I've been riding a motorcycle for more than four decades. One of the fundamental skills that keeps me safe and upright is my ability to avoid roadside distractions. Experienced riders learn to keep their eyes in constant motion and their heads on a "swivel" in order to see potential problems--and, once recognized, not to fixate on them. This is because when you're on a bike, where you look is where your bike will go--so if you're focused on something like a pothole or telephone pole, you'll probably hit it.
Aside from helping you avoid crashing, knowing how to focus and at what speed is absolutely necessary to get where you want to go safely and successfully. Taking your eyes off the road will--at the very least--slow you down. So getting distracted at the wrong time, at the wrong speed, can begin a devastating chain of events from which you may not recover. This seemingly simple skill is one of the hardest things for a new rider to master, but with enough time in the saddle, even the most skittish biker grasps it.
How to Stay Focused Like a Rider
In business, there are also always roadside distractions that--depending on your level of experience--will either slow you down at the wrong time, or run you completely off course. You have to stay focused on where you want to go--the road ahead--just like you would on a motorcycle.
I speak from hard business experience. I'm talking about the understandable allure of new opportunities, or, conversely, individuals influencing my path (negatively, unfortunately) and, therefore, the speed at which my business grew. I learned that, just as in biking, if I have the chance to go off in a new direction or take that curve at 50 miles per hour doesn't mean I can nor should. I needed to ride my ride.
That's not always easy, especially in the early stages of trying to grow a successful company. Any entrepreneur's need for revenue or eagerness to please puts on pressure to take on all comers. On top of that, you surely seek out guidance from other, more experienced business men and women who undoubtedly influence and affect your direction. But there comes a time when you must lead and no longer follow, a time when you must define your own style and comfort level, to truly know what you're good at and most passionate about, and then go about the business of mastering it.
Smart Ways to Steer Around 'Pot Holes'
Sure, I have the ability and know-how to ride off-road, but my passion doesn't lie there so I'll never be good at it. I also possess the acumen to build spreadsheets but it's not what I do best. So aside from trial and error, how can you lessen your focus learning curve, filter through the well-meaning tips, and make sure you're always on the right path? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Make it about you.
Your business is about your goals. Know there's a difference between someone's opinion of your potential (what can be) and how you define your success (what you want it to be). Just because the bike you're on can do 130 miles per hour doesn't mean you have to drive that fast.
2. Know your ultimate destination.
When starting out you (hopefully) had a clear endpoint in mind but, over time, new opportunities and challenges probably distracted you. Always keep in mind not only why you went into business in the first place, but also where you want to take it. There's nothing worse than starting out for the mountains and finding yourself in the desert.
3. Write a roadmap.
It doesn't have to be an exhaustive dictionary, but you must have a plan. Remember, a roadmap is nothing more than taking the time to think about what you need to do and writing it down, so you don't forget it. This is one way biking and business can differ because once in a while it's fun to get lost biking.
4. Know the race and find your comfortable pace.
Yes, I relate to the need to go "outside the box" at times, but I know I need limits. Know yours and be OK with them because, as is the case when you're on two wheels, it's better to show up a few minutes late than not at all.
5. It's a mission.
I'm passionate about what I do whether it's on two wheels or in my daily business. And where that makes it enjoyable, it can never be taken lightly because success depends on mastering the mission. Whether it's economic or physical, paying attention can be a matter of life or death.
What do you think? How do you maintain your business focus? Does it have commonalities with a hobby of yours (perhaps biking even)?
Next month, Dwain M. DeVille will co-lead the first-ever Inc. Riders Summit, a three-day motorcycle road trip through the Nevada desert for entrepreneurs. For more information about the ride, the entrepreneur-led business sessions, or the networking, click here.