In a recent video interview with best selling author, coach, and motivational speaker Jack Canfield, he asked me about the No. 1 struggle for entrepreneurs and leaders. If you are one, my answer will almost certainly make you laugh – and maybe cry. It’s focus.
“Focus is like a necessity, but it’s also a swear word for entrepreneurs, because by nature entrepreneurs don’t like to focus, we have expansive minds,” I told him.
Do you identify with that?
I know you do, because I did. My information technology business was very successful up to a point, and then I experienced a big setback in 2007-2008. My business had grown a lot, but our losses were also increasing. My management team wasn’t all on the same page, which was a problem. I realized that I didn’t know exactly why I had succeeded, and I also didn’t know exactly why that success had hit a wall. So, I went looking for help.
I read books. I attended seminars. I hired coaches. For years, I learned everything I could on how to be successful – and why we sometimes fail. And now my passion is to share what I’ve learned with you and others like you, which has resulted in my book, “The Three Challenges: Your Model for Personal Growth as an Entrepreneur.”
Wait, you say; there are a lot more than three challenges to running a successful business!
True. But I find that if you tackle these three, everything else falls in line.
So, Jack asked, what are the three challenges?
- First, you must master yourself. Do you have a vision for your life? How close to that vision are you living? When I give seminars, I ask people to close their eyes and raise their hands to tell me whether they are living their vision on a scale of 10-9, a scale of 8-7, or a scale of 6 and below. The most answers fall between 6 and 7. And that’s because people aren’t aligning themselves with their visions in the immediate moment, in the short-term future and in the long-term future. I give you nine tools to help you do this: by making a lifeline chart, having an attitude of gratitude, establishing your “bucket list,” becoming comfortable with your personal values, determining your life purpose and mission, creating your “life wheel” and “life assessment,” re-imagining your life and, lastly, taking responsibility for that life. I know this seems like a lot of work, but it is the key to the next two challenges – and to living life according to your vision.
- Second, you must master the direction you want your company to take. You must build a solid foundation based on your personal values in order to build a management team that embodies and carries out those values. Then you need to know your company’s purpose. I like to tell people that your purpose is not what you sell, it’s the problems you solve for others. Knowing your values and your purpose is what creates your company’s base culture, which you can build on.
- And third, you must master your company’s performance. Where do you want it to be in 10 years? What actions do you need to take in the next three years to ensure that you are on that path? And what actions do you need to take in the next 90 days to get to that point in three years? It’s all about the long-term, the short-term and the immediate-term. Your written goals and the metrics you use to follow them set the tone for everything.
Now, let’s get back to that swear word: focus. If you master yourself, master your company’s direction, and set up the metrics to be able to master your company’s performance, focus is a natural byproduct. After all, when you have a map, you know which roads to take; without a map, you are simply wandering. I use the One-Page Strategic Plan, a tool developed by Verne Harnish, CEO of Gazelles and author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up. The one-page strategic plan takes everything from the three challenges and organizes them into the roadmap your company needs in order to focus its efforts, leadership and results.
Want to get started now? You can download the first section of my book here, which explains the three challenges in more detail and then drills down on the first challenge in the chapter called “Master Yourself First” – including the nine exercises I mentioned above. Or if you’re ready to tackle the entire book, click here.