Focus is good, they say. It’s supposed to be a key to success – concentrating on what works, and not getting distracted. Whole books have been written about it.
Short-term focus means fixing on a task and not wasting your day on side activities. Then there’s sustained focus, over a longer period. Enemies of this are said to include acquisitions, new ventures, and sitting on too many eggs at once.
Unrelenting focus isn’t always for the best, though. It can lead to number watching, impatience and unnecessary fiddling.
Not everything happens just when we want it to. Projects get stuck. Trying to push them forward isn’t always going to work. We need to rest, wait for inspiration, let time to pass.
That’s when alternative ventures are valuable. They allow us to lie fallow on the prime one, without the feeling of going nowhere. We can move from one to another without getting itchy.
Two side projects are good. Three may be even better.
Contrast between activities is useful, for example gardening as a break from book writing. The secondary projects need not be profit-related. When business progress is stubborn, you can switch to improving your tennis slice.
Everyone wants Unicorn rates of growth, like those of Airbnb or Uber or Clubhouse, but mostly this isn’t how it happens. Growth typically occurs on a compounding basis, which means that the first few years show modest returns.
Maybe it’s like planting an orchard. No matter how ambitious we are, or how much effort or intelligence is applied, a few seasons have to pass before the first crop. There’s a natural maturation process that can’t be rushed.
Focus sounds clear, hot, laser-like. Just what we all want to be. But it can also lead to forced thinking, strain and pain.
Focus isn’t always sharp.