Monthly Archives: April 2005

Mission Statement: Impossible

Yesterday at my coaching session, my coach and I tried to create a mission statement for myself.
It was a difficult exercise for me.
I remember many years ago at Yahoo!, there were a number of us trying to redefine the mission statement. To this day, I remember the exercise clearly. We brainstormed a variety of words on a white board which exhibited qualities that we wanted Yahoo! to have, or goals we wanted to achieve for our users or ourselves. We then culled through the words to narrow the list, and as we did this, the PR folks asked us to form a sentence or statement to make the qualities readable, understandable, and digestible in one clear line.
But yet, I found that I had not enough command of language to be able to form a nice reading sentence which collected all of our favorite concepts.
Off and on over the years, I wondered about why I could not do this. And yesterday, I faced it again. I struggled at forming a sentence or two to create a mission statement for my life.
Why was this so?
We all have weaknesses. We all have strengths. We’re all great at some things and stink at others, and everywhere in between on other things.
In a book that I’ve been reading, “The One Thing You Need to Know” by Marcus Buckingham, he even talks about not wasting time trying to fix your own flaws, or as a manager telling your employees to fix their weaknesses, but instead apply their strengths.
But for me, my weaknesses intrigue me. Why are they there? Was I born with them? Did the environment create things I can’t do well? Am I genetically not programmed to write snappy mission statements? Or are they addressable, or improvable?
For example, I’ve never been a great athlete. I remember being always picked last for sports and being a skinny little wimp most of my high school days. I started lifting weights in college and that helped, but I could not do so many things other people could do.
Then in 2002, I decided to try triathlons. It really got me going to see how far I could take this. Despite a seeming weakness of not being an athletic person, I threw money, training, coaching, technique, strengthening at it and now I can run, bike, and swim as well as improve each one.
Was this type of athleticism a weakness which I addressed or was it an underdeveloped strength? Now granted, I am not going to win races and certainly there are a hundred times more talented athletes out there. But, for sure, there is some competency in the area that I am gaining, and I am having a great time testing my limits on how far I can really go.
Which brings me back to my mission statement. What deficiency in my ability to apply creativity, language, and vocabulary did I have in my brain to now be able to do this at all? Am I inherently terrible at this stuff or can I actually gain some ability as a copywriter? I am blogging now, and it has certainly helped my writing and communication skills. But now I am wondering how far I can take copywriting in that way.
Every day I challenge the notion that my weaknesses should be left alone and that I should spend time solely on exponentially building and applying my strengths. I think that we all could be surprised at seeing exactly how much we can develop our weaknesses into some level of competency, or perhaps it can become a strength…?