Successful Entrepreneurs Focus Better and Quit More Often

If you’re like me and many other entrepreneurs that I know, your mind never stops coming up with new ideas for your business. (Much to the chagrin of your sleep schedule.)

You probably even have a system in place to captures all those ideas no matter where you are. Later, you then go through and decide which ideas are the best, most worth your time, etc.

This leads to one of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make: before too long they are overwhelmed by how many projects they have going at once.

For example, how many of you run or contribute to multiple blogs? Starting a blog that matters, standing out from competition, and growing a thriving audience is hard enough. Yet, many of us work on more than one blog at a time. Why is this?

In this post we’ll discuss why you must choose to focus more often in your business and give you a simple strategy for positively sunsetting a project when it is time to move on.

Why Great Entrepreneurs Choose to Focus

Nothing leads to failure quite as often as analysis paralysis. Chances are you know this feeling well.

You come up with a great idea for something you want to do, but can’t decide on a name. Until you get that name right, the world basically stands still. You spend days or even weeks racking your brain around the perfect name and get very little actually work done.

If that describes you, don’t worry. That is completely normal.

What sets successful entrepreneurs apart from the rest is not just that they make the right decisions, but that they make them quickly.

Instead of having ten ideas in the brainstorming stage and not taking any significant steps forward on any of them, they instead take one idea and run with it until they have a minimum valuable product and see what happens to it.

The Big Misconception

The reason that most people have so many projects going on at once is that they typically want to have other things to “fall back on” if something else they’re working on doesn’t pan out.

They say to themselves, “I want to diversify my risk by having multiple talents/skills/income streams/projects. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket!”

The problem with this is twofold.

  1. If you are THAT worried about your project failing, it probably will.
  2. Entrepreneurs that really crush it typically just have one big project at a time.

Jeff Bezos didn’t build Amazon from scratch AND another company at the same time. Richard Branson didn’t try to launch Virgin Airlines or Virgin Mobile concurrently with Virgin Records. Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t creating Facebook AND another social media platform too.

Yes, there are examples of people that have multiple projects going at once, but if you want something to be wildly successful you should probably be putting all of your effort into that one thing.

When you start to pile up too many commitments on your plate, you have no choice but to start letting other tasks and ideas fall through the cracks.

A Strategy for Quitting Without the Stigma

Like Jonathan Fields and Seth Godin talked about in the latest episode of the Good Life Project (specifically at 15:45), there is a simple way to sunset something you are working on.

  1. Call it a Project
  2. Declare Victory
  3. Move On

When you do this you not only get more time to work on other projects, you also save face by subtly turning your loss into a win.

This is exactly what Corbett did with CorbettBarr.com. He had built it over a number of years and used it to kickstart Think Traffic, but recently decided to go all-in on Think Traffic and Fizzle.

I like to call this process ‘Quitting Without the Stigma’.

In our society, a quitter is typically labeled as a failure. People assume someone quit because they were weak, incompetent, or just simply unable to perservere.

There are popular phrases like “quitters never win” and “not quitting is half the battle”, but are those things really true?

I’d argue that quitters DO win. Sometimes the biggest winners are the ones that quit all the time. They know what they should be focusing their time, energy, and money on and they quit the rest.

***

What should your quit doing? What should you be spending more time focusing on?

Let us know in the comments below this post.

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  • http://lucidability.com Jamie Alexander

    If there’s more advice like this in Fizzle then it should be very helpful to people.

    I just don’t get how some people can expect to build more than one successful business simultaneously if they haven’t even built their first one. I’m glad a blog like TT said it because more people will listen and get down to some serious stuff.

  • http://www.freemoneywisdom.com/ Daisy @ Free Money Wisdom

    I think that it’s important to know when to quit and WHAT to quit. Not all activities that you engage in with your business or venture are value-added. And sometimes, certain ventures are more profitable and time-worthy than others. That needs to be something that all entrepreneurs are conscious of.

  • http://www.thedesignrange.com Alex Singleton

    Great article and a pretty interesting point to consider. Surely better than bringing a project to a close is either to try and incorporate it into what you want to work on next – a lot like Corbett did with Think Traffic and his personal blog. Or even better- to get your project to a stage when it can survive passively, either through automation or the employment of VA’s to keep things ticking over?

