write about the highlights of each day and things I can do to improve for the next day. It’s so rewarding, and I’d encourage anyone to write a little bit each day.

Learning about myself

This is perhaps the most valuable outcome I’ve received from getting laid off: the opportunity to better understand who I am and what I want out of life. Most people rarely take the time to truly learn about themselves, instead following predetermined scripts that society puts upon us. Go to college, get a degree, get a high-paying job, big screen TV, white-picket fence house, work for 40-50 years, climb the corporate ladder, and then retire. Even if you want to climb the corporate ladder, how do you even know that you have it leaned against the right wall? I have realized that learning about yourself is a natural process that is ongoing, and there are no hacks or fast tracks.

A few days ago, I shared my big intention for life, business, and career with the universe in a single tweet. Here it is:

My big intention is to truly serve others in their journey within by writing, dancing, spreading smiles for miles and positive energy, creating and participating in transformative experiences that serve as a launching pad to help young adults figure out their next step.

The word is out!

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There are moments when I feel fearful and doubtful, and start to question myself about my decision to follow my own path, but I recognize it and don’t give control to doubts and fears. Instead, I remember that I’m being intentional about what I want by doing things that allow me to fully express myself.

I thought that losing my job was going to be a disaster, but it became the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had to change my life.

I accepted my situation. I embraced it. I got in touch with my inner self.

What resulted was definitely not on the script I had been given for years.

I don’t know where this path may lead, but what matters is that I’ve made a conscious decision to live a life aligned with my true gifts and talents to make a meaningful impact in the world. If I hadn’t been laid off, I probably would have stayed at the same old job, living a life of average and conformity. Sometimes what looks like a hardship is quite often a blessing in disguise.

What transition are you going through in your life right now and what are you learning from it?

Featured photo credit: h.koppdelaney via flickr.com

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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