Prevential offers Success Factors to help rewire your business and personal life for success. Please check back for a new “Success Factors” article daily in January 2009.
Remember the old saying, “Never put all your eggs in one basket?” People believed that options were the key to success. Unfortunately, they had it all wrong.
They meant well, but they taught us to divide our free time across several “baskets.” The lack of focus prevented us from developing one basket substantially, which created an army of mediocre people doing mediocre things.
When the great Chinese General, Xiang Yu, burned his own ships the night before a battle with the Qin dynasty, he eliminated the “we could always retreat” basket. In Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely notes that Xiang’s troops were scared, but since they were left with no choice, they had to fight. They ended up winning nine consecutive battles against overwhelming odds.
Xiang put his eggs in one basket and his troops accomplished the impossible. Luckily, you can apply this to your life and business without the fire and the blood shed. You need to rewire your brain and realize that options and diversity is not the answer. You need to “put all of your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket” (Andrew Carnegie).
But why do you need to focus on one basket?
Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule (Malcolm Gladwell made it famous in Outliers)? K. Anders Ericsson and his associates found that elite music performers all had one thing in common and that was 10,000 hours of practice. It didn’t matter how “talented” they were, it just mattered how much time they spent practicing.
10,000 hours is a huge amount of time and it will be impossible to accomplish without focus. You simply can’t give 10,000 hours to every opportunity because there is only 24 hours a day.
This rule also applies to business and success.
It takes a long time to perfect a product and a business plan. Without initial focus, your company may struggle with several mediocre products that will never make a difference.
When McDonalds first started, they used to sell several different products. Once they realized that Hamburgers were the key to their success, they eliminated everything else. They focused on their core product and now you can see what happened with McDonalds.
Or, how about the story of Apple? When Steve Jobs resumed as CEO, Apple was floundering. They had tons of products and zero focus. Steve Jobs began canceling entire departments and brought Apple back its profitability and now you all have iTunes and iPhones and iPods.
So ask yourself, are you focusing on your core product or main opportunity? Are you giving one project all of your time and dedication? If not, it is time to reconsider and you may experience breakaway growth.
Now that you know you need 10,000 hours of practice and complete focus, this doesn’t mean you can just start logging hours and expect success. It is possible to log 5,000 hours and have them equal 1 hour of practice.
In “Talent is Overrated,” Geoff Colvin talks about Deliberate Practice. The practice that makes you so tired and exhausted that you can only do it a few hours a day. This is what you need 10,000 hours of. You can’t simply do the same thing day in and day out and expect to get better. You need to push yourself beyond your limits and count those hours.
A friend of mine who is an executive officer at a Fortune 100 company was talking to me about recruiting and how to hire the perfect employee. He said something like, “you need to hire someone with 10 years of experience, not 10 years of the same one year of experience.” Or, in short, you need to hire someone who develops their career because the development shows successful deliberate practice.
From a business perspective, you can’t focus on one product and never make improvements. You need to constantly lower the price, improve usability, or add effectiveness. If you don’t, you may join the ranks of the other floundering companies in this competitive world.
So, if you recently began to focus on one thing and one thing only, what are you doing to ensure that you are pushing yourself to your limits? Are you improving the quality and efficiency of your company and products? Are you expanding your market reach?
Success Factors Spotlight
Throughout the “Success Factors” blog series you will see “Success Factors Spotlight.” This is where you will see real life examples of companies, people, or blogs that will benefit or have benefited from the ideas we talked about in the article.
We talked about Apple and about McDonalds, but what about the small business owners today? Are they carving out their niche by focusing on a single product and developing it relentlessly?
Yes they are.
Have you heard of Chris Pearson? He’s the guy behind the new Wordpress Theme called Thesis. It was released early 2008 and it has been revised and updated no less than 7 times. Most designers create a theme, release it, and forget about it, but not Chris. He continues to support Thesis and now you can see many well known blogs using it.
But do you think his success was an accident? Do you think Thesis became one of the most popular Wordpress themes because Chris got lucky?
Chris built Thesis with a ton of experience under his belt. He created four wildly popular Wordpress themes prior to it (Cutline, Pressrow, Neoclassical, and Copyblogger), so he knew where to start. However, the most important thing contributing to his success was his intent focus on developing the best Wordpress theme on the internet.
In short, Thesis became popular because of Chris Pearson’s single basket. He picked the Wordpress theme basket and put all of his eggs in it. So, if you’re looking to experience breakaway growth, you need to take a page from Chris Pearson’s book and focus on one basket. Then, continue to watch that basket to ensure you continue to do it right over the course of the product’s life.
What Do You Think?
Leave a comment and lets start a discussion.