Do you remember high school, or even grade school? Remember the anxiety that came around report card time? If you're like me, you didn't focus so much on the A's and B's (or even the C's). Sure, those were nice, but it was the dreaded "F" that got the bulk of our attention as students.
We all wanted to improve in areas in which you struggled, but if you're anything like most of us, you probably spent a disproportionate amount of time worrying about the subjects you were terrible at rather than focusing on the ones at which you excelled. And you, like me, probably brought your grades up in areas where you struggled, but do you ever think of what might have been had you focused that energy on where you excelled?
As entrepreneurs, we understand keenly that focus is a valuable commodity, and anything you can do to narrow that focus helps drive you to success. But the question I get repeatedly from entrepreneurs is "Where should I apply my focus?"
The answer is simple: your strengths.
Most of us don't spend much time or focus on the things we're best at. Usually, if you're good at something, you execute relatively quickly with a level of unconscious competence and move on to something else, typically something that requires more of your attention and focus because it doesn't come naturally to you. But imagine the possibilities if you spent all, or most, of your time and focus on the things you excel at. You could enhance some already pretty amazing strengths.
This isn't just a hypothetical scenario. One of the keys to high-performing individuals in any arena is their ability to shut out the noise -- the things they don't think worthy of their focus -- and concentrate on what they love. Michael Jordan spent hours in the gym, working on his game. Picasso created tens of thousands of works of art, sometimes working into the wee hours of the morning. Hemingway wrote religiously, every day. When asked how he could be so devoted to his craft, he responded that it wasn't writing every day that was hard, but filling the hours in between writing. The common thread among each of these examples is that they focused on what they loved, and devoted the bulk of their waking lives to that thing, rather than focusing on what they didn't love or weren't good at. They focused on their strengths.
As entrepreneurs, there are certain aspects of our businesses that energize us more than others. Some love crafting strategy or defining vision. Others thrive on forging relationships and strategic partnerships. Whatever it is, every entrepreneur has something about their business that they love and that energizes them, but they likely don't spend much time focusing on those things.
You might be thinking that it's normal to have your focus divided as an entrepreneur. A business is made up of many different facets and each of them requires some attention. This is true, but ask yourself, does it require my attention? See, I have a vested interest in the finances of my business, and I understand their importance. But I also understand that finance is not my natural competency, and if I were to spend my focus on the intricacies involved in financials and accounting, I'd be drained pretty quickly, as would those around me. Therefore, I delegate this. There are people who understand numbers much better than I do, and enjoy working with them. I trust those people to keep me informed and give me enough information to make key decisions regarding our finances. This way, instead of banging my head against the wall trying to understand something I'm neither adept at nor enjoy, I get to focus on the things I know I'm good at and that give me energy. This way, I know I'm moving our business forward.
So what can you do to focus more on your strengths? First, make a list of the things you do in a day. Include every task you can. Do this for a couple of days. When you review the list, circle the items that give you energy. Find a way to delegate the rest. Even if you're a lone operator, there are numerous outsourcing resources available today that you can delegate to.
While this may seem daunting at first, you'll find shifting your focus to your strengths will not only give you more time to do the things you love, but give you more energy, too. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Alex Charfen is the CEO of the Charfen Institute.