Take a personal inventory of your interests, strengths and passions
When preparing to brainstorm business ideas, your best bet is to make a list of all your hobbies, talents, skills and past experiences. Then add subjects you’ve always wanted to learn more about, and weigh everything against your passions. We’ll then take your final results and generate a list of the most viable business ideas that will not only keep you personally interested and fulfilled, but also keep your bank account well-fed.
What are your obsessions? What do you enjoy doing so much that not only would you do it without getting paid, you would actually pay for the privilege of doing it? What do you really look forward to doing on the weekends and evenings when you’re done working for the day? Do you like to read, sew, hike, paint landscapes, tinker with classic cars, volunteer at the animal shelter? Are you a foreign movie buff, or a stamp collector, or an amateur chef?
Write down every possible answer to the above questions, no matter how silly or unimportant it seems, even if you can’t see any possible way to make money from it. We’re not weeding anything out right now. Let your mind be open and free; do not edit your thoughts.
Talents are differentiated from skills in that talents are usually more personality-based, and are often considered to be something you were “born with.” If you’ve ever been described as being “a natural” at something, it probably falls under the “Talents” category.
Skills are usually more technical in nature, often described as “learned” routines or processes that you happen to pick up quickly and/or perform proficiently. Learned skills may be related to your innate talents, e.g. you’ve always had a talent for seeing relationships between seemingly unrelated subsets of data, and you’ve developed the skills to create killer spreadsheets in Excel to illustrate those relationships.
Think about the things you’ve always excelled at, without necessarily being taught or coached. Were you were a child prodigy chess player? Anyone can learn the rules of how to play chess, but the ability to strategize and predict your opponent’s next move is a talent that many people struggle for years to develop, to no avail.
Can you play music by ear? Were you able to swim like a fish before you could even walk? Are you able to easily diffuse highly charged situations, or cheer people up when they’re down? Have you always been compelled to take things apart just to see how they work – and then intuitively put them back together?
Think of your daily routine and the things that you do automatically and often take for granted. Are you a naturally organized person who always keeps your things in proper order? Are you an extrovert that can easily make friends in a matter of minutes? These may seem ordinary to you, but your future customers might think otherwise.
If you’re really stuck, try asking friends and family what they would say your talents are. Don’t bother trying to explain the whole “talents vs. skills” thing; you’ll probably need their help on the “Skills” section of this exercise as well, so just take everything they give you and we’ll sort it all out later.
Likewise, if you find yourself coming up with traits that qualify more as skills while brainstorming your talents, go ahead and write those down, too. Don’t censor yourself during this process. Just let it all flow.
…to be continued…
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