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the power of focus

The Power of Focus – Why Intentions Aren’t Enough

Many people talk about the power of intention. It sounds good, but it’s kind of a vague phrase. Intention in what? Intention to having an awesome life? Being successful?

People intend to do all kinds of great things. But they keep getting sidetracked and never get to the destination they intended to.

Here’s an analogy: it’s like having a scope on a firearm and not using it while taking the shot. The person holding the gun intends to the hit the target, but they choose not to use the best tool they have to do so. Sure this is cool in a video game, but in reality, it’s just bad practice.

They don’t focus.

To Focus, We Need Clarity

In the last 6 months or so, I’ve been making it a point to figure out how people made it big before the advent of internet. In other words, how did people become recognized as gurus or thought leaders before there were all these platforms to circumvent the traditional routes?

What were the traditional routes?

After speaking with a handful of upcoming guests on the show, I’ve come to realize that the best methods of building a successful business start off with:

Knowing yourself,
knowing your industry,
and knowing how you can help others in it.

Leverage Your 3 P’s

In my resource, Uncover Your Personal Mission, I refer to these as your 3 P’s:

Passions,
Purpose,
and Process.

If you haven’t downloaded the resource yet, when I refer to Passions, I’m talking about the things you find interesting. Topics that you naturally gravitate to. Skills that you’ve been naturally learning.

When it comes to Purpose, I’m referring to how you interact with those around you. What is a group of people you feel a bit of a calling to or you love to help?

Then, your Process can be thought of like this: what is the unique way that you can help people in that group? What do they need help with the most?

For many, the first two Ps are pretty straight forward. They’re your Why and What. But your How is something that many of us don’t necessarily know how to determine on our own. In fact, many of us don’t do the right work to figure out how we can truly help others.

In fact, often times, we’re creating content or performing work similar to what we’ve heard others create.

This simply isn’t how you go about finding your How.

Stop Living Vicariously

Interestingly, I’ve been doing some research to get ready for a guest I’m happy to announce will be on the show in an upcoming episode: Jordan Harbinger. I listened to a couple of his recent interviews where he and his guests were talking about two topics that I felt were pretty interrelated. Focus in a Chaotic World (with Cal Newport) and Why Self-Help Makes People Feel Terrible (with Gabriel Mizrahi).

Talk about a coincidence!

In both conversations, the idea came up that many of us who are in this creative entrepreneur/thought leader space are exercising a simple “monkey see, monkey do” strategy. We see how certain people have risen to where they are and we try to be like them to get the same results.

We feel that we have to do everything that the successful people are doing, or we won’t be successful ourselves.

The problem is that when a generalist approach simply isn’t as effective as a specialist’s approach.

As generalists, many of us just starting out don’t realize that these big names with the thousands of followers actually have their own teams. Or if they don’t have a team, they’ve just been doing what they’ve been doing for so long that they now have reached a point where they have exponential growth.

Trying to duplicate those results as someone relatively new to an industry, shouldn’t be what we’re focused on.

What to Focus On

Instead of trying to do all these different tasks to try and get your name out there and recognized, you need to focus on a few things. The things that really are a value for others.

For example, Jordan has specifically focused on his show for… 12 years.

Funny thing is he still hasn’t really used the different social medias like many of us think he should based on his influencer (fyi – he hates that title) status.

Sure, in the last year he’s completely rebranded himself from scratch, but he did that because he had the connections in place to do so. People knew him from the previous 11 years of being a great host on his old show. They knew what his niche was and, to an extent, continues to be.

If we want to be as successful as Jordan or other influencers that we look up to, we have to find our own track to do it. No amount of learning how to do Facebook ads or learning some other skill is going to have an direct impact on your success. What has worked for others, more than likely won’t work for you.

However, if you start out on your own path of creating value for others, you’ll make the right connections along the way. Find out what’s needed and find a solution for those needs.

