I’ve been doing a lot of mountain biking recently. In fact, just this morning I found myself once again tearing madly down a local trail at 25 miles per hour.
Although I mostly focused on avoiding the ruts, rocks, and roots a few yards in front of my front wheel, I made sure to alternate that with glances further down the trail to set myself up to hit each upcoming berm at just the right speed, all the while stealing glances far into the distance to ensure I didn’t miss the trail junction that would take me back to my car. Only after I skidded to a stop at the bottom did it occur to me that I had been doing almost exactly what is required when you’re running a startup.
It turns out that knowing where to focus your time and attention is critically important.
Especially in your company’s earliest days, when you’re going full speed ahead and everything requires immediate attention, you had better make sure that you’re gripping the handlebars tightly and spending most of your time focused on those tasks right in front of you. But at the same time, you had better be occasionally lifting your eyes to ensure that you are steering in the right direction. And of course, what separates the best entrepreneurs from the rest of the pack, is that they can do both of these things while still keeping an eye out for that critical junction that will bring them closer to their ultimate vision – even if they won’t get to that particular junction for months or years.
What makes that focusing exercise particularly difficult is that thinking about those big goals is usually much more interesting than the mundane bullshit you have to deal with day to day. It’s way more fun to think about the big vision, more fun to pitch that final objective to others, and certainly more interesting to dream about how cool that brave new world will be when you finally get there.
But dreaming is especially dangerous for an entrepreneur, because every minute you let yourself focus on the grand vision, is time you could have spent doing the mundane things that will actually ensure you get to see it.
It’s one of the most frequent problems I encounter in my mentoring work and it’s why I’m so especially eager for you to hear Episode Six of the That Will Never Work Podcast, which I released today.
This week’s entrepreneur, Evan, has a big dream: houses constructed entirely by robots. And as a builder himself he can’t stop thinking about that ultimate prize. Unfortunately, getting his current project off the ground requires focusing on more specific tasks: like finding the financing, choosing the right building site, getting permits, etc. – all steps that have nothing to do with robotics, but that he’ll need to take care of to even get started.
And the more that Evan talks up his future plans, the further he seems to get from making progress on his current ones. A lot of interesting things come up during our discussion, but the advice that I think every entrepreneur will benefit from hearing is simply this:
Don’t let the excitement of heading toward your ultimate goal distract you from taking the actual steps you need to take to get there.
Or as I (a little too coarsely) tell him, “Evan, sometimes you just have to build the f’in’ house”
Hope you enjoy the episode!