  • http://changebasics.blogspot.com Jaky

    I think quitting isn’t a bad thing at all. Most coaches have this declaration to never quit. It’s kinda changing these days but quitting is somehow the most productive thing to do sometimes. Not that every down moment should be called to quit but when you know that the thing you’ve been working on so hard isn’t worth your level of talent and you could do something different and make it even more wonderful, you should quit.

    Any thoughts?

  • http://facetsofjoy.com Joy

    I like “quitting without the stigma”. I find that as I continue to learn, my vision expands and some of the original ideas no longer resonate, so I discontinue them. I didn’t think of it as focus, until reading your words, but yes, I align my projects with my vision as I keep moving forward. I think of it as organic growth…no stigma, just lots of celebration of the newest “harvest”!

  • http://contentmarketingup.com Michael Chibuzor

    This is yet another “epic shit” I must say. Often, we believe that quitting is all that bad, but that’s not true. Sometimes, when you quit doing something or pursuing a course, it’s because you’ve seen failure at the end.

    Focus is one BIG success secret that never fails. I’m going to quit wasting time on twitter and facebook at the same time.

    I’d take it one step at a time and give more time to writing quality content for my blog readers. Thank you Caleb for pulling the sofa and crafting this cute post. I like your voice.

  • http://mindfull.co Good Guy Robert

    Why do we want to tackle so many projects at once? Have Richard Branson or any of the people you mention EVER been guilty of this?
    Right now I’ve got two main projects going in addition to my day job. One dream project that would be ideal but is less likely, and one that is already semi-successful but not AS dreamy.
    I suppose I SHOULD concentrate on one, but if I pick the wrong one, I’ll probably be stuck at the day job forever. I feel like I have to keep juggling things until it becomes unmanageable!

  • http://www.talktherapybiz.com Linda Esposito

    Hi Caleb–As I was reading through this post, I was reminded about The Good Project video interview with Seth Godin…unfortunately I quit at about the 12:45 minute mark. <–My bad.

    Gonna go back and check it out. I should probably re-read The Dip, too ;).

    No stigma from walking away from what's not working. I need to get off FB and Twitter and focus on my USP.

    Thank you for the reminder. It really helps.

  • http://monthlyexperiments.com John Muldoon

    Hey Caleb, I really enjoyed this post!

    As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned how important it is to know when to quit something. Our attention span is so limited, it should be obvious that the fewer projects we take on, the better we can make our work. Corbett is always encouraging me to pick one thing and focus on it. I’ve started taking that advice more seriously and it’s certainly paying off.

    I recently wrote a post* called “How to Never Fail at Anything, Ever Again” that reminds me a lot of this one.It’s basically about the advantages of taking an experimenter’s mindset. It’s also about taking a less stressful approach to creation and entrepreneurship.

    *I’m happy to add a link to that post if anyone is interested.

  • http://pjrvs.com paul

    as someone that always has lots of projects on the go, i tend to call them experiments. that way, any outcome, they were an experiment with a result. the result can be good or bad or successful or not, and it’s still just an experiment.

    that said, i still need to focus on less projects, ha.

    • http://monthlyexperiments.com John Muldoon

      Hey Paul. When you view projects as experiments, do you find it makes it easier to do good work? Does it change the likelihood of you achieving the result you want?

      Fellow experimenter here, curious about how this works for others.

    • http://pjrvs.com paul

      i actually approach my actual work as an experiment too… but maybe that’s why it works out well for me, *everything* is an experiment. even successes i change up often, just to see what happens. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

      i can’t help myself from tweaking.

    • http://monthlyexperiments.com John Muldoon

      Hey Paul,

      I really like that answer.

      I just sent you an email.

  • http://leandecisions.com/ Trevor Lohrbeer

    Knowing when to quit is important. Linda brought up The Dip by Seth Godin, which provides insight into that question.

    But knowing how to focus until you quit is key too. Preventing yourself from taking on new projects definitely helps with this.

    Ironically, your example of Corbett Barr focusing is precisely how NOT to focus. Going “all-in” on both Think Traffic and Fizzle isn’t exactly focusing. That’s two projects. Exactly what this article is supposed to be advising against.

