At its most basic, viability means “capable of living.” But viability translates into being capable of so much more than just living.
When you think of viability in a career, you may think of knowing the rules or being capable of performing a job’s required tasks. When you think of viability in business, you may think of paying the bills or being capable of achieving a profit. But there’s more to capability than just what you think.
Although it’s important that you feel capable, when it comes to viability, it’s also crucial that other people see you as being capable. Whether they are hiring you, promoting you, buying from you, partnering with you, or investing in you, people want to know that you are capable of being successful in a role, within a company, or as an entrepreneur before they will back you.
That’s why, when it comes to success, your mission is to become capable so you can prove your viability. Things like staying up to speed on technology; learning new tools, programs, and regulations; and keeping abreast of changes in your industry all prove your relevance and help you grow your capability. By staying curious and finding new ways to learn and advance your knowledge, you become more viable.
But there’s even more to viability. Sometimes, becoming or staying viable means being on the giving or receiving end of very tough decisions. To get out of the red or to stay in the black — to pay down debt, afford your bills, make payroll, turn a profit, and even bank savings or make investments — often means overcoming significant challenges.
As an employee, for example, you may endure layoffs. As an employer, you may be the one doing the layoffs. Cost cutting, downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, offshoring — these are all practices used by people and organizations looking to become more viable. That’s why it’s important to remember that a job or a business could end at any time, so you are better prepared for financial insecurity.
To be viable as a person, you first need to live, to survive. And if there’s one thing outsiders have, it’s a strong survival instinct. Facing all that fire has made you smarter and more resilient. It has made you capable. Once you unleash your instinct to survive, you can channel it toward becoming viable. Viability means not only surviving but also thriving.
When you are truly viable, other people view you as being qualified to get the job done. In their eyes, being capable means you have the knowledge, qualities, and abilities to be successful in a role or within an organization. They feel comfortable working with you because your competence makes them believe you will be viable. And when you demonstrate your viability, your chances of success increase exponentially.
To assess your viability, it’s helpful to recognize when other people see you as effective. When you are viewed as capable, you’ll notice that other people want to work with you or for you; they want to promote you or buy from you; they want to invest in you or even acquire your business. People have to work with other people, after all, and wanting to ensure their own viability and success, they choose to work with people who are capable. Let’s make sure that’s you!
Those who are capable are more likely to build viable careers and businesses. That’s why it’s important to do more of what you’re good at, constantly advancing your proficiency, and to continually improve your knowledge, abilities, and even your attitude.
On your journey to becoming capable, you may find yourself jumping from college major to major, or from job to job, or from career to career until you find the right fit that enables you to grow and advance through the ranks. Your business idea also may need time to find its legs. It may require testing different concepts, business models, and ways to do things.
So how do you know if you (or your career or your business) are viable? A viable employee is recognized and promoted through the ranks of leadership. A viable career is one that evolves and advances. A viable business is one that grows and flourishes. Whether as an organization or as an individual, viability means you provide value to others — which keeps them paying your invoices or paychecks and coming back for more of your products or services.
Being capable means you have what it takes to accomplish your goals. We enhance our capability in various ways: By becoming stronger — physically, intellectually, and emotionally. By staying relevant and curious and learning new things. By surrounding ourselves with positive people who support and inspire us. By starting with achievable goals, growing in competence and complexity as we go. By leveraging what we have, so we’re not always recreating the wheel or starting from square one. By identifying what we’re good at (and what we’re not good at). By continually building our skills and advancing our talents.
Being capable fuels us to take on greater challenges, try new things, practice our craft, grow our proficiency. It’s by knowing we have what it takes that we believe we are capable. It’s when we demonstrate that competence that others see us as capable. And when we are capable, we can become viable. The more viable you are, the more likely you are to succeed.
Elisa Schmitz is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, and the author of Become the Fire: Transform Life’s Chaos into Business and Personal Success. She’s the Latina founder and CEO of 30Seconds.com, an inspiring digital media platform that makes the world a happier, healthier, and more delicious place — 30 seconds at a time. She’s also the founder of iParenting, a “Best of the Web” digital media company that was acquired by the Walt Disney Company. After the sale, Elisa worked for Disney as director and executive editor of the Disney Interactive Media Group. She has been a newspaper columnist, magazine editor, radio and video host, and creator of content and marketing programs for various Fortune 500 companies.