A few months ago, I took a business bootcamp course from Mirasee, an organization that helps build and scale businesses using a combination of audience-building strategies and online courses.
The intention of the course designer and company founder, Danny Iny, was to teach participants how to jump start a business. I’m not sure, yet, whether the course will help me do that, but it’s already made a difference in how I approach problems in my own life, and also in how I coach my clients.
I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far.
In the Mirasee course, we learned to identify bottlenecks that might block us from launching and profiting from our businesses.
Maybe we didn’t have enough time, or enough money, or enough expertise. Or maybe we didn’t know the market. Or maybe there was an emotional factor -- I’m not good enough, smart enough, popular enough, etc. -- that kept us from moving ahead.
Although many of these issues might turn out to be real, Danny made the case, convincingly, that this didn’t really matter. His point -- and one that was new to me -- was that at any given time, there’s only one bottleneck. And that until we get through the current bottleneck, there’s no need to expend energy on any of the other ones.
In other words, what’s blocking us at any given moment is just one thing.
Maybe, as soon as we get through that bottleneck, another will emerge that blocks our way again, but right now, we only have to deal with the one in front of us.
For example, let’s say I’m going to start a business creating and marketing online courses. (Which I am!) At the moment, these are some of the bottlenecks I see:
- I don’t have enough time
- I don’t have the expertise
- I don’t know the market
- I don’t know how to market
… and I know there will be other bottlenecks down the line -- the unknown unknowns. When I think of all that, it makes me want to quit before I’ve even gotten started.
But right now, my only bottleneck is lack of expertise: I don’t know how to create an online course. Until I learn how to do that well, none of the other potential bottlenecks matters.
Of course, once I get through that bottleneck (by taking online courses in online course development), new bottlenecks will appear. I’ll run into time constraints. I’ll run into technology issues. I’ll have to learn the market. I have to learn how to market. Right now, though, the only bottleneck is learning how to create a course. That’s all I need to pay attention to now. And that seems like a manageable task.
For many years, a friend has wanted to do a variety of creative projects, but he's been unable to complete any of them. He has notebooks and voice memos filled with ideas, and a collection of half-finished works. Lately, he can’t even motivate himself to touch any of them.
“Maybe I’m just lazy,” he told me recently.
But as we talked, laziness didn’t seem to be a factor.
He described the many things blocking him: He has a very busy schedule. There’s no deadline for any of these projects. He doesn’t know how to do some of them. And he has so many unfinished projects already that starting a new one seems pointless. “I’d never finish that one, either.”
My friend’s list is like the lists I hear many of my clients reciting, and also like the ones I recite myself when I’ve been putting off something I think I’d really like to do.
We looked together through the lens of the bottleneck-finder (and saw past the Coca Cola imprint at the bottom of the bottle). We found that because he had so many unfinished projects, and all of them seemed equally important, he couldn’t figure out which to focus on first.
That was his bottleneck.
So, we grouped his unfinished projects into categories, and within a few minutes an unwieldy list of dozens of projects became a list of only four main groups. Then I asked, “Which category of projects would you most regret not finishing, ten years down the road?”
It was easy for him to pick one, and then to choose the most important project in that category. That choice pushed him through the bottleneck.
His next bottleneck is carving out enough time to complete this project, and when he squeezes through the time barrier, other bottlenecks will inevitably emerge. But now he’s started his project and he’s on his way to completing it.
Bottlenecks hinder forward movement in most of the problems we all face.
“What’s the bottleneck now?” applies to solving almost any problem, large or small, internal or external. Looking for the one that’s blocking us now helps us transform “insurmountable” obstacles and “overwhelming” problems into discrete tasks we can move through, one bottleneck at a time.
How to get through a bottleneck once you’ve identified it is sometimes quick, sometimes slow, sometimes straightforward, sometimes not. That’s the subject of a future post. But identifying what’s stopping you now is the essential first step.
If you’re feeling stuck in some area of your life right now, or you have a bottleneck tale to tell, please post your story in the comment area on the blog.
Copyright 2018, David J. Bookbinder
Nonfiction by David J. Bookbinder
The Art of Balance: Staying Sane in an Insane World on Amazon.com
The Art of Balance: Staying Sane in an Insane World on Amazon.co.uk