One of the many reasons that focus is hard is that it requires conviction. It’s easy to hedge your bets. To start three side gigs you each barely believe in, and hope at least one pays off. At the same time, starting multiple projects at once is the best way to make sure all of them will fail — but the same thing could happen if you focus, and then you’d have fewer excuses.
If you spread your efforts evenly as part of a diversification strategy, not putting in 100% is part of the design. If you go all in on a venture that fails, your entire faith is on trial. So is your work ethic. Did you really give it your best shot? Or were you just lazy to begin with?
It’s true that our conviction will be under constant attack when we choose to prioritize a single outcome, but like most dynamics in life, the focus-conviction highway is a two-way street: Putting our eggs into a single basket is also a great incentive to have more faith in that basket.
Yesterday, I spent two hours copying and pasting code snippets to embed our last six months’ worth of Youtube videos on the Four Minute Books website. It was boring, mindless work, and it’ll have a small impact on our traffic at best — but it was a dedicated act of focus, and that gave me conviction.
Any great result comes from countless little steps, each one almost imperceptible, and yet they all add up over time. We can draw faith from each of those steps — not because we’re so sure of where we’ll end up, but because while everyone else is stuck at a crossroads, trying to decide where to go, we are already walking.
So what if we don’t make it to the top of the mountain? At least we chose a mountain and started to climb. Sometimes, you’ll have to shut down your business. Try a new way of sharing your art. Completely change your style of parenting. But if you put your whole self into any given one of these, you won’t feel too bad even if they fail. You’ll be proud of your conviction, and you’ll get to refill that conviction with small acts of focus on a daily basis.
Have enough conviction to dare and focus, then focus enough to keep nourishing your conviction. It’s a cycle that works even when your efforts don’t, and at the end of the day, that’s more important than success.