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.

learn more about Allon Raiz

By Allon Raiz


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.

Allon Raiz

CEO: Raizcorp

Allon Raiz is the CEO of Raizcorp, the only privately-owned small business ‘prosperator’ in Allon Raiz is the CEO of Raizcorp. In 2008, Raiz was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and in 2011 he was appointed for the first time as a member of the Global Agenda Council on Fostering Entrepreneurship. Following a series of entrepreneurship master classes delivered at Oxford University in April 2014, Raiz has been recognised as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

Related Topics


How to Detect a Liar in Seconds Using Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to understand if someone is not honest with you. The following signs do not even require words and are all nonverbal queues.


7 Inspiring Traits of Compassionate Leadership

Teams thrive when the members trust the leader cares about them.


3 Innate Traits You Need to Survive the Rollercoaster of Entrepreneurship

If you are uncomfortable with the up-and-down nature of entrepreneurship, you might not be cut out to be an entrepreneur.


How Great Entrepreneurs Find Ways to Win During Economic Downturns

Recessions are an opportunity to recalibrate and make great strides in your business while others are unprepared to brave the challenges. Here's how great entrepreneurs can set themselves up for success despite economic uncertainty.


26 Of The Richest People in South Africa

Here are 26 of South Africa's richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.