catwalker /

Believe it or not, I have a degree in chemical engineering. I know, right? What was I thinking? Good question. No offense to all you engineers out there, but I think even my professors knew chemistry wasn’t “it” for me.

It was like that Sesame Street song about shapes. They show 4 shapes; 3 of which are circles and one a lonesome square. It’s clear that the square doesn’t belong there, but they rub it in by singing a little ditty –“One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong…” – and that pretty much sums up me in engineer school. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a complete square – I had spiky hair, a pierced ear, and ripped jeans – but I did stick out like a sore thumb.

But the fact that I was a unique individual in the University of Utah’s engineering program isn’t the point to this story.

The point is, even though engineering was not my thing, it did teach me a very valuable skill that has served me well in business: how to think in “processes”. In other words, what elements do you need to combine, in the right proportion and at the right time, to produce a desired result?

Okay, so you may not want to start producing biofuel in your backyard, but hear me out…

As an entrepreneur, don’t YOU need to know what resources you need, in what proportions and at what exact time to produce the result you want? Are you with me? It’s a process.

Personally, I think it should be mandatory for every MBA student to take a course in chemical engineering, where students learn the processes that convert raw materials or chemicals into something more useful. That’s interesting, right? And if you boil it down, isn’t that what we’re (hopefully) doing in business: taking our resources and running them through a process that converts them into something more useful – something that’s going to make a difference?

Hopefully by now I’m beginning to make sense.

If you step back and put on your chemical engineer hat (it IS okay to not always be fashionable) to look at your business like a process, things that seemed so personal before don’t seem so personal anymore. All those reasons you have for being stopped or stuck are bogus, and all you need to do is design a process that turns your raw materials into gold. (Well, I know you can’t combine other elements into gold. It’s just a metaphor.)

Now, how exactly do you design a process for success? I’ll dive into that in my next post. Don’t forget to bring your safety glasses and your pocket protector.

In the meantime, share with me… What have you done in your life that didn’t quite feel like a fit with who you really are?