Here's the challenge with today's attention-focused environment: It is easy to assume that the winners will be the ones who are the loudest. Flashy campaigns, viral attempts and other hacks are the path de riguer. Unfortunately, we can be so distracted by looking good that we forget to actually do good work. As I talk about in The Ultimate Bite-Sized Entrepreneur, your favorite icon or product captured your heart because of the hard work behind the scenes, not just by how things looked.
It's why I love the latest episode of Reid Hoffman's Masters of Scale featuring the multimedia mogul Barry Diller. He grew from being a mailroom clerk at William Morris to leading Paramount to, today, founding IAC with a smattering of serious startups from Expedia to Tinder. A key moment, though, was when he was an extremely young unknown at ABC who came up with a new idea called "Movie of the Week":
If actually anybody thought it would work, why, in God's name, would they give responsibility to a 23 ½ year old person? This very unique thing happened: I had total control over making these movies.
Diller could barely buy a drink, yet was at the helm of what would be one of the defining cultural touchstones of the '70s. As he explains in the episode, his idea was super radical at the time - TV was dominated by one-episode sitcoms or never-ending dramas, not 90-minute movies. In short, the upper management believed no one wanted it and he would fail.
Hoffman puts it more succinctly:
Sometimes you can find a frictionless path to disruption simply by drawing no attention to yourself at all.
Don't fight for attention
It seems so counterintuitive, but a few things happen when you aren't trying to pull the spotlight.
First, you avoid pushing out your idea prematurely. There is usually a signal, like feedback from early adopters or progress within competitive spaces, that tells you when to step into the limelight. If you are focused primarily on getting attention, then you can accidentally push out an idea before it is time. Another mogul, Tyler Perry, has a great video on the topic of patience and the spotlight.
Second, it allows you to work without outside interference or pressure. One of the things I love about being an independent creator is that my best and most successful works, from Our Virtual Shadow to Cuddlr, was not announced until right before launch. The Elon Musk "announce it to the world!" track works for some, but it's also OK to embrace your inner hermit, focus on your product and, in that silence, keep a keen ear out for on what your audience needs.
The latter is a key point: Embracing your time outside of the spotlight does not mean creating within a vacuum, but rather taking advantage of the secrecy to make an even more significant mark when you do come out of stealth mode.
Lastly, it gives you a chance to get your blueprint for success in order before taking off. Remember, once you're in the spotlight, especially within a particular field, then you never leave it. In my case, my co-founders and I were able to do Cuddlr in silence because I was known mostly for my writing career, not for my entrepreneurship.
As for Diller, the "Movie of the Week" concept changed the trajectory of modern television and put him in the powerful spotlight - one that has never let up. He seems thankful that he had that quiet time before the attention came. You should be thankful for it, too.
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