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You Can't Do Everything, and If You Try to You'll Do Even Less

Whatever you choose to do, you are by default choosing not to do something else. Getting used to that is part of becoming a leader.

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It's almost a badge of honor amongst entrepreneurs to claim that one has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I remember many year ago, when I was starting out as an entrepreneur, reading about many successful entrepreneurs who had ADD, or at least thought they did, and feeling left out, almost jealous.

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Related: "Entrepreneurial ADHD" and How to Deal With it

I was actually happy when, in my mid-thirties, my parents revealed to me that as a child I had been diagnosed with ADHD, they simply never told me about it. However, there's a reason they call it a disorder -- it can lead to a lot of chaos. In my case, ADHD seems to manifest itself in what we often call "shiny object syndrome."

In simple terms this means the temptation to get distracted by all the great opportunities floating around. If you're all like me, you have difficulty resisting these ideas and tend to involve yourself in too many activities and projects -- becoming overcommitted beyond your ability to deliver.

But it's not just the number of ideas that swirl through our entrepreneurial brains that are the issue, it's how we react to them. The primary force working upon us is FOMO, or "fear of missing out." For me, FOMO has become a particular challenge. If you're going to try to become a thought leader you need to overcome FOMO.

Related: Strategies for Saying No: When and How to Turn Down Opportunities

During the past week I turned down these opportunities:

  • Speaking at a TEDx event in China.
  • Taking my family to Israel with me on a trip for the Video Trends for 2018 conference where I'll moderate a CMO panel (I'm still going, it's leaving my family at home that's the hard part).

It's not that these things are bad, they're good, but the heart of strategy is choosing what not to do. Only by choosing not to do these things was I making space for other things that are even more important.

A year ago I didn't have the tools I needed to resist temptations like these. I would have given in, for sure. Today, here are some of the techniques I use to forsake the good, and even the better, in favor of the best.

1. Compare any choice to two equal alternatives.

Inspired by the book Different by Harvard Business School professor Youngme Moon, I learned our brains don't work well with "Choice A or nothing," scenarios. Of course choosing something is more attractive than choosing nothing.

Would I rather speak at a TEDx event, or not? Would I rather take my family to Israel, or not? That's like asking a kid "Would you rather have ice cream or nothing?" Everything changes when "Or not?" is replaced with an attractive alternative.

Related: Seven Choices Every Entrepreneur Must Make

Would I rather take my family to Israel, hire a new team member, or buy a RED camera? Whatever the choice is that you're considering, find two other options that are just as alluring and ask yourself which one you would most prefer.

I find that when I do this often I don't choose any of the three, because it awakens my mind to the possibility there may be a fourth option I haven't yet thought of, and maybe I should wait for it to manifest itself.

2. Remind yourself this is probably not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I will have more opportunities to speak at TEDx events. I will have more opportunities to go to Israel and take my family along. This is not the last chance I'll ever have in my life to eat a cream puff -- how many times has that thinking led you to eat more than you should?

3. Get a second opinion.

"I'm thinking of doing XYZ, what do you think?" Asking this question to a trusted advisor, friend or family member can lead to insights you would never have on your own.

One mistake many make about FOMO is thinking of it as a bad thing. FOMO is not your enemy or a foe to be vanquished, it is a power to be controlled, like fire. It can lead us astray and cause us to miss out on maximizing our potential, but it can also be a tool that helps us find our genius zone and our greatest joys in life.

If you want to live abroad, use FOMO proactively to find increased motivation to do your research, buy a plane ticket, and move. If you want to spend more time with your family use FOMO to remind yourself that once your kids are 18 they're gone forever and those opportunities to have them as little kids in your home will never come back.

Related: Second Opinion

FOMO = not good, not bad, just a tool for you to use for good or bad, as you choose. Once you understand the power of FOMO and how to control it, you can reduce the number of things you're working on, improve the quality of your work on what remains, and get control, rather than letting poor choices control you.

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