    However, as Alex pointed out, there’s a caveat to one-project-at-a-time. If you can get your project to where it’s mature, i.e. running mostly automated without requiring your resources, then you can diversify and take on another project.

    I wrote about the decision to diversify in Warning: Avoid Premature Diversification at
    http://leandecisions.com/2012/10/warning-avoid-premature-diversification.html

    So three rules:

    1) Don’t take on new projects–stay focused on your current one.
    2) If you determine your current one won’t scale to where you want it, quit.
    3) Once you scale one project and automate or delegate it, feel free to start another.

  • http://www.homeschool-how-to.com Heidi

    My goal for the last few years has been to get 10,000 page views a day to make $100 a day with google. That hasn’t happened yet. I am willing to work really hard to reach my goal. It seems to me either my goal is too high or I’m not doing the right things. If someone would just tell me what to do each day I would do that with all my heart. Would posting youtube videos help push me over this hump? Help!

  • http://www.pousye.com Pouysè

    Great point in your post!! the fact that we grow up hearing people say “quitters never win” we always focus on what they might think about us when we quit, without realizing that we WIN more sometime when we quit the right thing.

    Thanks for sharing

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  • http://www.retailtrader.info David

    Sheeeesh — I used to have the worst time with this! If it was a new day you can GU-A-RANTEE I was registering a new domain name! LOL. I got that under control by telling myself to write 10 blog posts on the topic before registering the name. Yep — CURRRRED it. Still, I’d rather have too many ideas than too few.

    Thanks for making me feel like a (relatively) sane human being and for ROCKING my face off with this awesome post. I swear — I needed to read this. I am not alone! :-D

    • http://www.darlingblogs.com marianney

      Ok seriously, this is some of the best, most simple and practical advice I’ve heard in a long time. Write 10 posts before registering the name! So simple! I too am guilty of registering too many unused domains!

      Thanks for this!

  • Will Emerson

    Good post! It reminds me of the old saying, “The dog who chases two rabbits catches neither.”

  • Federico

    This is epic shit content!

    Exactly what is happening right now to me, I have been accepted to Columbia MBA and also manage my small HFund in Buenos Aires, also creating paid content for SeekingAlpha, managing other bond accounts, creating my own blog warrentrades.com (with the help of course startablogthatmatters), hiring 2 Philipinos VA to write extra content, train them and also planinng on learning to buy and create small niche websites but cant find the time for that!

    Several projects at once and my head starts becoming really overwhelmed. This is my current situation.

    How to solve this ? I havent found a solution yet. Maybe if I leave to NY and focus on the MBA everything changes but I am feeling with so many things in my head and cant find a compelling solution!

  • http://help-pay-bills.com Clare @ Help Pay Bills

    This is excellent advice, couldn’t have written it better myself and I have this problem every day! My problem is having too MANY ideas!! Im glad to have that problem that not enough for sure, but being productive is hard too, getting better at it though!

    It’s just knowing what to focus on when ALL the ideas seem good. I think it’s a process that you refine over time. I have spent a while in analysis paralysis and now its time to kick ass, and am moving forward.

    I’m never ashamed to ‘quit’ if something seems like it is going nowhere – but as the Dip says, most people quit just in the lull before all their hard work manifests into something amazing! :-)

    I wish we were taught business skills at school! :-)

  • http://SmallKeyBigDoor.com Toni South

    Caleb,
    This is awesome and so very true although I think most of us have to learn it from experience first before we start listening. I started “Building a Site That Matters” this year and thought I’d use my name website as a place to write randomness about my journey as I built my “real site”. As you can imagine, writing on the website only distracted me from what I really needed to be focused on. I finally realized that and simply shut it down, forwarding everything to my primary focus – my new site. I still get all sorts of great ideas but keep them all in a nice journal instead of starting 50 projects at once!

    Great advice and something we all need to hear often.

  • http://zenrollerderby.com/ Flutter @Zen Roller Derby

    Great post! I’ve had trouble shelving certain projects that I’ve worked on for years. This could be more because they are tied to my identity, but I’m moving on. Letting go sure frees up mind space! Whew.

