How to Stay Focused When Everything Wants Your Attention As an entrepreneur, there will always be too many things trying to drag your attention away. You need to keep focused on what matters.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.
In Greek mythology, sirens were part-female, part-bird creatures who lived on a rocky island. They sang songs of such beauty that sailors were irresistibly drawn to them, usually dashing their boats upon the rocks surrounding the island or drowning in their attempts to reach them.
The call of the sirens exists in every entrepreneur's life, particularly during tough times. Today's sirens usually drive fancy cars and work in a corporate environment. They will either subtly tempt you to join the corporate ranks or directly solicit you to give up your business and join them.
In some instances they are right, and in others they are wrong. But, either way, they are a very distracting and alluring voice in your mind that can consume all of your imagination and distract you to the point where you lose all focus on driving your business forward.
The more you listen to the siren song, the louder their voices grow and the more distracted you become. I, too, was a target of these sirens during the early years of Raizcorp and I understand how difficult they are to resist. Here are five techniques to help you withstand the lure.
1. Decide if you are or aren't an entrepreneur
As simple as this question may sound, most of the entrepreneurs I've engaged with have never asked themselves this question formally or haven't given sufficient thought to the answer. In his book The E-myth Revisited, Michael Gerber talks about how 96% of small businesses fail because their founders have suffered what he calls "an entrepreneurial spasm."
In other words, the delusion that a business can be built on a single opportunity or a particular skill-set without considering any further thought to its longevity or sustainability. As a result, people enter into poorly thought-through business ideas without their ability to execute them or their desire to undertake the hard work and risk associated with their decision.
You need to know that you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur with all its stresses and the tremendous toll it can take on your physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. If your answer is that you are not an entrepreneur, by all means, respond to the call of the sirens.
2. Expect the sirens
If you listen carefully to the stories of entrepreneurs, you will know that the sirens are always there — sometimes obviously, sometimes subtly. They take on different guises and communicate in different ways, but their tempting message that the grass is always greener on the other side and that you should give up is ever-present.
By always expecting the sirens to appear and by having the ability to identify and label them, entrepreneurs can put them back into their cages and get on with the business of business.
3. Co-opt your life partner
Life partners are an incredible influence on whether or not you will persist during the tough times. It is important to co-opt your life partner into your decision to become an entrepreneur — even before you start your venture.
Their support is critical and acts as a protection against future threats from sirens. During your weakest moments, your life partner will become your most critical support, blocking the siren call and helping to refocus your attention on your dream.
4. Solve your current problem
Sirens take up an inordinate amount of space in your mind and distract you from the task at hand, namely, solving your current business problem (most likely sales or profit margin). By becoming 110% focused on solving the problem — to the level of obsession — you effectively muffle the sounds of the siren in your head, giving you the highest chance of getting through your current crisis.
5. Never, never just go and listen
Sirens, it seems, all go to the same siren school where they are taught the art of salesmanship in Siren Sales 101. The first module of Siren Sales 101 teaches sirens to use language like, "It won't hurt you to come and have a coffee, and just listen to my proposal."
The problem is once you've heard the proposal, you can never un-hear it; it will bore into your mind and start creating a seductive picture of an alternative future.
If you ever hear the words, "Just come and listen. What can it hurt? No obligations," you should politely decline. Refocus on your crisis and soldier on.
The research firm, Dun & Bradstreet, showed that 90% of entrepreneurs who give up, give up voluntarily. They wake up one morning and can't handle the pain any longer. I always wonder how many have been lured by those sirens.