To Be Successful, Never Overdrive Your Headlights
Staying Focused on the Road Ahead
As entrepreneurs, the world is changing with such unparalleled speed that if we don’t stay focused on the road ahead, resisting the myriad distractions that surround us, our businesses will certainly crash.
Writing for the Harvard Business Review three years ago, Peter Bregman discussed an interesting study:
“A study of car accidents by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute put cameras in cars to see what happens right before an accident. They found that in 80% of crashes the driver was distracted during the three seconds preceding the incident. In other words, they lost focus — dialed their cell phones, changed the station on the radio, took a bite of a sandwich, maybe checked a text — and didn’t notice that something changed in the world around them. Then they crashed.”
Driving a business is even more dangerous than driving an automobile. In an automobile the driver has only one function: driving the car. With only one task, focusing is easy.
Driving a business is an entirely different matter. There are countless tasks that must be successfully completed. Often there is no margin for error and hazards can appear out of nowhere. Particularly in social media, where the obstacles can be significant and where the road ahead is constantly changing, remaining focused and deliberate is essential to results.
What is the secret to success in this hazardous environment? What skills must you develop? What advice can I give you that is the most useful?
Never Overdrive Your Headlights
The most useful piece of advice — the one that contains many of the crucial skills necessary for success — is to never overdrive your headlights.
What does this mean exactly?
Here are the key concepts:
- Focus on the Road Ahead. It is essential that you concentrate on the road ahead of you with total focus. Looking in the rear view mirror, at the mistakes of your past, is totally counter-productive. Learning from your mistakes is valuable, but obsessing over them is a dangerous distraction. Likewise, casting your glance to either side is a mistake. Distractions can be deadly. As long as you focus on the road ahead you will be moving in the right direction. If your gaze is continuous, you will be able to increase your speed without increasing the dangers.
- Focus on the Immediate. You can only control the environment directly in front of you. Distant obstacles are beyond your control and may remove themselves before you get there. Problems and opportunities within the brightness of your headlights can be managed most effectively. Overdriving your headlights is dangerous and foolhardy.
- Sort and Prioritize. Once you are focused on the immediate, make two lists of the problems and opportunities:
- Your Focus List: The problems that cannot be ignored and the opportunities that represent the most potential value.
- Your Ignore List: The various distractions that may keep you from solving the problems and maximizing the opportunities.
- Apply Your Time Judiciously. The most important asset in your business is your time. You can’t borrow it from others. It will be lost if you don’t apply it. And it is as scarce as it is valuable. Invest it judiciously into the items on your Focus List and never waste a moment on the Ignore List. Review and modify these lists every morning before you begin work.