I set a goal to read 13 books this year. I decided I’d start small and Whitney Johnson’s Disrupt Yourself seemed to fit the bill. I figured I’d be able to easily read it in 3–4 weeks and apply some of the ideas the author presents. I picked it up January 1 and had no idea how much I’d need this book when I finished it just 3 weeks later.
Somehow over the course of three weeks, I went from being totally content with where my career was heading to having a crazy desire to start something new. The idea had been on my mind for some time but it was always a “sometime” goals — something I’d do at some point in the future. However, I started reading Disrupt Yourself and this desire grew. I found a domain name (leadershipamplified.com) and hired a graphic designer and rapidly put together a site that would be foundation for my hopeful future of becoming a leadership & business consultant.
As I’ve gone through this process, I’ve realized I had a great example of personal disruption my entire life. Since this occurred throughout my life, I don’t have (or remember) all the details but here’s my version of it.
My father started out as a truck driver. He left that job and started a lumber and milling company. This was successful for some time but then the lumber market plummeted and he (we) lost the business, the plane, the house and I don’t remember what else. I can only imagine how hard it was being the father of 4 having just lost everything you had spent years acquiring!
His next move was back into transportation and started a company brokering loads with different trucking companies (he was essentially the middle-man between the company wanting to ship something and the trucking company who hauled it for them). Some years later, he sold his portion of the company to his partner and moved us to Montana.
In Montana, Dad started another brokering company but found a new passion — fire fighting. He started his fire-fighting career with the local volunteer fire department. A few years later, he became the chief. A volunteer chief. The brokering company began to flounder, despite my mom’s best attempts to keep it running. He found unmet needs of one of the largest employers in the area and he figured out a way to meet that need. He had no experience but he bought the equipment and figured it out. Somehow we survived as the years went by and eventually the volunteer chief job became a paid position. He was likely called “Chief” more than “Dad” until he retired.
But that isn’t the end. Living in a small resort community, he saw another unmet need and he became the town handyman. Having remodeled two homes (largely on his own, or with help from Mom and, at times, entirely out of need and lack of money to hire someone to do it), he’s learned how to take care of many of the handyman-type tasks required at vacation homes. This surely isn’t the end of his many moves. I see another on the horizon and will continue to learn from his example.
Find a Niche
In Disrupt Yourself, Whitney talks about two risks — competitive & market. Competitive risks are those are within your current market (i.e. a new product competing against similar products) while market risks are unmet needs that may not have a market (yet). This is the first lesson I’ve recognized in my dad’s career — find a need and meet it.
Market risk is the right kind of risk when you’e looking for a new learning curve to scale.
Have a Vision
I’m confident it was very difficult for Dad to leave the brokering company in the hands of Mom but, I also am confident he had an idea of where he was going (or, at least, I hope so). He saw unmet needs and was focused on meeting them and he did! Eventually.
Dig In and Work!
It wasn’t easy. I remember one year being told that we had been living below the poverty line. (Truth be told, I hadn’t noticed.) But, Dad worked. He worked a lot. He worked hard. Over the course of years, he found a way to make it work and, ultimately, found a way to live a comfortable life.
…when resources are at a minimum, successful people dig deep to discover an embarrassment of riches right under their feet and a plumb line to distinctive strengths.
So, what’s all the point of this? Disruption is a good thing for you but rather than letting it happen to you, control it! Find a niche, create a vision and do the work!