Getting Unstuck with an ABN Analysis

All of us have times where we feel stuck. We reach a decision or turning point in our lives and we don’t know what to do. Sound familiar? You’re not alone!

A few years ago I was looking to learn, grow and make a big leap with my business. In many ways I was at a professional crossroad. Did I want to continue doing what I was doing with PiP? How could I maintain the sense of freedom and flexibility I craved while also doing meaningful work? How could I keep myself stimulated in my business, balancing between security and growth, two values I hold near and dear? Thankfully, I learned a process through Seth Godin’s altMBA program that made a difference in how I think about things, and it has been a tool I’ve used ever since.

During these challenging times, it seemed appropriate to re-visit this process and hopefully pass along a thing or two to my readers. As you navigate the nonprofit landscape during these difficult times and try to figure out what’s next, may this exercise help you and your Boards re-think your work and how you approach it moving forward.

The exercise Seth introduced is called an ABN (asset, boundary, narrative) analysis. Don’t worry—it’s not a snoozer like it may sound! It’s a helpful tool to dig deep during a time like this, especially since assets, boundaries, and narratives form the core of our beliefs and influence how we show up every day, impacting our lives and organizations.

Here’s a simple framework to help you get started:

Definition Examples Questions to ask
Assets (list these) Tangible or intangible. Things you possess and can build upon. They can be bought, given away or sold, and developed. Money, brand identity, relationships, skills, reputation, access, means of communication or distribution What are the costs and benefits each of your assets brings?

Are you building upon your existing assets?

Have you built the assets you need to accomplish your goals?

Which assets should you invest in moving forward?

Boundaries Limitations and restrictions we place on ourselves and our organization—what we determine we can’t, won’t or shouldn’t do. Boundaries can be self-imposed or otherwise. I won’t fundraise during the pandemic.

I won’t spend money.

Have you set any boundaries that don’t need to exist?

Have you neglected to create boundaries that need to exist?

Narratives The stories we tell ourselves about assets, boundaries, etc. Our internal voice/story. People aren’t hiring right now.

People don’t have the resources to donate right now.

What are the stories you’re telling yourself right now?

How are these stories useful to you and those you serve? How are they not useful or limiting?

Have you created narratives that simply aren’t true or are self-limiting for no reason?

With times changing faster than ever before, many things may feel out of your control.

There is one thing within your full control, though. Your Assets, Boundaries, and Narratives. How will you ensure these serve you in the weeks and months ahead?

Yours Truly,


P.S. To see a sample of an ABN analysis, check out this one from a fellow altMBA graduate.