The long-term benefits of focusing on a clear, reinforceable position are obvious: We get to do work we love, that we’re the best at, for clients who appreciate our value and are happy to pay profitable prices for it.
These benefits accrue over the long run. But as one administrator working under FDR astutely noted, “People don’t eat in the long run—they eat every day.”
Often, we just don’t feel like we have the time, the money—the luxury—to stop, reassess our situation, and assert a new position.
We’ve got bills to pay and jobs to finish. We’ve got to eat. So when are we supposed to pause, reflect, and start afresh?
The answer, it turns out, is today, and tomorrow. And the day after that. A little bit, every single day.
Focusing, positioning, setting ourselves apart—this isn’t accomplished all at once.
Nor is it ever finished.
It’s an ongoing process rooted in flexibility, adaptability, and constant experimentation.
To me, focusing is like finding our way out of a maze or locating something we’ve lost. The goal isn’t immediate detection of the perfect path. Instead, it’s gradually homing in on the right direction. It’s knowing that we’re getting closer rather than farther away, and feeling the sense of reward, satisfaction, and motivation that comes with that knowledge.
But as Maria Konnikova points out in The Biggest Bluff, “You will never see the long run if, in the short term, you don’t buffer yourself against the vicissitudes of chance.”
To feel confident enough to focus, we need to feel like our business is set up to see the long run.
That can begin by eliminating unnecessary expenses that don’t benefit our business or our clients. We can stop taking on work we know we’ll lose money on, just to avoid FOMO. And we can save as much of the money we’re making as possible, as a buffer against chance.
That’s why I recommend assessing how many of your current resources are allocated in service of being able to do a bit of everything for everybody, instead of being focused.
It may help to ask yourself:
How many costs have I taken on so that I can take on more and more work?
How many meetings and conversations do I have every month about work I don’t actually want?
How much of my monthly expenses go toward getting help to finish jobs that weren’t ideal for my business?
How much time do I spend pursuing unprofitable projects?
How much of my effort is going toward cleaning up jobs I had to rush through the first time?
And how much of my profit is eroded by overdoing my work out of fear of losing the next opportunity—work I’m not truly the best for in the first place?
This is the baggage we’re leaving behind as we set out on our journey.
Cut loose from those concerns, you’ll probably feel like you have a lot more time to think, focus, and position.
Because with those above questions considered and answered—and written down—you’ll notice something: You’ve already taken the first steps. You’re already closer to finding your way out of the maze, to recapturing what you’d felt you’d lost.
There is no moment when you stop, change your position, and start again.
We’re already—we’re always—on the journey.
The only question is whether we’re done running around in a circle and if we’re ready to start walking ahead in a straight line.
It’s true, people don’t eat in the long run. We’ve got to support ourselves in the short-term, and that can make us feel stuck.
But by letting go of what we don’t need, what we don’t want, and what we’re not best at, we have more flexibility, more resources, more energy, and more time to do what needs to be done.
To do less, better.
To do what we love.
And to do what we’re best at.
For people who appreciate—and value—us above every other option.