When you’re a business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the habit of trying to please everyone.

The old saying rings true “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

Feeling like you need to be available to every person and every opportunity is a sort of fear-based response.

It comes from a place of lack, or of scarcity, and it’s completely understandable – but it’s not doing you any favors.

A truly successful business owner not only knows who they do serve but also who they don’t serve. 

It’s a practice of not only knowing what you are but having a clear understanding of what you’re not. 

This principle can be applied not only to business but to every other area of your life – including your value system and your personal strengths. 

Increasing Self Literacy

One of the coolest things about being human is that we’re all figuring this out together. Some of us have a bit of an advantage chronologically speaking, but we’re all growing from moment to moment. 

Knowing yourself takes time, and it’s a moving target. You’re constantly growing, changing, and adapting. But it does get easier over time.

This practice of getting to know yourself is called self-literacy. 

Self-literacy is knowing how to read your mental habits, patterns, being able to decipher your goals and ambitions, and understanding what your strengths are – and what they’re not.

The Other Side of The Coin

In the personal development space, there’s a lot of emphasis on knowing what your strengths are. 

That’s great, and vital for your self-literacy, but not enough people talk about the other side of the coin – knowing what you’re not. 

It might feel difficult to admit what you’re not.

If you look on social media, you might feel surrounded by serial entrepreneurs who dip their toes into every pool they can find.

While it might appear that way, that probably isn’t the reality, and more likely than not, these people have a whole team behind them helping them to run the show.

Because they know what their strengths are, and when to ask for help. 

There’s a power in knowing what you’re not. 

Part of being human is knowing what you bring to the table. We all have strengths and weaknesses, or things that we’re not as naturally good at, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Understanding where your strengths and talents lie, and what you truly value, allows you to set boundaries, delegate tasks, and work from a sustainable place so that you don’t feel drained.

There’s something really magnetic and humanizing when someone admits that they don’t know, or that something isn’t their strong suit. It means they’re honest, they know their place, and they know themselves. 

Clarity Creates a Container

Now let’s tie it all together and see how increasing your self literacy by knowing what you’re not actually creates opportunities, instead of limiting them.

Containers might seem limiting or restrictive, but they are totally necessary. Containers hold things, whether that’s your leftovers from dinner or a more metaphorical one.

Clarity around who you are, what your values are, and what your strengths are.

You can think of a container as a sort of system that helps you create your best work, reach your goals, and feel fulfilled while doing so. Containers help hold you together so that you can excel in the things that you value, without feeling drained by things that you don’t.

The more time you spend doing things that are in line with your value and skill set, the clearer the container becomes.

Knowing What You’re Not: Create Your Container

This all might seem nice and dandy but how do you create your container?

Knowing what you’re not might take some trial and error. For some things, you might not know until you know.

Here’s a self-reflective exercise in creating a container:

Grab a piece of paper or your journal and two different colored pens.

In the center of the paper, draw a good-sized box. That’s your container.

On the inside of your box, write what your strengths and values are, using different colors for the two categories.

On the outside of your box, do the same thing, but instead, write the things that aren’t your strengths, and that you don’t value to the same extent.

Ask yourself these questions when creating your container:

  • What roles or tasks do I feel drained by?
  • What do I wish I could delegate to someone else?
  • What do I bring to the table?
  • What truly lights me up?
  • What do I feel indifferent about?

This powerful exercise in knowing what you’re not will help you understand yourself more so that you can better show up for the people around you.