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This episode is about finding your professional focus.

You cannot pursue multiple things. Think about the literal definition of the word “pursuit”. You cannot pursue more than one thing.

Imagine you are in a field and holding three foxes by the tail. They are all struggling to escape.

You let go and they dash off.

Now, pursue all three. You can’t do it. You’ll run around like a chicken with its head cut off. You might catch one if you focus on one.

You’re feeling overwhelmed right now because you don’t have clarity. There are too many things you could be doing and you’re trying to do them all.

With the pursuit of many things in your lack of clarity, you become overwhelmed. Too many projects. Too many choices. Too much to manage.

You need to find your focus. You need to know what you’re going after because it informs everything else you’re doing.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • You’re not going to make money sustainably, see progress, or build an audience if you’re doing too many things.
  • Successful people know what they want.
  • If you haven’t found what you want to focus on, then don’t stop until you find it.
  • You have to focus on something in order to be able to pursue it.
  • We’re overexposed to information and if you want to stand out, you can’t add to the noise.
  • You are more than what you do.
  • You become known for something the moment you start making people remember you for something.
  • You don’t have to stick with something for the rest of your life, but it’s powerful to stick with something long enough to establish expertise and trust.
  • What you pick to focus on doesn’t matter—it’s just an entrance point.
  • Things will take as long as the time you give them.
  • You can be known for one thing or you can be known for nothing—recognize that not choosing is making a choice to be known for nothing.
Show Notes
  • 08:37 Sean: I think many people are experiencing the overwhelm of doing too many things at once and not having clarity. They don’t have the kind of focus required to be successful. Your might stumble into it, but you’re not going to make money sustainably if you’re overwhelmed. You’re not going to be able to feel accomplished if you’re scatterbrained.

You’re not going to make money sustainably, see progress, or build an audience if you’re doing too many things.

  • 09:15 You have to find that focus and clarity. Successful people know what they want. You can stumble your way into success after some decades, or you can get there faster by figuring out what you want and pouring all of your energy into that. When you know what you want and what you must do, it’s really obvious. If you’re in a hole and you have to grab the ground and pull yourself out of that hole, you have a lot of clarity at that moment. You’re in a hole you don’t want to be in so all of your energy, both physical and mental, is going toward pulling yourself out of that hole.

Pressure Brings Focus

  • 10:10 Kyle Adams said about procrastination, “You do well under pressure because you actually have focus.” Most of us who are procrastinating say we do well under pressure, because when it comes down to the moment and there are no other options, you have clarity in that moment. It’s do or die. You want to set up your life in a way that it’s very clear what you’re going after so that you have to do this thing. That’s how you’re going to get success a lot faster.
  • 11:01 Ben: What’s difficult for me and my personality type is that I like to jump from one thing to another. That’s how my brain works. There are a lot of different things I’m not only good at but that I enjoy doing. There are many things I’m passionate about. I could jump from one thing to another and feel just as passionately, and want just as much to see what I build through that particular vehicle be successful.
  • 11:43 But if I’m constantly jumping from one ability to the other, I don’t have the ability to pour myself into any one of those things in a way that would make them effective enough to reach the goals that I have for them. For some people, it’s a little bit easier, because maybe they are passionate about a lot of things but they’re really good at focusing on one thing at a time. For some people, maybe they’re not passionate about many things.
  • 12:25 Sean: I struggle with that because I feel like I have to work really hard to focus. I really want to play piano. I got to create a theme song for Value-Based Pricing and it was so fun. I don’t like to believe I’m inherently good at focusing because then it means someone else isn’t. I feel like I’m trying really hard to focus.
  • 12:54 Ben: Maybe from the outside it seems like it’s easier for some people than it is for others.
  • 13:06 Sean: Doesn’t anything seem like it’s easy for someone doing anything? If someone runs every day for 600 days, it seems easy from the outside. On the 601st day it’s easier because it’s a think that you do. When you started, you didn’t like running. Not all of us like to do things, but the more we do it, the easier it becomes. The hardest thing for me is starting. Maybe it’s hard because you don’t have clarity. When you have clarity, it’s not hard. Maybe the difficult part is getting the clarity in the first place.
  • 15:34 Ben: I think it’s a combination of not being used to thinking of things that way and not having the clarity you need. I feel like I’ve got a lot of clarity when it comes to what I’d like to accomplish with each of my things and all of those things align with what I’m ultimately about. Here’s what might be the issue: let’s say you were in a hole and there were five different ways you could get out. The question is, which one is going to be the most effective way of getting you out of this hole right now? If I’m looking at all of them, it’s difficult for me to decide and say, “Which of these deserves most of my focus and attention right now?”
  • 17:10 Sean: Right now I’m not focusing on helping you make the decision, but that decision has to be the priority. This is why it’s difficult, why it doesn’t take precedence over other things, and why you don’t have clarity. You don’t see that decision as having extreme priority.

