When I was a full-time indentured employee it always seemed like life was absurdly simple. You got up, you got to work and you got paid. You went home, spent time with family, possibly groomed and then repeat.
It was tediously simple, of course, without the promise of any exotic distraction or life-altering change.
However ever since I started a business, I have been confounded by the number of opportunities I’ve had to become distracted from my main goals, both from self-sabotaging and from external temptations and cons. I also suspect this situation is worse in some industries (like the video games industry).
I imagine that people who are very good at recognizing the value of things, a skill they probably picked up in childhood, or maybe it’s innate, do not get easily distracted, and are able to resist the lures of tantalizing additional opportunities, business deals, etc.
For me this skill has come slowly and with hard fought battles, many lost, and usually at a price. Since I started Bamboo Raven (ca. 2009) I have:
- taken 2 informal classes in an attempt to bolster my business acumen
- gone to 3 expensive conferences in an attempt to drum up business that never materialized
- worked with a remote team who never delivered on their part of our deal, wasting nearly a full year’s worth of work and many thousands of dollars
- accepted a business proposal from a family member who changed the terms of our deal - that was a waste of about 4 months
- been approached by at least 2 dozen people who variously want to buy, work with or promote my company. At least one of these was so convincing that I wasted several days flying out to meetings and then meeting a few times locally
- taken consulting jobs and other work that has lasted anywhere around 6 months to a week
- drafted business plans for about 20 (yes) other business ideas
- taken a formal class in entrepreneurship and worked on a small prototype
- and that’s not even counting the interference, which is probably unavoidable, from family and household tasks
These are all my fault exclusively. Some are due to lack of due diligence. Some are personality flaws. Are all of these things which are external to the business a waste of time? Definitely not. It’s important to keep trying new things, keep learning and to avoid becoming too entrenched in a routine. It’s also important to set life priorities, and sometimes business comes second.
However beware the tendency for outsiders to insidiously attempt to siphon away your precious time as soon as they find out you’re doing something. I don’t know what causes it, but it’s probably a form of Resistance. I’ve probably wasted other people’s time too, without realizing it. The onus has to be on you to recognize what’s not in line with your main goals and simply say no.
The smart money is in these specific endeavours (or another way to put it, adding new features and testing hypotheses) and if you’re spending too much time doing anything else you’re probably, like me, wasting too much time.