It happens every morning after my kids head off to school. I turn on my computer, load my browser and my preset tabs open up for my email accounts and social media. Overnight I’ve received several emails that request replies, and alerts about social media messages, likes, comments, and shares. Before I know it I’m sucked in and can’t escape the mass distraction and throughout the day the tabs stay open in case something urgent pops up.
In my email inbox, I’ve joined tons email lists from the top influencers in different fields and I’m listening to all this advice about email lists, sales pages, marketing strategies, content strategy, product development, e-books, content upgrades, downloadable bribes, minimum viable products, webinars, summits, online courses, podcast interviews, blog posts, guest posts, social media schedulers, affiliate links, and the list goes on. My head is spinning. Where do I start? Which one will grow my list? Which one will be the key to unlocking the rest like some domino effect? One coach says one thing, but another guru says another, which is ultimately contradicted by another sherpa.
I’m doing little things in multiple directions and it’s not working. Recently, I came across some very sound advice that was just to focus on one thing. Do one thing at a time. I know that I start tons of little projects, especially for language learning, and after a few days or a few obstacles I lose momentum and stop. These goals seem great and I know every week there’s some new great idea that I come up with and people who know me will listen and acknowledge that it may be interesting and worth trying, but what I really need to hear right now is…stop! Put the brakes on because my mind is racing and it’s getting a little out of control.
I’ve heard the anecdote about Warren Buffet and Bill Gates having a meal together and agreeing that their best advice was to do one thing at a time in order to stay focused. And researching that anecdote I just found a post on LinkedIn by Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism, and without knowing that, I just heard about this book called Essentialism because I was listening to an interview of John Lee Dumas with Shawn Stevenson and John’s wife, Kate, recommended that Shawn read it and then the interviewed discussed the importance of a priority instead of priorities when setting s.m.a.r.t. goals and following plan.
I know this stuff because earlier this year I read Brian P. Moran’s 12-Week-Year and then gave an interview in which I recommended the book and about setting s.m.a.r.t. goals and then even let people know about my crazy idea of learning 52 languages in 52 weeks based on Benny Lewis’ Speak-in-a-Week challenge. I got up to about 12 languages by the end of March before it became unsustainable.
However, knowing something and advocating it are not the same thing as actually doing it. It’s painful to tell students do as I say, not as I do, but that’s essentially what I’m doing. Now I’m looking at a comparison table from Essentialism and I realize I’ve become a non-essentialist who is trying to do too many things, getting frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted, and ending up doing nothing due to a lack of focus because everything is equally important and a priority.
So, once again…stop…close my eyes, breathe, count to ten. What is one thing I can do today that will give people value?
Earlier today I received an email from Chelsea Dinsmore of Live Your Legend and one phrase that caught my attention was that “in order to have lasting fulfillment, you have to be doing what you are doing, because you love it, but for a reason greater than yourself.” Nobody cares about me specifically, and rather whatever service I’m providing people, it has to be about them, their needs, their struggles, and giving them true value. I sometimes get too worked up about how, and when to do that instead of just actually doing it, no matter how small or modest or imperfect the contribution is. I get worked up over nothing and as a result I do nothing.
I’ve become passive and reactive instead of having razor-sharp judgment and precise decision-making skills to know which actions will be beneficial and which ones won’t. I second-guess and hesitate. I feel like the rookie president in Designated Survivor. Despite overwhelming evidence, inaction feels like the safest course of action until a 100% certainty comes into play. I read some research about that in the book Made to Stick this week, that when faced with equally compelling options, people pick neither. Life has very little complete certainties. There are many gray areas and the question isn’t about always knowing the answer, but having the right strategies and tools to find the answers when we don’t know them and we need to know who to ask for guidance.
Stop…breathe…focus. Forget all the advice I’m getting bombarded with to do what worked for that person and to just copy their blueprint. I could start out on my own path, which is what they did, and it could take me longer, but isn’t that particular difficult path or road-less-traveled that is full of hard work and constant hustling what defined them as a person and forced them to overcome challenges, setbacks, and to figure out why they stayed in the game and persevered? They’re telling me to take the easy path and to just buy their product that will show me how they did it. Well, that’s too easy. I don’t want to be them. I want to be me. I don’t own their success. I want to own my own. I want to figure it out on my own. I want to know what is right for me and right for the people I serve. I want to be unique and to be known for how I redefined or reshaped something and turned it on its head, but to be able to do that I have to stop…breathe, and focus on one thing at a time.