If you haven’t found what you want to focus on, then don’t stop until you find it.

  • 17:51 What I mean is that your job until you choose a job is choosing a job. Your focus until you choose a focus is choosing a focus. I think people see this choice as a luxury and it falls by the wayside. You think you can continue a shotgun approach until you find something and choose a direction, but that’s just making it harder. This decision to focus and choose is falling to the wayside because you’re not setting it up as a priority. You have to set it up as a priority.
  • 18:34 Until you know what single thing with clarity you’re going after, your focus has to be figuring out what this thing is. You’re going to have to say no to other things. Right now, we’re not talking about how. We’re saying the decision itself has to be a priority for you. You can’t pursue multiple things. Let’s say you’ve got three foxes by the tail and they’re whipping around trying to get away. If you let them all go in a field, how are you going to be able to pursue all three of them? If you try to pursuit all three foxes, you’ll be running around like a chicken with its head cut off. The only way to catch one of the foxes is to not pursue the other two.
  • 20:34 You have to focus on something in order to be able to pursue it. You can be good at many things, but that doesn’t matter. Isn’t it good to be good at many things? Sure, but if you want clients, if you want to build an audience, if you want people to know you for something, you have to focus. Clients only care about the one thing they want to hire you for. It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert at a bunch of things, the only thing that matters is that the client perceives you to be an expert in the one thing they want to hire you for.

Project a Single Focused Thing

  • 21:18 Ben: I did a little experiment on my Facebook this week. I posted, “This is a little experiment. What do you think I do for a living?” There were some related to me as a father, some that were funny, and some that were more serious. I want to know what the people in the Community chat think I do for a living. Cory, what do I do for a living?
  • 22:28 Cory: You work with clients and do video for them. Video content marketing?
  • 22:39 Sean: I would say video content marketing, but I wasn’t actually sure if that’s what you did as your job or if it was something you were working on as a side thing. In the chat people said video, design, hand lettering, professional father, logo design, and illustration stuff. Someone said, “Video content marketing?” What do you say, Ben?
  • 23:56 Ben: I think I talk about what I’m currently doing more in the Community than other places, but it was interesting to see on Facebook that the results from my friends were scattered. It’s because I’ve publicly represented so many different things over the years. Even within the last year I’ve probably publicly represented up to four different platforms—things I was building or working on.
  • 24:48 It makes sense that if I’m not being focused, not just for myself but publicly, that people would have a hard time. If other people are having a hard time, that also means on some level I’m having a hard time figuring out what I do. I may have made a conscious choice to focus on something, but based on my past history, I don’t have a ton of confidence in myself that I’m going to stick with it. I’ve seen myself jump from something I said I wanted to commit to to another thing because I really enjoy many things.
  • 25:40 Sean: Enjoying many things is the toughest. I want you to go back to episode 162 of this podcast called They’re Going to Put You in a Box. People are cognitively limited to 150 close relationships, which is known as Dunbar’s number. Online, they can process more than 150 people. You can follow 1,000 people, but you’re not really following them. You’re just letting a bunch of noise come across your feed. You might see some of it, but you’re not keeping up with those people. You don’t have relationships with those people.

We’re overexposed to information and if you want to stand out, you can’t add to the noise.

  • 27:16 You have to curate your projection, which means to selectively project a single focused thing. It’s a focusing of your output. What types of things do you post online? What types of things do you talk about? These are the things people are going to associate with you. There’s two sides to this association. There’s the side that says, “When I think of Ben, what do I think of?”
  • 27:52 Say Ben has done enough of a good job where they think of Ben and they think video content marketing. But where it gets really powerful is when they come across video content marketing and they think of Ben, or they see something about building a writing habit and they think of my Supercharge Your Writing course. It’s still not easy, but it’s easier to associate yourself with a thing, but it’s really powerful when people associate a thing with you.
  • 28:30 Ben: How do you do that for yourself first though?
  • 28:34 Sean: You do have to choose for yourself first. If you think about it, we all “have a guy for that”—guy being a unisex term. If your car is making a funny noise, you know someone for that. If someone wants to start doing their ow video, who just popped into your mind? That person is doing a good job curating, I guarantee it. They’re curating their output. When you think, “I want to start a podcast. Who’s someone who can help me start a podcast?” Maybe you need to think about gear, what your podcast should be about, how often you should do it, and how to process it—you’d go to the Podcast Dude.
  • 29:56 If you’re having trouble with client work, who do you think of? I hope you think of me and me saying: There’s no such thing as clients from hell, there’s only a professional from hell who would take on that client. Who gives permission for someone to be a client? Who creates the client? The professional. There are no such things as clients from hell because professionals don’t take on clients from hell. When you think about bad clients, I hope you think of me and the past few hundred podcast episodes where I’ve been talking about client work.

