Fearful Focus: How & When to Kill Your 2nd Most Amazing Idea (+ free ‘Avoid At All Cost’ workbook)
“Focus is the key to the world.”
– William A. Dinsmore III (my dad)
Admitting Defeat to Allow Victory…
I have a confession to make.
For the last few months I’ve been working on launching a top-secret project that I think could help this community in a totally new and fun way.
I’ve briefly mentioned it in the past, and many of you have showed serious enthusiasm – which further fueled my distraction, I mean excitement…
This is also what I was referring to in my interview with John Lusk on Difficult Decisions last week – so figured it’s about time we make it public.
To recap, here’s the first item from my 2013 goals post:
“Launch a real-time fully-exposed case study on how to take a physical product from idea, to market testing, to manufacturing and to selling — all by using today’s online tools. This is going to be our biggest project EVER, and we are going to take you along for every step of the ride. Keep an ear out for the launch of the new site to track this project as well as what the physical product will actually be. I could not sleep this weekend because I was so excited for it.”
Since then, my partner Nic and I have invested a few thousand dollars in branding, design, setting up web sites, and even hired an architectural designer to create high-end CAD drawings so we can manufacture our first physical product prototype.
What’s the top-secret product you ask??
Well it’s a height-adjustable stand-up desk of course!
See below for a few of our concept sketches, courtesy of the very talented Bryan at Camber Studios, whom we found on Elance. I hope you enjoy how all-over-the-map these are!
And that’s just a taste…
I won’t go into all the reasons why we chose the product we did, but let’s just say that I have a huge interest in health (standing for long periods is generally better for you than sitting), I’ve always wanted to create a physical product and our office of four close friends is a bit tight on sitting space.
So you’re probably wondering when this project is going live.
Which brings me to my next confession.
The answer is… never.
Last week we decided to kill it.
Focus is the Key to the World
This is a decision that’s been weighing on me for weeks, and I so badly wanted to keep it going – both because the project was really fun and exciting, and because I know so many of you wanted to see it come to life.
But then I remembered seven words my father casually mentioned in one of our informal strategy sessions a few months back:
“Focus is the key to the world.”
I’ve thought about that statement every day since. Then a reflective month in Thailand allowed it to further hit me in the face – over and over.
You see, I am notorious for spreading myself too thin. I love starting new things and get mesmerized by the possibilities. My guess is some of you can relate…
And with today’s access to so many tools and resources, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to start things.
Don’t get me wrong – this ability for us to rapidly get up and running is an amazing phenomenon (like wildly amazing!), especially as you’re starting out and experimenting with different passions, projects and ideas, as I did for years. And I fully believe that treating life as an experiment (or a series of many small ones) is the single most powerful way to find and do work you love.
But in doing this, without knowing it, we train ourselves to be jugglers.
And as my own passion project, Live Your Legend, has grown into the business and community it has over the past few years, naturally my capacity to juggle has dimished (more than I’d obviously like to admit).
Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should
I believe we should continuously push ourselves to do the things that others tell us (and we tell ourselves) are impossible. But this too has its limits.
As much as I liked to call this stand-up desk idea a “side-project” – that was just another mental trick to convince myself I had the bandwidth to take it on.
When, in reality, this was starting a totally separate business, with a different customer base, learning completely new skills (I don’t know a thing about manufacturing a real-life product, potentially overseas) and building everything from nothing. Oh and I was going to track the whole thing live on a separate site.
Does that really sound like a side project? Seriously, what was I thinking??
For months I convinced myself otherwise. Looking back it’s easy to see the common thread in the feedback from all my friends, mentors and advisors… “Wow that sounds like an awesome project. But wait, isn’t that going to be an insane amount of work?” Hat tip to Jonathan Fields who had an especially elegant way of hitting me over the head.
Focus Is the Key to the World.
Those words are now permanently on my whiteboard.
I’d love to build this project. It’d be a blast to learn so many new things from scratch. And maybe one day I will. But right now, and for a very long time to come, I have the project of my dreams to focus on: Live Your Legend – this community, OUR community.
And even that requires plenty of focus. Just in the coming few months the list of things I want to do for this community gets pretty deep…
- Create a LYL Live Field Kit so you all can easily host your own in-person events in your hometown (We had ones in Sydney & Vancouver in the past two weeks!)
- Create the totally redesigned Live Off Your Passion v2.0 so it’s much more interactive & intimate
- Launch a low-cost monthly membership program for those serious about bringing their passion projects to life and making real progress
- Fully redesign the LYL site and user experience
- Host a LYL event at World Domination Summit (and maybe a casual one in SF before that)
- Oh, and launch the LYL line of branded t-shirts (wait until you see these!)
I believe the above will help our community more than anything else I could focus on (well I guess the t-shirts aren’t a must, but you gotta have a little fun, right?).
So this is what’s going to be getting my attention. And I could not be more excited to have the renewed bandwidth and focus to bring them to life with all of you.
I share my story because I know how many people in our community (and everywhere) bite off more than they can chew.
Society trains us this way. Leaving us afraid to say no, and fighting to keep up.
Think for a second about how you’re spending your time.
What do you know deserves your attention? What will allow you to have your biggest impact? What fun new sexy shiny objects and ideas are detracting from that?
What needs to die so something else can thrive?
If we want to do what matters, we must say no to what doesn’t.
Even if it means killing projects that you know would be a total blast on their own. If it doesn’t directly contribute to the impact you intend to have on the world, then save it for later or give the idea to someone else.
If we’re intentional about it, each of us will have the opportunity to do a lot of amazing things in the years and decades to come. But if we try to do it all now, it’s likely none of it will ever be meaningful.
Focus is the key to the world.
How to Create Your “Avoid at All Cost List”
The good news is I have an unblievably simple way to help you know which projects need to be put on long-term hold or killed.
I first learned this from one of Warren Buffett’s pilots a couple years ago and it’s turned into the most useful big picture focus exercise I’ve ever seen. The full process is outlined in the post Warren Buffett’s 5-Step Process for Prioritizing True Success.
The process is painful, yet quite simple:
- List your top 25 goals and dreams you want to experience in the coming years and life.
- Pick your top five goals and circle them – with a big bold pen.
- Make a specific plan for how you plan to accomplish each of your top five.
- Commit to what you will NOT do. Everything you didn’t circle just became your ‘avoid at all cost list’. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.
That last step hurts – trust me, I know. But it’s absolutely neccessary.
Often the things that are the most dangerous are your second or third best ideas, not the really bad ones.
Just as job complacency is more deadly than job misery – at least the miserable situation will force you to make a change.
Diluting your best idea and project with your second, third and fourth, is a recipe for disaster. It’s also a way to turn four individually fun edeavors into an all-out grind.
Embrace the experiments. Learn what sets you on fire.
Then when you think you’ve found it, give it everything you have.
The world will thank and reward you for it.
Thanks for the focus dad.
And thank you all for giving me the best project in the world on which to direct it.
For the comments: What lingering project do you need to kill? Be honest.
P.S. Oh and next week’s post is going to be a lot of fun. I’m covering what I consider to be the single most useful (and free) online tool for developing and monetizing a passion. I credit most all of LYL’s success to this one thing – Keep an eye out!
Want a free workbook to create your ‘Avoid At All Cost’ list? Download it below…
The Prioritize Success like Warren Buffett workbook is free for all members of the LYL community (i.e. everyone subscribed to email updates). It’s just a way of me showing you how much I love and appreciate you all. To get the workbook, just enter your email address below (don’t worry if you’re already a subscriber you – won’t be double-subscribed, you’ll just get access to the download page).