If you’re an entrepreneur at heart like me, it’s tempting to wear every hat in the business. This is especially true if you’re cursed with being halfway good at all those jobs.
That’s not a compliment, by the way. I should emphasize the word cursed. Think of it this way: Would you intentionally hire someone who was halfway good at their job? Of course not. You want people who are fully competent.
And yet it can be hard to let go of those hats, right? But here’s the reality. If you want to wear all the hats, you’ll have to pull out more than a rabbit to be successful.
Early in my career, I thought I had to be good at everything. It didn’t help that I had a boss who seemed to be great at whatever he tried. This challenged me to work on my own “areas of opportunity.” You might recognize that phrase as code for stuff outside your skill set you shouldn’t bother doing but feel obligated to do regardless.
Yes, doing difficult things can build character. Yes, you have to get outside your comfort zone to grow and accomplish big goals. But no, you do not have to do things you’re terrible at doing—or things that sap your joy—to be successful.
In fact, when we insist on doing tasks that we’re only halfway skilled at doing, we’re actually hurting ourselves. And it’s a one-two punch. Why?
- It takes us twice as long as someone who’s properly skilled—and our work won’t even be as good.
- We’re distracted from the tasks where we could make our most valuable contribution.
You don’t need to do everything in your business. And if you try, you’re just holding yourself back. If you need some help discarding a few of those hats and finding out which one you should wear at least most of the time, just ask yourself these three questions:
- What am I skilled at doing? We all have natural abilities or skills we’ve developed that can serve our business. Normally these are already in play, but they’re not always front and center. Sometimes we feel obligated to manage parts of our business for which we have no special skill. Toss those hats.
What do I enjoy doing? Other times, we’re skilled at a task, but it saps our energy and joy. Yes, work can be draining. But we all have tasks we find intrinsically rewarding. Hold on to that hat and hand off the others.
What can I uniquely contribute? If you’re skilled at something you find intrinsically rewarding, the only thing left to consider is whether it’s useful in the marketplace. Or put it this way: Will it lead your business to success? If yes, then that hat is a keeper.
Somewhere between your skills, your joy, and your unique contribution is your job description. If you’re trying to do more than that, you’re business will not thrive. It’ll suffer—and the truth is so will the rest of your life.
It took me years, but I finally figured this out. Once I did, I found a lot more satisfaction and success in my work. And I also was able to create more margin for life’s other important things.
There are always circumstances when you’ll have to wear hats that don’t fit (it still happens to me sometimes). But don’t hold onto them like you’re a hero for doing it. Instead, look for opportunities to doff, discard, and delegate them.
If you’re a killer salesperson who gets bogged down handling expense reports, hire someone to handle them for you. If you’re a big-picture rainmaker, give the detail to work to someone who will actually get it finished.
Everyone needs a team, and this is important outside our work as well.
I’m terrible at home repair. So guess what I never do. Before when I felt like I needed to fix things around the house, I procrastinated, the repair work was subpar, and no one was happier when I was finished. Whatever money I saved by doing it myself, I paid for in grief. Not anymore.
One of the most liberating concepts in life is that you don’t have to be great at everything, and there’s no point even trying. Once we figure that out, we’re free to pursue what we’re actually good at, what brings us joy, and what we can uniquely contribute.
It may take a while to link those things up, but that’s the most likely place to find satisfaction and success.