Your Job Doesn’t Define You

  • 31:32 You have to figure out what what you want to be “the person” for. What do you want someone else to say, “I know a guy who does that,” about? What is that thing for you? People think, “I want to be a video guy, but I’m so much more than a video guy. I also play music, record music, I’m a designer, an artist, and a golfer.” You think you’re so much more than that, but we’re all so much more than that! This isn’t the thing that defines you.
  • 32:36 Aaron Dowd is so much more than the Podcast Dude. I was listening to one of Aaron’s shows streaming live and someone in the chat said, “I get so much more out of Aaron’s show that’s not about podcasting.” I’ve been podcasting for a while so I get it, but I listen to his show because I get other things out of it. I like his attitude, his positive mindset, the way he prioritizes things, and how driven he is. He says his idea of a successful day is to go to bed early, wake up early, work until you can’t work anymore, and work one more hour. He’s going at it full speed—I love that!
  • 33:41 So much of that personality comes out in his work and I get all of these tangential benefits. We’re all so much more than what we do. I’ve got a poster that says: your job doesn’t define you, your title doesn’t confine you. You’re more than your job. It can be kind of scary and you might think, “If I’m going to the person for this thing, then that’s all I am. I don’t want to be just that!” If you think that, you’re not going to be anyone to anyone.

You’re more than what you do.

Whatever you focus on, you’re still more than that.

  • 34:26 Cory does a lot of video and filmmaking stuff, but he’s still more than that. We’re all more than the things we do, the things we choose to focus on, and the things we curate. The reason we choose and focus is because we want to make a name for ourselves, attract an audience, and have clients trust us. Kyle Adams said, “I wasn’t born as the icon guy. I had to choose to become the icon guy. You have to will your association into existence. You become known for something the moment you start making people remember you for something.”
  • 35:19 Kyle was doing user interface design, illustration, photography, and icons. He’s more than icons, but the moment he started to curate and focus, people started association him with icons. Kyle, icons; icons, Kyle. If you need icons and you find someone who can do hand lettering, illustration, animation, website design, and icons…
  • 36:05 Cory: I’m not really sold if you’re my guy. I was looking for someone to do icons for me.
  • 36:13 Sean: I do that. I do all of it.
  • 36:17 Cory: You do a lot of things, though. I don’t know if you’d be the best at icons.
  • 36:20 Sean: I’m actually really good at all of these things.
  • 36:30 Cory: But I’m looking for a specialist
  • 36:32 Sean: Let me buy you lunch at my favorite restaurant that has pizza, buffalo chicken, soups, salads, tacos, and Chinese food. Any kind of food you want it, they’ve got it. I’m a busy guy, but I’ll shift my focus if you want me to do icons. Give me a call. Who is Cory calling next? Kyle Adams. It’s a fear that if you pick something, you have to do that for the rest of your life. The thing you pick doesn’t matter because you are so much more than what you do.
  • 38:12 What you pick to focus on doesn’t matter—it’s just an entrance point. It’s just so someone can say you’re the icon guy or hand lettering guy, and then they come into your ecosystem (Related: tv56 What → Why → Whats). You start with a curated, focused thing—a what. People come in and they realize your why—what you’re truly about. They realize your motives, mission, desire, and principles.
  • 38:47 Then they follow you to the other whats because they’re on board with what you’re about. If I come out with music, I already have a platform of people who care about me as a person through these initial things I’ve projected for years at a time. I focus for three to five years on something and that’s enough to get people in. If I came out with a music album right now, my audience would get it.

You don’t have to stick with something for the rest of your life, but it’s powerful to stick with something long enough to establish expertise and trust.

  • 39:22 Ben: People know this person has been committed to something long enough to actually trust what they say and get value from what they share. I’m thinking about someone who follows me or might even be interested in using my services. Because I’m not staying in any single game long enough, they can’t have the confidence they need. It doesn’t matter how much potential value I could provide, they don’t have enough confidence to receive it from me. They don’t have enough confidence to get the value they need out of the services I provide because I’ve been projecting so many different things.
  • 40:25 Sticking with something for three to seven years and then shifting, even if you might shift at that frequency, you’re demonstrating that you’ll focus on that one thing for long enough that you can be trusted. When they transition from one thing you were doing to the next thing, your why is really strong because it comes with the confidence you’ve built with them over the past several years with the first thing you focused on.

