In the early days of building my company Buyosphere, a fellow founder told me the secret to start-up success is a "laser focus." Wanting to be successful, I took his advice to heart and put my head down and just focused on solving problems and getting to the next level.
When I read, I only read articles that had to do with my industry. When I went out, it was only for work-related and networking outings. I slept, ate, lived, and breathed my start-up. And when I went to bed at night and fell asleep, I dreamed about wireframes and business modeling and everything else that had consumed my day.
I was so laser focused that I let my fitness habit slide. I stopped going out with friends. I didn't watch movies (unless they had something to do with my business). I would not take my eyes off the prize because I was convinced that laser focus is what I needed and any distraction would derail me from a successful path.
Unfortunately, a laser focus accomplished the exact opposite.
By sleeping, eating, and breathing my start-up, I put on the equivalent to horse blinders. I also alienated everyone who had supported me in the early days. The myopia and isolation led to many bad decisions and lots of stress.
It wasn't until I was forced to take a step back and recalibrate that I realized my focus was hurting my business more than helping it. I had lost my vision, my community, my passion--even my waistline.
Losing Focus, Gaining Creativity
So I started working out again and those moments away from my screen were the ones in which I came up with the best solutions. I started hanging out with friends again and realized that their work and lives and our conversations provided excellent fodder for better ideas, not to mention good feedback that I had missed out on. I read books for pleasure and watched movies to escape and when I got back to my desk, I made connections between those unfocused moments and my ideas.
Sure, businesses need focus to move forward, but too much focus can lead you in the wrong direction.
I have dedicated two and half years to my start-up, but the best ideas I have (and I've said this before) have come from stepping away and focusing on something other than Buyosphere. You need to strike a delicate balance between focus and a broader perspective when building a business. Working hard is important, but working smart is crucial.
So next time you take advice from any other start-up founder (including myself), exercise caution. There are no absolutes in the start-up world.