Subways, Strengths, & Sourdough

February 27, 2024

Dear Leaders, Entrepreneurs, Dreamers, and Creators of Great Things: I write these Love Letters each month with the hope of bringing you a little encouragement, some marketing help, and a few minutes of joy. Whether we are already friends or have yet to meet, I hope you’ll enjoy my stories from the road and some awesomely random takeaways, tools, tips, and updates.

When I was fifteen, I studied abroad.

I left my home on a farm in a small town and went to live in a city in Eastern Europe, in a country freshly released from the bonds of communism. It was the first time I’d flown on a plane. The first time I’d ridden a train. The first time I had taken public transit. I didn’t speak the language. Everything was foreign and new. 

I spent the first few days clumsily communicating with my hosts about the differences between their country and mine. Learning about what they ate, how they lived, and how they traveled – with each new experience they would ask me how it was different from where I had grown up. When we first took the subway, they asked me if we had subways. And y’all… I told them there were no subways in America. I would have sworn to it. Because I had never seen one.  

Decades later, this still makes me laugh. (And feel a little embarrassed, to be honest.) But it’s taught me a hugely important lesson about people: We simply don’t know what we don’t know. 

The better I have gotten at accepting this, the better my life has become. I can’t expect my colleagues, my clients, my friends, or my family to have an understanding of things they have never experienced. I can’t assume they bring the same set of experiences that I do. And when I finally grasped this understanding, I became a better communicator, a better co-worker, and a better friend. I stopped getting frustrated or impatient and remembered that we all simply don’t know what we don’t know. 

How can we apply this to our work? 

As leaders, when we are working with others, are we assuming everyone has the same past experiences? Or are we creating a culture that makes others feel safe to ask questions? 

As marketers, are we posting messages that speak only to those who know the lingo or have the same amount of expertise? Or are we seeking input from those who have a different set of life experiences? 

As humans, are we asking questions when something is outside of our own experience? Or are we too afraid we might sound silly, so we keep quiet and play small? 

What if we all reminded ourselves this week that not knowing what we don’t know is a totally normal part of learning? I bet we might approach all our conversations a little differently, don’t you think? 

image with the words In the Rearview, lessons learned and stories from the road

I am a huge believer in the SWOT analysis.

As leaders of our businesses, we’re told we need to have a business plan. And my favorite part of planning is always the SWOT. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. I have done one of these quarterly for years.

The idea is that you take a piece of paper and divide it into 4 quadrants. In the first quadrant, list your strengths. These are the things you are naturally good at, the areas of your business that are strong, and the skills you have mastered.

Next, you list your weaknesses. The areas you can improve, the skills you need to develop, the things you naturally struggle with. (Hellooo procrastination.)

You do the same for your threats – the things that will impact your business that you have no control over. Market conditions, competitors, politics, etc.

Finally, you get to opportunities. (This is my favorite part.) I like to say that your opportunities go hand in hand with your weaknesses. For every weakness, there is an opportunity. You can take that class, learn that thing, acquire that system or skill.

But recently, I read a quote that kind of made me rethink all of that. It said,

“I am not trying to get better at what I am not good at.
I am trying to get great at what I am good at.” 

Oooof. That struck a nerve. I was kind of indignant at first. Am I not supposed to work on my weaknesses? I have been plugging away at that for years! Have I been looking at this all wrong?

What if… my opportunities actually go hand in hand with my strengths? What if I spent less time trying to learn all the things, and instead, spent more time mastering the things I am good at? Food for thought, for sure.

I am still noodling this, and I hope you’ll weigh in!

image of a record player with words saying rockstars, awesome ideas, people, and tools

This is where I share the good stuff.

… the latest websites, books, & tools that are inspiring me, the people who are making me smile, and the stuff I have been writing on sticky notes.

  • In case you missed it – I made a big book announcement! 
  • Who do I know that is still making pandemic sourdough? I love me some homemade bread, and I think it’s pretty cool that every culture on the planet has its own version of bread. I loved this article about bread. It gave me a ton to think about and opened my eyes to some things I hadn’t known before.
  • I know that AI is the buzzword we all love to hate these days, and while I think it has some upsides, I think there are some serious downsides as well. This video might make you think twice about how you incorporate AI into your business.
  • For my friends in Real Estate (or sales of any kind!) you will want to check out this FREE Master Class my friend Nicole has put together. She asked 10 successful people where their leads come from, and how to get more of them. You won’t want to miss all the awesomeness they shared!
  • I have three new books on my stack this month! I am loving this one about leadership, this one about how to turn being underestimated into your greatest strength, and this one about data bias (nerdy and fascinating.)

Thanks for reading, friends! If you want to get these in your inbox every month, be sure to get on the mailing list.
And if you are looking for a speaker who will motivate your organization to get up, get moving, and face change head on, I would love to chat.