Action Steps

So, here’s a bit of advice that I learned all the way back in 2012. We collectively need to practice Idea Extraction (a phrase coined by Dane Maxwell who I had on the show in session 56) in our businesses. We can’t just sit back and hope that we can find what other people need by being on our keyboards or browsing on our phones all day. We need to actually get out there and find out what’s needed. If we can do that within an industry we love utilizing skills we have (or can learn) then, we’ll have it made.

To get you going on the right path, here’s 5 questions that anyone who’s starting a new business needs to be able to know about their clientele:

  1. What keeps them up at night, staring at the ceiling?
  2. Are they upset about something? What do they find frustrating?
  3. What do they desire the most?
  4. Are there any trends that suggest something will change in their lives or work?
  5. What other solutions have other companies tried selling to them. Were they successful?
  6. Are there any weird idiosyncrasies about this group of individuals. For example, if they’re an engineer, do they use a lot of jargon in their working day? If they’re a performer, maybe they tend to work better in chaos?

Once you get an idea of what it’s like to live in the life of someone in the group you want to work with and could probably write a journal entry for them, then you’re onto something. My recommendation is do this at least 7-20 times so you can definitely start seeing a pattern of issues.

Once you get a fix for one of those issues, then you can easily take it to others and start being known as “the person who does X”. Then, from there, you’ll start to build a following as more people hear about your successes. Just don’t forget to constantly update how you do things. I’m still learning everyday!

Quitting Without Regret: A Critical Key to Successful Creativity

If you’re like me and many other creatives that I know, your mind never stops coming up with new ideas that you believe could add value to other people.

Chances are, you probably have some sort of journal or list somewhere that you can write down ideas on as they come to you.

Just last night, I was listening to Michael O’Neal’s (host of the Solopreneur Hour) interview with Pat Flynn about Pat’s new book, Will It Fly?, and a question came up for Pat that I’m not sure I ever truly heard him answer before until he answered it here.

Many successful entrepreneurs talk about 90 day sprints in which they focus on learning and doing one new thing. However, what Pat answered was very interesting. He said that instead of cutting up the year into 90 day sprints, he actually focuses on two new things for the entire year.

That honestly blew me away. That seems like such a small amount.

But if I think about it, that’s what he’s done. Just kinda going back through his income reports, I can think about what he was up to during that time. For example, in 2013 he wrote his first big ebook, Let Go. In 2014, he was all about systematizing and hiring “fuller” time help. He even spoke of it several times that year. That enabled him to start making and releasing more stuff including “Ask Pat” and doing more videos on YouTube in a series called SPI TV. And in 2015, he was all about going big and expanding his brand as a whole – becoming a regular speaker and embracing his “CEO” role (even though he’d say he doesn’t like that title too well!).

I’m sure Pat wanted to do all of these things for several years. If you dig, you can see he started things here and there. (For example, there’s evidence on his YouTube channel… his oldest videos are 6 years old.) He didn’t have the capacity to do all the things on a regular basis until recently. He knew how to quit without regret

Knowing Your Capacity

Let’s face it, unless we have a team, we’re not going to be able to do everything we want to do. Really. And even then, we might not be able to. (That’s why companies continue to grow.)

There’s two reasons for this, one is that you simply have 24 hours in a day. Even if you’re a workaholic like Gary Vee, you’re still only going to be able to do so much. The second is that you come pre-programmed with certain personality traits, and there’s just going to be some things that you’re better at than not.

Even if you’re a workaholic, there’s a good chance you might risk burnout and/or miss out on other aspects of life.

As Angles of Lattitude co-host Laila recently pointed out in a ‘scope of hers, “you have to know what you REALLY want”. While she was able to work herself into working at NASA, a lot of what she did to get there forced her to skip out on other aspects of life. Similarly, while she’s always wanted to be an Professional Engineer and recently had started studying to take the test to be, she realized that it wasn’t for her… at least not right now. She’s currently starting her own brand, working a Fast Track program with Beach Body, helping with the podcast, and on top of that, she’s working part time as well. She simply didn’t have the capacity to add the test on top of all of that.

