In my day job I work as an adviser to small business owners. I often come across a startup business owner who is incredibly ambitious but lacks clarity and focus in their goals. They usually take feedback from those around them and incorporate everything. Their main motivation is to make sure they thought of and included EVERYTHING.
I first noticed this characteristic when I was teaching audio engineering courses at a local community college. Students would have these grand visions of what they wanted to achieve in their future audio business. As we talked I started to understand that they viewed these visions as the starting point, not as the final outcome after years of work.
As a society we are extremely impatient. We want everything now. We completely miss the reality that it takes years in order to build a successful business. It doesn’t happen overnight and too often we ignore 5-10 years of hard work and instead focus on the “big break” for a business owner.
But in business, as with our personal lives, patience is important. It allows us to prioritize goals so that we can devote the proper amount of focus to each task.
Whenever I get resistance from a startup business owner regarding this level of focus, I usually bring up the example of Amazon. I ask them what are all of the things that Amazon provides to its customers? They rattle off everything from TV services to the selling of various goods. Then I ask if they know how Amazon started.
Amazon didn’t start with the Kindle, Amazon Fire, and a website that sells almost anything. They started with books. They owned that space and continued to grow and add more products. But if they tried to start with everything they would have failed.
The reason they would have failed is because they wouldn’t have the necessary resources to fully develop each segment of their business. They would take a finite amount of resources and expect too much from them. Everything would be spread thin. Basically, everything would be done halfway. But by starting out focused and owning that one area (books), they were then able to expand and grow to what they are today.
In our personal lives I see this exact same thing. We tend to want to achieve many goals and do not have the patience to work on each one separately. We tend to multitask and overextend ourselves until we crash and burn.
The biggest lesson that I have learned is that we need to focus when it comes to our personal goals. Our willpower is finite and if we overextend ourselves with goals that are too lofty, we will not make progress towards them, instead hoping and wishing for perfection.
So how do we focus when there is so much that needs to be accomplished?
The answer is to focus on system and habit improvement first. By looking at the systems and habits in our lives we can start to make small, subtle changes. These small changes are insignificant when done once but when done over and over again they become automatic and habitual. At that point we no longer need to focus on them in order to continue them.
They become so automatic that we can start to add more. We can start with a simple morning exercise routine of 5 minutes. Once it is so ingrained in our routine that it is easier to do it than not do, we can add a few minutes. We keep adding to it slowly. Suddenly we have a full exercise routine in the morning. Then we can start to add other goals. We can rehearse for an upcoming play, learn to play the piano or start writing a book.
The key is to start small and focus solely on creating a new positive habit. Then slowly expand that habit until you see results and it seems easier to keep moving forward than to quit.
This is how great businesses get built. They get built with hard work and ambition and a way to systematize and scale the business. They start out with a clear direction and eliminate distractions and overambitious plans. Once they are successful they can then take on new things and constantly add to their core offering.
If we take the same approach to our personal lives we can start to do the hard work necessary to reach our goals. We can develop the right amount of patience, which will help us to focus in on what it is we need to accomplish now. Then we can systematize these in order to take on more and more. Only then can we finally reach that vision of success that originally gave us the inspiration to start.