On my first major mission in Afghanistan, we were supposed to be out in the field for just 18 hours — but that isn’t what happened. We were out there for more than a week. And this was not an exception. This was the rule. In the Spec Ops world, missions change constantly.
The same thing happens in business.
If the first principle is all about maintaining an unwavering focus in one direction, this second principle is all about complementary behavior. Staying focused doesn’t mean that focus won’t or shouldn’t change. It has to change. This is the real world, not some theoretical construct in business school class. Circumstances are constantly changing.
Think of your focus as a building of steel, not concrete: flexible enough to bend with the wind without crumbling.
This is why we train our sniper students not only on moving targets but also on unpredictably moving targets. Sometimes the situation you’re observing changes and you have to make a judgment to shift to a different target. You can’t always radio in to command to get new orders when things suddenly change. That’s a central part of Special Operations training: we’re groomed to be able to make those judgment calls in the field, on the spot, at the moment.
This can happen and will happen, in your business. You think you’re selling X, and suddenly you learn that your market wants Y and has no use for X. Or, you think you’ve nailed the right demographic for your X and suddenly find out that it appeals to a whole different demographic. Or even that your business model is fundamentally flawed or has become obsolete.
Make Sure You’re in Love With What You Do
This may sound like a strange business directive, but it’s essential. When you decide what you’re going to focus on, you better damn well make sure it’s something you love, because if it isn’t, there’s no way you’re going to master it. You’ll get bored. You’ll be distracted, easily knocked off your game. And when you face the big challenges, the really brutal ones, the ones that threaten to knock in your teeth and kick your feet out from under you, you’ll just back off and fold your tent.
To run a business effectively, you have to stay on top of an enormous amount of information and material about myriad different aspects of your business. You have to become an expert on your business. How do you do that? There’s only one way. It has to be something you really, genuinely enjoy doing. I love writing, I love marketing, I love being engaged in the conceptualization, development, production, and promotion of media. Because I have a passion for every aspect of this business, it doesn’t feel onerous or laborious to me. It’s work… but I love it!
On the other hand, it’s hard work. If I didn’t genuinely enjoy it, to be frank, it would suck. And this is a mistake I see a lot of businesspeople make: working hard at something they don’t wholeheartedly enjoy.
In school, my buddy John, the armored vehicle entrepreneur, was never more than a mediocre student. He had no love for academics, and it showed. But once he was in business for himself, he became a voracious student of anything and everything that related to his work. His father, Michael, remembers him sitting on the couch one Christmas morning with several three-inch-thick binders of federal regulations spread out around him, soaking up the information while his daughters played with their presents.
You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Understand
A few years ago, we hired an agency to begin some aggressive paid-acquisition advertising on Facebook. It came really well recommended, and it was clear that the people there knew what they were doing. I could have just written a check. I didn’t need to know how the sausages were being made, right? I mean, that’s why we hired them.
No. I went down to their office and spent half a day with them while they trained me on Facebook in exactly what they do and how. Not so I could do it, but so I could understand it and manage our end of it better. I did that because it fascinates me. It’s not simply that I have to know it — I want to know it.
A year later, I hired a guy who is a whiz at this stuff to come work for us and take the whole process in-house. Now, instead of paying an outside agency, we pay ourselves to do our social media campaigning. We could not have done that if I hadn’t taken the time to educate myself so that I understood the process in detail.
Remember the woman with the graphic design business? I know why her focus is constantly being distracted by other business opportunities. She doesn’t genuinely enjoy the work of running her shop. It’s like a burden for her. An albatross around her neck. How is that ever going to work?
I love what I do. Because of that, it’s no problem for me to read a dozen books a month that could help me expand this business. You might have heard the expression, “If you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.” Let’s be honest: that isn’t true. Work is work, it takes effort, and sometimes it’s excruciatingly hard. So, yeah, it still feels like work. But it never feels like a drudge. It feels exhilarating. It’s work, and you feel great doing it. Because of that, you naturally want to dive deep and learn everything about it that you possibly can.
Which is good — because that’s the only way you’ll survive and thrive.
What do you do at work when a hundred crises seem to be happening at the same time? Do you pick just one priority or try to put out every fire? How can you stay composed, figure out what really matters, and act decisively? Total Focus…
If you enjoyed this excerpt, considering reading the rest of, Total Focus, by former Navy SEAL, Brandon Webb, here.