  • http://www.lovelygalposh.com Luz Garcia-Pennock

    You, brought so much clarity to the fact that driving change in our terms sparkly rocks. I had been pondering about this topic considering my multi passions. I love it…declaring victory to project and moving on to focus.

  • http://www.i-want-to-know-marketing.com Paul Profitt

    Hi Caleb

    Knowing when to quit is probably one of the hardest things, that any person can do. Especially if you have told a lot of people, before starting your business venture. As for my main focus. It’s simply to get better at what I do.

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  • http://www.mobileapptycoon.com Thomas @ Mobile App Tycoon

    Totally agree here though I’m a huge hypocrite when it comes to this. I KNOW it’s best to only focus on one thing but at the same time I don’t like to ever have down time so if I can find time I also do another thing. So right now I have a few projects I’m in the middle of…some more long term and some more short term. Luckily I don’t jump around from project to project but focus on just one or two at a time until there is a period of waiting and then switch. It works – but it’s far from perfect.

    Thomas

  • http://www.mybusinesstricks.com/2012/10/business-ideas-2013.html Peter Mutiso

    I agree with you on every point you have argued. The point on big misconception answered some of my questions I had on quitting

    • http://mybusinesstricks.com/secure-loan-5000000-earn-50k-per-month-less.html Peter Mutiso

      And this is what entrepreneurs do

      Ideas for Entrepreneurs

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  • Ben

    Hi John Muldoon, I would love to read your blog on “How to Never Fail at Anything Ever Again.” Can you post the link? Thanks!

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  • http://ztdchallenge.wordpress.com/ Luis

    Agreed…
    I tend to spend time in little things that don’t bring much (or not at all) to my projects. To measure it, I am counting the time I spend every day on a few general activities. A bit more of half of my wake time goes to my 9-5 job. The other half is spent in little things that pile up along the day. They don’t seem to be a great deal, but sure they accumulate at the end of the day (coffee break, errands…). On the other hand, sadly I realized that during the last 5 days I only spent half an hour in my entrepreneurial project.

    Slowly as I go, I am realizing the truth about creating the “minimum valuable product” and *really* focusing on it, as mentioned in the blog post. An awesomely valid point, I’d say. I can’t imagine how something can work in realistic time scales without these two… It’s something to work on.

  • http://diroski.com Gemma D Lou

    So true Corbett.

    I think we can use the same principle to achieve a project. Focus on one thing at a time. Like what you said with Richard Branson and his Virgin empire. He didn’t go for the airline industry, or the train industry first. Apparently it started with a store. Before that it started with a school magazine. If we learn anything, we should start with the resources we have before us. And grow until we’re resourceful enough to go for the bigger projects. That should help whittle out some of those ideas.

    And if our ideas can go through changes, like how facebook developed and grew, starting with the very basic form it had, and now a stock-exchange company, we can focus on that first step. All those ideas will be achieved. One after another. Loved the post, and thanks for sharing the Seth Godin video. Like how it started from that point you set.

  • greg

    id like to add something, this shit really fucking helped me. i had spent 10 years writing then i spent 7 years on a website project, and then 3 years on something i thought would earn me money. i realise now the 3 year project wasnt my passion so i quit. the other two – writing and website project , out of the two , the website was more doable – its still innovative. even though ive seen someone try and copy it, i think my idea is still better and more interesting and fun and more importantly full of passion. its taken 7 years but me and my partner are still determined to complete it and test it. regardless of our competition. re writing for 10 years, its just made be a better writer and now i manage a blog thats my hobby that i manage to express myself succinctly and my writing can only get better. so what im trying to say is that if you look everything as a process, it works out because it can only make you sharper, and once youve dropped the excess baggage and focus on what really matters, it will work out!

    its like a girl i liked, i liked, actually i really fancied her, for her mind, but then i realised, shes beyond saving. actually it breaks my heart when i think about it, but i know its for the best, and she will probably be happier continuing what she wants to do. right now my focus is on my work, its a shame it never worked out but thats life – an experiment and your constantly being tested. and it always works out for the better.

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  • M.Camille

    Thanks for writing and sharing this. The message is so relevant and it’s nice to know that others think the same way sometimes and eventually one has to make a strategic move and focus. It’s all about focusing and carrying it out. We can only handle so much at a time.

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