Set Deadlines

  • 41:37 Cory: This is more about finding focus in general, but I picture there being water and water pressure trying to push you down. The only thing you’re thinking about is getting to the top. Earlier today in the Community forums someone posted a picture with some text on it that said, “A goal without a deadline is just a dream.” I liked that, because I’m learning that I need deadlines. There’s a lot of things I need to do right now and it’s overwhelming, but I can put deadlines on them.
  • 42:37 Sean: I think I operate that way and a lot of people who procrastinate operate that way. If there’s not a deadline, they don’t have the pressure, and they don’t have the focus. Last night I was working on stuff for the Value-Based Pricing launch and there were slides I needed to do for the live presentation today and I still needed to write outlines for the doubler podcast episodes for which topics weren’t scheduled. I was tempted to push my bedtime later. Now, we’re super hardcore about shutting everything down at 9pm so we can be asleep by 10:30pm.
  • 43:27 The past few days I’ve been waking up at 5am because I get more done in the morning. I’m not a morning person, but I care more about getting more done than about doing things when I want to. Grant Cardone says to never take advice from a quitter, which I’m totally on board with, but then he says, “How many of you have quit a thousand things in your life? You quit every day. If you snooze the alarms you set, you just quit on your goals and plans.” I got on board with not taking advice from a quitter and I’m quitting every day when I snooze. I’m not a quitter.
  • 45:16 What is the definition of a quitter? Someone who quits a lot. You can quit something and that doesn’t make you someone who quits a lot. I think we can agree someone who’s a quitter habitually quits. Snoozing was part of my routine. I’ve made a decision not to do that anymore. I set my alarm for 6am but I’ve been getting up at 5am when I naturally wake up because I’ve been so scared of being a quitter.
  • 46:40 I had a choice to make last night—do slides for the live event late into the night and not wake up early or get up early to do them. If I do the slides at night, I can work as late as I want. I could take my time and make as many as I want, but I wouldn’t wake up early. I decided not to do that so I could go to bed at the same time as my wife and not mess up my early wake schedule. I woke up this morning to do the slides and prepare for two shows, and you know what? I got it done and it was intense. I got it done because I had a deadline.

Here’s the thing about things: they take as long as the time you give them.

  • 48:28 If I scheduled my course launch a week later, that’s how long it would take. Growing up as a procrastinator, I would do three-week papers the night before they were due. It was do or die, I had to finish the paper before class. That’s when you have focus and clarity. If you want to get clarity about the thing you’re going to focus on, you have to set up that situation for yourself. You have to set it up so there are no other options.
  • 49:35 I’m glad Cory brought this up because for most people, the only way that’s going to happen is a deadline. If you say, “By the end of this month, I’m going to choose my thing and spend the three hours I have a night learning, pursuing, and practicing it,” then suddenly, the choosing of the focus is your priority.
  • 50:15 Ben: I like that you said it doesn’t matter what you choose, especially for someone like me. I keep saying “for someone like me,” but I don’t think I’m different from most people in the sense that there’s so many things I could enjoy doing. I have nothing to lose in just picking one thing to focus on, because that’s not going to stop me from making time to do other things every once in a while.
  • 50:53 It’s not going to stop people from calling me up who have previous associations with me from the past. When I focus on one thing, it always has this runaway effect, where I start to more easily say no. Once I choose a direction I want to go in, I more easily say no with the things that don’t align with that. But it’s not until I make the choice and start moving in that direction does it becomes easier to say no to other things.
  • 51:33 That can be a great litmus test. Let’s say you think you’ve chosen something, but you still feel conflicted. Maybe you haven’t really chosen something and maybe you’ve been talking about how you’ve chosen that thing but not actively pursuing it. Action is really important because the more you move in a certain direction, the more you think about that direction, and the easier it is for your mind to shut out other things.

Visualize the Results of Motivation

  • 52:14 Sean: This all has me thinking about motivation. What motivates people? There are so many ways: how to know if you’re not motivated, how to start being motivated, the signs you’re not motivated, the things you can do to set yourself up for being motivated, painting a picture of the results of being motivated and applying yourself, etc. I like painting a picture of the results. What motivates me is seeing what could be.
  • 52:29 If anyone else in the world has something, it shows that it’s possible to me. It can be done so I can do that if I really want it. I can apply myself toward getting that thing. I like painting the picture of what you get when you do something, because then it makes the thing worth it. I know that’s not the only way to motivate and it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. What motivates me when it comes to this topic is:

You can be known for one thing or you can be known for nothing.

Recognize that not choosing is making a choice to be known for nothing.

  • 53:57 Cory: There’s two kinds of people listening: the people doing too many things as a profession and they need to focus on one thing and the people who know what they’re doing, but still get lost in what to focus on. I think it’s cool we’re delivering on both of those.