When listening to people's experience, one ingredient to their success keeps coming back: Focus. Focusing on which goals you want to achieve. Focusing on which products you offer. Focusing on a who it is you serve. Making a decision on what you do. And thus also on what you don't do.
If you're anything like me, you resist focus. Because it means that you don't get to do the other things. "There are so many exciting options." "Won't I miss out if I focus and cut off options?"
So, in this piece, I'll explain why I (have come to) believe focus actually helps me. And I share the mental loops my brain jumps through to convince me otherwise.
1. Focus makes your personal brand clear
Whether you like it or not, you have a brand. It's everything you do and don't do. The promises you make, the value you deliver. It's the way you speak, the way you listen.
And you're already communicating that brand. And thus, people will have a perception. Which is probably an unfair generalization. Nobody knows you completely. So everyone judges you on what they do know. Which is an incomplete set of information. Given that it's so hard to find out what someone is really about, you could make it easier for them.
Focusing allows you to have one clear and consistent brand through everything you do. Doing less different things. Choosing a group of people you help. Adding specific value in a certain way. That is much easier for people to understand. And subsequently, talk about you with others in a way you want them to.
"I help creative entrepreneurs build a business according to their definition of success. Through my writing, coaching, and trainings, I help them develop their vision and strategy to bring that into reality."
Compare that to a brand with 15 propositions to 30 different groups, which depending on the potential client.
"I create spaces where curiosity can flourish over fear. This can be for educational institutions through workshops. For companies through facilitation. Or for independent entrepreneurs through coaching and trainings."
(Yes, both are mine)
Through the decision to focus, your brand can become consistent. This gives people trust in your brand. Plus, they don't have to update what they know about your brand every 6 months.
As Zig Ziglar says: "Don't become a wandering generality. Be a meaningful specific".
2. Focus allows for specific communication
If everyone is your target market, your message needs to cater for everyone. That's nearly impossible to do. Your words can only be true for everyone when you use high-level conceptual meta words that are void of all emotion. That's why every text of big corporates, government agency or bank will make you fall asleep.
When you try to communicate to a specific group, a market, a tribe, your message can be sharp and specific. You can use tangible and recognizable metaphors that have meaning to your group. You can be specific in examples to show them you understand them. And tell them the story they need to hear to see that you offer what they need.
I like these two. Have you come across good ones?
Unmistakable Creative "Unlearn everything you know, Become Unmistakable. Eliminate the feeling of being stuck in your life, blocked in your creativity, and discover higher levels of meaning and purpose in your life and career"
(Sorry Dutch) Jongens van de tekening "Met visueel denken helpen we je bij het maken van strategie en het in beweging krijgen van mensen. We halen de essentie uit complexiteit en zorgen voor een gedeeld beeld."
3. Focus allows for specific action
If you're trying to figure out a way to approach and sell to 20 different groups in the more efficient way, you can search forever.
However, a specific group of people offers clear options and allows you to become pro-active. It's possible to point to them and name them. You can see yourself meeting with all of them. There is 1 simple plan you can make (and not 5 different plans).
They meet in certain places. And thus you can figure out where to be in order to meet them. They read certain blogs. So, you can try to write for those. They trust certain people. So, if you can convince those people you do good work, you can earn their trust. Etc.
4. Focus frees up your mental capacity
When you focus, you don't need to juggle multiple problems, sales plans or ways of communicating in your head. You just have one.
You don't have to solve everyone's problem, you just need to be very good at solving someone's specific problem.
You have less things that you need to learn. Which allows you to become very good at a few things. So good, that they can't ignore you (to borrow from Cal Newport). Being really good allows you to do remarkable work. Which leads to more work.
As it is, there is already a daunting number of things you need to learn when you strike out on your own. If on top of that, you want to develop yourself into a topnotch expert in 10 different areas, this will take much longer. Better to tackle them in series.
Why is focus scary?
Sounds like a lot of benefits. But, I guess, when you've read this far, you'll have resistance to it as well. Here are some I face when I need to make a decision to focus.
But, won't I miss out? Will there be enough?
What if - because I focus on a smaller group - I can't find enough clients? I get that.
The real question is, will enough potential clients work their way through you scattered marketing, communication, and past work, to uncover the story they need to hear to hire you?
A good rule of thumb is that when there is conference for the target group, the group is big enough.
But, what if I'm not asked for those other things anymore?
Good, that means fewer distractions. The idea is that you're booked with work of the category of choice.
But, I like everything!
But what do you like most? The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love.
There's this great Warren Buffett story where he asks an employee (his pilot) to make a list of the top 25 career goals he has. Then he asked to circle the top 5 goals. He would start working on that top 5 list. But what to do with the list of 20 goals he didn't circle? When asked, the pilot answered: "They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort."
To which Buffett replied: "No. You’ve got it wrong. 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."
But, what if I it turns out it gets boring?
Then you improve on your choice. You focus doesn't need to last forever.
Life is serial. You can do one thing for a while and later do something else while building on the first experience. It doesn't have to happen all at the same time. Don't be a donkey.
This doesn't mean that you jump ship at the first sign of rough water. That's just scatteredness over a slightly longer period. But you look at what works and what you want to improve or make more fun and you adjust.
But, everything I do enriches all the other thing!
Yes and no. It also means you never really finish one thing, become a master at something or become recognized for a thing.
There has to be one main course. Of which the rest can be side dishes. Having a main course gives you a lens through which to view your experience of doing the side activities. A hook you can hang experiences on. It allows them to stick. And the side dishes that don't support the main course? Those are hobbies.
But, don't put me in a box!
The brand you choose is not a box. The labels are merely shortcuts for others to see your brand the way you want them to. You're still your full self.
And you're already being put in boxes. Might as well choose the ones you want people to put you in.
And, the real reason it's scary
Picking one puts you on the hook. Making a decision for one shifts you from the safe space of possibility to the exciting but scary space of responsibility.
You no longer have the excuse that you're figuring it out, but you actually have to take action. And that's mighty scary.
Shoot. And potentially miss. But, you'll probably make more and can adjust your aim every time.
Thanks for reading!
I hope this helps you. If so, sharing the article really helps others find it too. Both would be much appreciated!
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Want to really get to work on this with me? Want more focus and clarity in your life and work? Want to adopt the right mindset in approaching developing your purpose?