Information overload is a very real hazard when picking up a new hobby or skill. Every activity, from marketing to entrepreneurship, is home to many distinct (and often competing) schools of thought. A quick Google search will supply you with books, articles, webinars, and Youtube videos that all purport to have the best perspective.
In the midst of this avalanche of information, the traditional advice is to just “do something.” Get the ball rolling, and tweak your strategy from there.
The thing is, it’s easy to move the needle—it’s harder to make sure it’s going in the right direction.
You don’t simply want action. You want strategic action. You need to narrow down your options and choose a method you believe can see you to the finish.
As a lifelong entrepreneur who’s worked to make my own (and dozens of other) companies successful, here’s what I consider when choosing where to focus my energy:
Strategic action starts with sticking to a valid approach.
I hate to break it to you, but some of the advice you get is going to be bad.
Before you settle on a plan of action, you have to filter out the strategies that just aren’t going to work. You may have a buddy, a coworker, or a brother-in-law who’s eager to give you advice, but stop for a second and consider how knowledgeable they are on the topic.
It’s smart to spend time researching and vetting different methods before you begin working to move the needle. But even after you’ve filtered out some of the more dubious strategies, you’re going to be left with a number of different options that all likely have the potential to help you achieve your goal.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, as they say. And in the end, you have to listen to your gut when it comes to choosing your way forward.
Your strategy needs to be based on conviction.
No matter how you choose to move forward, you have to believe in what you’re doing.
Let’s say your friend is giving you pointers to improve your golf swing. Now, if you trust him and believe he’s giving you good advice, you’re going to focus on the tips and try to implement them the next time you’re on the course. But if your gut is telling you this isn’t really the best advice, you’re never going to practice your swing that way. Maybe you’ll do it while your friend is around, but otherwise, you’ll waffle and try different mechanics.
Instead, find an approach you believe in and stick with it.
As long as it’s a valid and tested strategy, the method you’re convinced is right will always take you farther than the one you have doubts about.
Without conviction in your strategy, you’ll end up half-assing it and trying a number of different tactics or strategies—without committing to any of them. You’ll become distracted, and your enthusiasm for what you’re doing will wain.
It’s difficult to move the needle when you’re unfocused and distracted.
You can’t get better at something when you’re being pulled in one hundred different directions.
This reminds me of how I wanted to become better at basketball when I was younger. But there are so many different skills you use in a basketball game that it’s nearly impossible to improve them all at once. It’s tough to get faster and stronger while also working on your zone defense and practicing your fadeaway jump shot and three-pointer.
For me, it came down to repetition—standing in my driveway and shooting all day. My parents would call me in for dinner, and I’d tell them, “Hang on, I haven’t made 500 shots yet today.” The more I shot, the more baskets I’d make. As my percentage of made baskets grew, I gained confidence. I didn’t have to think about the shot anymore when I was on the court.
I freed up my mind to think about other aspects of the game, and I became a better all-around player as a result.
Focusing on a single strategy to improve creates a succession of little wins.
Success breeds confidence, which in turn leads to more success.
Think of it like this: it’s possible to put together a puzzle by picking up two random pieces over and over to see if they match. But it’s a lot easier if you can focus on putting together one section before moving on to another. Each missing piece you fill in motivates you to continue on.
As those little wins begin to snowball, you’ll feel something “click.” The task that was giving you trouble earlier starts to feel effortless.
A trickle of clients turns into a steady stream. Opportunities you never expected are suddenly available to you.
It starts to feel like you’re cheating the system somehow. But in reality, you’re experiencing the payoff of choosing a strategy you believed in and seeing it through. And that’s what will ultimately move the needle.