I sent this memo to my marketing team a couple of weeks ago, but I thought of also sharing it here with our audience. I’m aware that not everyone will agree with this madness, but this is how I really feel every time I’m told to “focus”.
It’s on the topic of Being Focused vs. Having Multiple Projects. Below is the private memo I sent my team.
Feel free to share your thoughts.
=== MEMO FROM VISHEN ====
I want to elaborate on what I discussed at today’s meeting.
In addition to your big goal for the year, anyone working under me should take on “Epic Endeavors” – some side project that is risky but can have huge payoffs.
I understand that conventional thinking says FOCUS on ONE goal. I’ve always felt this intuitively wrong. For me, focusing on one persistent thing just seems to slow down results.
BUT running multiple projects seems to speed up results for me.
But almost everyone I met in my early entrepreneurial years – especially my peers – said Focus.
I decided not to focus. I pursued multiple roles and projects at any opportunity I could.
At my first job in technology sales, in addition to selling tech to our clients, I asked my boss to allow me to create a new division in the company to allow us to work on Business Development. When he said yes, I straddled two roles. Sales and Business Development. Rather than slow me down, it sped up my results. I was a top 5 rep in the company out of 100 WHILE running a whole new dept.
When I became an entrepreneur and started Mindvalley, I worked on 2 – 3 projects simultaneously. We were still finding our footing. This turned out to be a blessing. When 2 of the 3 failed the company did not go bust because our third bet paid off.
But I wondered. Was this true for MAJOR entrepreneurs too? Or just a quirk in my little world as an employee and small business owner.
Then I got to meet Elon Musk and Richard Branson.
The Major Leagues
Elon shared the story of how he started three companies in a span of three years. And proceeded to dominate three different industries – electric vehicles, solar power systems, and space travel.
As for Branson, well… Branson started 300+ Virgin companies. He holds the record for building EIGHT different billion dollar companies in EIGHT different industries.
Nope, not exactly focused.
The only two entrepreneurs left in my Top 4 list of greatest entrepreneurs of all time were Steve Jobs and Sam Walton.
Weren’t they both famous focusers?
Well, Jobs is famous for slashing Apple’s product line to focus on just a few products. But that’s a marketing strategy. Not an entrepreneurial focus strategy.
Remember – Jobs was CEO of TWO amazing companies at the SAME time. Pixar AND Apple.
He was not a Focuser.
And Walton? Well he did focus on ONE great company, Wal-Mart. But if you read his biography, you’ll notice that even at an early age, he focused on multiple goals. In college ran for every office that came along and by the time he graduated he had been elected president of the senior men’s honor society, an officer in his fraternity, president of his senior class and president of the Bible class. He was also captain and president of Scabbard and Blade, the elite military organization of ROTC. While doing all this he also ran his own newspaper business and was making $4,000 to $6,000 a year which was at the end of the Depression Era fairly serious cash.
Nope. Sam Walton did not focus… in fact Wal-mart grew so fast because he chose to start multiple branches rather than just focusing on a SINGLE region.
But the thing that devastated the whole “focus on one thing” philosophy for me was Peter Diamandis’ and his Peter’s Laws.
Note Law #3 – “Multiple Projects Lead to Multiple Successes”
Peter is a prolific “Unfocuser”.
He runs Singularity University, The X Prize foundation and Planetary Resources. Multiple companies started in the span of a few years.
In short, almost every great entrepreneur I’ve studied – chose NOT to focus.
Focus is myth. It’s bull. And if you’re working under me, especially on my marketing team, you have to get used to my inability to focus.
This does not mean NOT getting things done. Instead it means getting multiple things done WITHOUT stress.
In short, for many great entrepreneurs - Focus is the Distraction. It’s the big myth that distracts them from truly being great and pursuing their crazy dreams.
The Real Key
You see, the real key has nothing to do with focus.
There’s only ONE rule and that rule is stay in the Flow State.[Note: I'm not talking about the definition of Flow as by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which means Full Engagement. I'm referring to my definition which means being happy in the present while pursuing big goals. More on it in this well received speech I did in Calgary in 2009.]
I’m in Flow when I do multiple projects. And they all usually work out magically.
You might be in flow when you focus on one. And it will work out too.
What you believe will be your reality.
But note two things…
1. I’ll still end up completing more than a person who focused on one thing. Our beliefs shape our reality. So why not believe you can do more?
2. The person who focuses on ONE will get attached to the outcome. As soon as this happens you’ve violated a basic principle of Flow (and Zen Buddhism for that matter).
Don’t get attached.
Attachment leads to fear. Fear leads to worry. Worry leads to chaos.
So when you have multiple projects – you’re often MORE in flow because you’re unattached. And you find that you can do more, with less stress and see better, faster results.
Wait, you’re thinking…this is entrepreneurial stuff. But if I’m at a job shouldn’t I focus on ONE thing?
Glad you ask. So check this out. The #1 book on How to be a Star At Work.
A quick summary of Chapter #1.
Exercise your initiative. Go beyond your job description. Look for solutions to problems at work. Help out your co-workers.
Does that sound like focus to you? Go BEYOND your job description.
If you’re working with me I will train you to be a GREAT entrepreneur. Not a mediocre one.
So to hell with Focus.
And you’re loudly proclaiming to the Universe.
…This goal is a piece of cake.
…I’ll do more.
…Bring it ON!
It will be easy. It IS easy.
Do multiple epic things. Stay in Flow. Don’t get attached.
And remember Peter’s Law:
“Multiple Projects Lead to Multiple Successes”
=== End of Memo ====
Side Note: When I shared this with my mastermind group, Zentrepreneur, several entrepreneurs commented that they found this memo to be a big weight off their shoulders. They had always felt that they were doing something wrong for focusing on multiple things at once. But what I found even more interesting is that many of these entrepreneurs commented that the people who told them early on to focus, never really became as successful as they are today. I’ve observed the same thing. The people who joked that I had A.D.D, was unfocused, etc never ended up doing as much as I did.
Caveat: While I don’t focus, I do practice one important idea that has allowed me to create a very high success rate for the companies and projects I run. Every new company I start – to some degree – is connected to an existing company I own. So each new project has multiple points of leverage with existing ideas. For example, our Omvana app was a big gamble, but worked because it was produced via a separate company I owned in publishing. I had a readymade list of hundreds of authors whose work we could bring to our app. That’s a powerful leverage point. Every company I run must have at least 2 leverage points to an existing idea. This allows me to filter the 300+ proposals I get every year into 8 – 12 new ideas to pursue.
If you enjoyed this post, click LIKE or SHARE with an aspiring entrepreneur you know. Also, leave comments and questions. I make my best effort to answer all comments. ~ Vishen
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