You hear it all the time as an entrepreneur: just focus on one thing. Or, even more cliché, just find your niche. It seems like from every corner, entrepreneurs are being told to just focus on the one thing that we do better than anyone else and to stick to it. Don't deviate from the formula, or otherwise everything will fall apart.
Bestselling author and journalist, Malcolm Gladwell had something else to say to entrepreneurs in a recent interview with Entrepreneur. Instead of focusing on one thing as most sage business coaches suggest today, Gladwell suggests that it is totally fine to constantly change your mind.
Entrepreneurs need to be creative.
Gladwell believes that the creativity required to be successful as an entrepreneur means you should steer clear of just being one thing. He has this to say about limiting yourself:
"The most important thing is never to make a decision about yourself that limits your options. Self-conceptions are powerfully limiting. In the act of defining yourself, you start to close off opportunities for change, and that strikes me as being a very foolish thing to do if you're not 85-years-old."
I believe that instead of niching down and painting ourselves into a corner, the only real milestone we need to be measuring as entrepreneurs is the one we've set in place for ourselves. Sometimes, that means giving ourselves time. Rome wasn't built in a day, and as someone who constantly gets messages on LinkedIn looking for career advice, I agree with Gladwell: career choices take time. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
It's important to be able to pivot.
This advice from Malcolm Gladwell came after he ventured into podcasting--something he admittedly never wanted to do. However, once he got the hang of it, he fell in love. He believes that creative entrepreneurs shouldn't pigeonhole themselves. For someone who has made a career as a writer, podcasting was a risk. However, for Gladwell, he is reaping the rewards with a hit podcast that gets downloaded hundreds of thousands of times per month.
In my own career, I decided to take a huge risk and write a book--something that was strange for an IT consultant to do, at least in my mind. However, when it was received well, I realized that a lot of new opportunities stood on the horizon. Had I just focused on doing only one thing, and turning down other options, I definitely would not be where I am today.
Take a chance. You're more likely to find out what you're not good at before you find out what you were meant to be.
Change can be worth it--test your assumptions.
One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is having the ability to change the direction of your business, virtually overnight. Just ask anyone who's launched a tech startup. Between monetization, subscription models, and trying to fine tune a niche audience, a lot can change.
It's important to remember that you have the ability to pivot in the future, which may be the change that puts you where you need to be. In my own business, I've had to test many assumptions and ideas I thought would work. Upon my own personal trial by fire, I've had to move in different directions. Sometimes, not having all the answers can lead to new discoveries--like my book, or Gladwell's podcast. If you aren't afraid of failure, it's incredible what you can achieve when you give yourself the freedom to go after it as an entrepreneur.
Dare to be different, even if other people are doing the same thing.
As entrepreneurs, we all want to have novel ideas. One thing I've learned from Gladwell is that there's nothing new under the sun. The work I do and the things that I write about aren't always different from what other people have said. But as an entrepreneur, I get to put my own unique spin on it.
Too many entrepreneurs are vying to have a completely new idea. When in reality, sometimes it's just not possible. We don't all need to be Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, there are plenty of great ideas that are worth doing as an entrepreneur that have been done before. By keeping your options open, not pigeonholing yourself, and being flexible with how you define yourself, you can give yourself room enough to expand and create a unique perspective that customers will seek out.