Lesson No 4 of “things I have learned over the years” is, in many ways, a continuation of and build on what we talked about in lessons 1 to 3: From building things which are better, to being faster, and the necessity to be louder — all of which doesn’t happen if you are not singularly focused.
Tia Claire Toomey, one of the most decorated strength athletes in the world with an undefeated winning streak since 2017 in the CrossFit Games, exemplifies focus. You don’t get to be that successful without relentless, and singular focus — yes, talent and genes matter, but your genetic makeup is nothing without single-minded focus.
Nearly 15 years ago, Reshma Sohoni, founder and CEO of the European startup accelerator Seedcamp, continuously reminded me (and her founders) to “make the main thing the main thing”. It is incredibly easy to be busy — to do work which feels good and maybe even important (who could argue with the importance of getting your logo right, or spending time figuring out the best name for your product?), but isn’t actually important at all. Your shiny new logo means nothing without a great product behind it. You can have the coolest, cleverest name for your service, if the service sucks it won’t matter at all.
Figuring out what the main thing is — the thing which drives your business, project, idea forward — and then singularly focussing on executing this one thing, is the key to unlocking your success.
Take Google: The main thing Sergey and Larry needed to do was to build PageRank (the algorithm behind the Google search engine) and make it the best at serving you relevant search results out of the biggest index possible. The company name didn’t matter — ask any brand expert, and they will tell you that they would have never chosen “Google” as the name. The logo didn’t matter — look up the early Google logo, and you’ll see it looks like a ten-year old discovered Microsoft Paint (on Windows 95). The office space didn’t matter — a garage worked just fine. Sergey and Larry made the main thing the main thing, relentlessly focussed on this and… well… the rest is history.
Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s first evangelist, wrote a lovely little book on “The Art of the Start” — it is still one of my favorite books on entrepreneurship.