Can You Focus?

(LinkedIn, By Scott Case; Published March 11, 2014)

THIS IS A TEST.

Stop everything that you are doing and take five minutes to read this post – uninterrupted.

In an age where multi-tasking is an actual job skill, it is becoming more and more difficult to concentrate on what matters. Whether you are a startup founder, rising corporate star or passionate force for good, I suspect you could use a little more focus.

It’s a simple concept that is remarkably hard to achieve – yet it is crucial to success.

Focus on one thing and give it your all. It is a risk? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I can tell you from experience, it’s not easy. Understanding WHY you aren’t able to focus is the first step.

Be okay with the fact that it might not be the right choice. In my last post, I discussed the importance of remembering what it feels like to be uncomfortable. As hard as it is to admit you made the choice to focus on something that was not the right decision for you, be committed to turning it into a success. Take stock and decide to move in a different direction instead of trying to go down several paths simultaneously. Use this opportunity to get as much information as possible. Learn from your experience and move forward.

If you wait around for a specific opportunity, you may miss out on a great one. Steve Blank once described a missed opportunity as ‘ a favorable combination of circumstances that rarely occurs and if seized upon would have given me an advantage.’ Keeping your options open is a natural thing for people to do, but if you continue to keep your options open, ironically you may miss out on a game-changing opportunity that you can only identify by committing to one path.

Do not give into ‘shiny object syndrome’. This can kill your business. I have witnessed this with several founders (one of them being me). They are coming off the highs of a huge success with their company. They carry that momentum into their new adventure(s), but instead of committing to one new company or idea, they move forward with ten new concepts. For most entrepreneurs, part of what makes us who we are is that we are a touch ADHD and we find new things thrilling. These ‘shiny objects’ distract you by drawing your attention, time, and energy that could have been focused on rigorously exploring one direction instead of several mediocre initiatives.

Which leads us to…

Aggressively pursue a singular path to your goal. Don’t just do it well; do it really, really well. Define the goal/objective/mission you want to achieve, choose one path and run after it. Then, be the best on that path – surpassing everyone else. Zappos used to only sell shoes. Amazon only sold books and Google was just a search engine. Strip away everything but the core and fully commit to it. You can always sprinkle in new things later. Make the commitment to focus on one thing and deliver.

What happens if you discover the path you’re on isn’t right – for whatever reason?

Own the knowledge you learned on the path, embrace it and change direction. If you are in the early stages of pursuing an idea, the cycle of course corrections can happen in a single day, even a single hour. It’s more than ok – it’s a necessary part of the process. Just make sure that the correction(s) you make is based upon what you learned along the focused path.

Being able to focus on a direction and make course corrections along the way is a trait that separates the game changers from the rest of the pack.

Did you “pass” the test? Take one minute more and think about what you really need to focus on.