I think that this was a great choice on her part – even if, for her, it was a really painful decision. She re-realized what her capacity was and she made the decision to not go over that limit.

The Big Misconception

So, at this point, you might be thinking “Ok, that’s great for Pat and Laila, JC. But honestly, I can’t afford for my startup to fail. That’s why I HAVE to try so many things. I need to play it safe. One of these things will work.”.

Will it? Do you think that will help? To me, that sounds like a recipe for failure.

Pat and Laila are simply two recent examples I can think of in the entrepreneurial arena.

Let’s jump into the sports world for a second. This past Sunday was the Super Bowl. Do you think that Peyton Manning ever tried to become a great golfer in the years that he was becoming a legendary football player? No. He was too busy studying game film and working on his own fundamentals to become another kind of athlete. However, that would have never have crossed his mind as he’s been a pedigree quarterback his entire life.

Here’s another example: do you think that anyone that’s running for Presidency of the US in 2016 has the capacity to become president if they were focused on keeping any other kind of job outside of a political one or a business that ran itself? No way!

I’m simply getting at this simple point: There might have been people who were able to burn the candle on both ends. But if you really want something to be hugely successful, you’ll probably need to put all of your effort into that one thing.

When you start to pile up too many commitments on your plate, you have no choice but to start letting other tasks and ideas fall through the cracks.

Taking the Next Step Without Regrets

So now that I might have twisted your arm into realizing that you might have to let off the gas on some of your current efforts and/or ideas, how are you going to do so? For one, you don’t want to be considered a quitter. Secondly, you don’t want to truly give up those ideas.

I believe that there are a few good ways that you can set your mind at ease.

  1. Declare Victory and Move on. Realize that whatever you were working on was merely a project. If it was merely a project, and you learned something from it, declare it as a victory. Move on. For me, I’ve been pouring some time developing a couple of products since re-launching the site back in May. One was a guide to writing resumes and cover letters. The other was building the ultimate guide to connecting with anyone.After doing some groundwork and some idea bouncing and verifying, I realized that these items weren’t going to be as useful to you guys as I hoped. What I learned is that if I have any future product ideas, I really need to ask you all what would be a good product. (FYI… I do have one in the works now!)
  2. Prioritize Them. You can only do so much. If you need a visual, think of your capacity as being the top of a traditional stove. There are 4 burners. If you cook with a stove, you probably know you use the front two burners the most. They’re the most active. The back two are merely for more passive secondary items.Many times, I think about my efforts like this. I’m going to have two projects that are taking up most of my time. However, there are some things that while I would love to do them now, I’m going to have to make them secondary. Secondary items can not require the focus of a front burner item. If it does, I’m just going to have to remove it all together. (The last thing I need is to burn the house down, right? aka burnout.) Right now, when it comes to building New Inceptions, my front two burners are being used for building weekly content and building real friends and allies in the creative space. The back burners are building the New Inceptions audience and a product for them. I’m not doing anything else that isn’t related to accomplishing these four tasks.
  3. Share the Responsibility. Teams don’t have to be made of employees. You can make a voluntary team of like minded people who are going after the same goals. The main difference is that employees work for an income. Volunteers work for a feeling of purpose and belonging. The co-hosts of the Angles of Lattitude podcast are all volunteers. However, they realize that we’re all going in the same direction: to have our own brand, credibility, etc. As the show continues to gain traction, they’ll be more and more recognized as a contributor. Eventually, the audience will start seeking them as authority figures beyond the show.

 

This Week’s Challenge:

In today’s world, it might seem like a weakness to give up on something you’ve set out to do. You might have phrases in the back of your mind that are repeating, such as “quitters never win” and “not quitting is half the battle”. But are those things really true? I’d argue that quitters DO win. I believe that the best entrepreneurs – the best professional creators – do know when to quit. In fact, they do it all the time. They know what they should be focusing their time, energy, and money on and they quit the rest.

What should you quit doing? What should you postpone? What should you be spending more time focusing on?

Let us know in the comments below this post.