Just finished baking a pie for the Cuban. It’s her birthday tomorrow. Thirty-three, like me. I’m actually the one who likes pies, but I think she wants to like them, so I’m starting her off with the basics — blueberry. I guess apple is as standard as it gets from an American point of view but she’s Latin so I side-stepped to blueberry. Maybe I should have gone with mango, or coconut. Too late now, but pretty sure she’ll like it anyway. Plus, I have burn marks on my hands to prove it’s authenticity. And I stayed up till 12:30 doing it. Extra credit for me.
In between obsessive re-reads of the 3 simple steps required to complete this baking masterpiece (I was convinced I missed something), it dawned me the doors that have opened since I had the bright idea of going out on my own last July. I still can’t believe it took me as long as it did to put 2 and 2 together — ‘hmm, you’ve been working in technology for 10+ years and your Dad owns a fastener distributor which you’ve been shouting to put online for the past 5 years. Maybe you could turn this into a business (dummy).’ Anyway, since then my brain has not paused for even the slightest breath of air. Always on. Always thinking of how to diversify, how to make the business of fastener sales exciting, how to create a Purple Cow from a pile of 18-8 Stainless Steel Carriage Bolts.
But then something else started to happen. New business ventures started to trickle in. First sporadically, then before I knew it, I couldn’t look at a parking meter or get through a gym workout without being flooded with new ideas, visions for prototypes, press release headlines and thoughts of domain names. The fire hose was dumping on me; it was relentless. I went from being the casual and frivolous inventor of scratch-n-sniff pillows (long story) to an entrepreneur with a formal business plan, a 50-page product spec and an outsourced development team building my vision. And then to make matters more overwhelming, other people started engaging me with their ideas and proposals. Projects landing in my lap to do freelance work. Requests to help build a start-up. Offers to partner with growing companies. Where were all of these options 5 years ago when I first started to think, ‘I could do this for myself, I bet.’ That journey of going from employee to employer evolved from “Point A to B”, into, ostensibly, endless possibilities.
I read about this happening. This sort of, peeling-your-entrepreneurial-onion-brain-dilemma. But I always figured I was too much of a 1-track-mind person. I also don’t consider myself to be very creative. One bright idea per lifetime seemed reasonable. But the volume of ideas and opportunities was getting noisy, quickly? And I have yet to say “No” to any of them, because what if I pass up on the right one? Where I used to siphon through senseless job offers from corporate recruiting drones, my haystack had shifted to ‘which business should I spend more time and money on?’ It’s exciting, sure, but those two things, time and money, have limits .. unless you’re the offspring of Marty McFly and Paris Hilton. Point is, it’s nice to have options, but focus is required. Otherwise you’ll have spent years spinning your wheels while blowing your savings on the entrepreneurial lottery.
The answer is, pick one and give it your best shot. (Full disclosure: I have not started practicing my preaching, yet. Maybe this blog post will be own wake-up call).
Multi-tasking is good for certain things. Peeing on one foot as you brush your teeth, all while boxing your son out from touching the toilet with your other foot. There’s a good use of juggling. But writing white papers by day for one business and spec’ing out design mock-ups for a couple others by night will only leave you with three mediocre products, or worst-case, failure all around. So what if you spend a few months on something and it bombs. At least you’ll know you tried. Maybe the market wasn’t ready for it. Move on. Put your humpty-dumpty self back together, chalk up the lessons learned and open door #2.
Something tells me there will be at least one slice missing from the Cuban’s birthday pie by tomorrow night.
How do you guys stay focused?