Hey there – hope you’re well.
My business partner John and I just launched Commons, our new personal care brand. Realy exciting and really daunting.
But we’re sticking to the principles mentioned in my last email: customer obsession, patience, and focus.
In this letter, I want to spend time on that last thing, focus.
Half of you are likely thinking, “No shit Sherlock, needing focus is obvious.”
And the other half are thinking, “That’s vague, what does focus even mean here?”
Interesting, right? How something can be obvious and elusive at the same time…
But first, you’ve got to listen to the first episode of the Bootstrapped Branding Podcast.
It’s a conversation with a guy named Greg Frontiero who started a company called NOOWAVE. You’ll learn how he started from scratch, how he sourced a unique product (hint: he got rejected…A LOT), and how he’s marketing it and growing sales.
Back to the topic of focus. It’s both obvious and vague because we know we should do it but we don’t know how.
Here’s the secret.
Focus is one of those addition-by-subtraction concepts. You get better not by doing more, but by doing less.
This is counter-intuitive to the human brain.
First off, there’s a concept call effort justification bias, whereby we overvalue things because we sacrificed so much to do them. It’s like the Ikea effect (I spent 6 hours building this dresser so it’s valuable to me).
Then, there’s the sunk cost fallacy, whereby we justify continuing to invest in something because we have already put so much into it.
Our brains suck at prioritization. They **value effort over outcomes.
The result? We do lots of “things”.
We think more “things” will get us to our goal. We cross a lot of stuff off a to-do list, but find we didn’t create the result.
Instead, we just kinda did stuff. I’m sure you’ve been there.
This is the exact opposite of focus.
To effectively focus, take (2) big, uncomfortable steps.
Step 1: Understand your own weaknesses.
This is hard as you’ll have to expose your ego. It’s like conjuring the seven deadly sins.
You may suffer from envy. You may suffer from sloth. I forget the rest, but you get it.
Find what makes you put down valuable work. Name it, identify it. And tell yourself, when you’re confronted with it, you will dash it to the side and tell it to piss off.
If every founder celebrating funding, revenue milestones, or celebrity endorsements on Twitter makes you lose focus and start clout-chasing, be honest with yourself.
That’s your weakness. It was mine.
Step 2: Have long-game discipline.
Your distractions pull you away from focus, and beckon you to short-term wins. You want glowing press. You want hype. You want the quick, no-fail tactic that over-promises results.
But in that moment, you must stay the course.
After all, who would ever agree that you can do some easy bullshit to create huge success overnight?
Exercise some discipline.
If your weakness is provoked, say to yourself, “This is a distraction from real work that will further my progress.”
Go back to the difficult, un-sexy work of building things that matter. Slowly and gradually, over the long hull. Forging a brand, connecting with customers, and selling.
Or whatever else you know leads to the outcomes you want.
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A podcast & email dispatch about building a brand the hard way. Without millions of dollars in funding or powerful connections.