10 Thoughts on Focus
One of our goals here at The Sparkline is to elevate how you think about yourself and your business by exposing you to ideas and people who have helped us along the way.
You are a human. We think that’s your greatest business asset. Through your humanity you experience and intuit and empathize and create. That’s business, baby.
Our humanity is a danger as well. We slip into vanity, insecurity, fear, isolation.
In some ways this is the whole point of The Sparkline and Fizzle… to help you navigate the maze between the engaged, creative, joyful, ruddy part of your humanity and the fearful, graspy, destructive part.
To that end we’ll occasionally share ideas and people that have helped us navigate that maze ourselves. Today it’s a quicky from Brad Feld.
Brad’s one of four guys who have helped integrate my humanity back into the way I think about business… simply through reading bits and bytes he leaves along the way.
I read this short and powerful note from Brad called Focus Focus Focus. Here’s a quote:
But early on, especially pre or early revenue, lack of focus is the death of so many companies. Sure, there’s a point where you are still thrashing around looking for “the thing.” You are using all the Lean Startup and Lean Launchpad techniques to find your product-market fit. You are iterating and pivoting. You’ll want to use a freemium model to capture the low-end customer while selling directly to a high-end customer. How’s that – I just used a bunch of buzzwords to help rationalize the “search for focus” – clever, eh?
But at some point you have to focus. What word do you own? Who is your customer? What are you selling them? How are you selling them it? Why are they buying it?
This is especially true when something is working. You’ll feel like hedging your bets. But don’t – go all in on the thing that is winning. Do it over and over again. And build scale quickly with it so that you can start experimenting with more things.
Focus is a bitch. I searched for years for it, trying to exercise it like a muscle, trying to put it on like clothing.
Then, after 10 years I finally found it… or it found me. (I tell that story in the video below)
Focus really changes everything. Here’s a few things I’ve learned about focus:
- Focus is “this, not that.”
- Focus is like grit. Maybe grit is the momentum of focus.
- Clarity comes before focus… Clarity makes the blueprint. Focus orders the parts, manages the labor, builds the house.
- Focus is a battery… it’s an energy source, it powers you up. Fk’n cheezy sounding, I know. But it’s true.
- Focus comes from earnest digging… self awareness, a real desire to find something, the guts to move on when you know this thing is not what you’re looking for.
- Earnest digging doesn’t have a deadline… you commit to the work, the digging, the search, and to yourself as the digger. You can’t commit to finding focus. It comes to you when it trusts you, like Pressfield’s muse.
- There’s a deep connection between focus and faith… the digging convinces you about yourself; who you are, what you’re good at, why you’re here, where you’re valuable. Faith is not decision, you don’t just decide to focus on something; you’ll fizzle out. There has to be a deep belief that this is for you… that it’s possible for you. Faith is not deciding and then gritting your teeth and muscling your way through it. It’s more like this.
- Feedback leads to focus… From Father Apprentice to Ice to the Brim to Fizzle, The Fizzle Show and The Sparkline, hearing from multiple hundreds of people about what they like, what they struggle with, where they are and what they want has built a faith in me about what I’m good at, what I can make that’s valuable for other people.
- Feedback comes from work… make things, then connect with people about those things. Don’t go the other way around.
- Focus takes forever… It took me 10 years of trying pretty damn hard to get to any clarity or focus. I was the entrepreneur in the Feld quote above for those 10 years; thrashing, manic, depressed, way too confident, way too clueless… I was so over-confident about the wrong things and unaware of the good stuff I actually did have. This pressure didn’t help one bit. I wish I could have given myself a break and invested in the digging… which is a way of investing in myself.
Focus — earnest digging for what I want with no deadlines on the dig