How About Less?

In seven years of running Four Minute Books, people have suggested hundreds of ideas to me. “You should do a podcast!” “Why don’t you post stories on Instagram?” “It would be cool if you also had an app.”

Funnily, no one has ever suggested we do less. In seven years! Literally no one has said: “Why don’t you focus on your core business? Write good book summaries, and share them with people. Isn’t that enough?”

Well-meaning as they are, people tend towards more, more, more, and ideas are no exception. “Also.” We love that word. But for a business, it rarely spells anything good — and sometimes outright doom. “Also” almost always means “nice to have but not essential.” Sadly, whatever energy we then put into the “also” isn’t excess fuel we just happen to have left over. It’s energy we take away from the essential, and suddenly, we’re actually doing less of what matters. The irony!

In an interview, Jony Ive, Apple’s chief designer of over 20 years, mentions that Steve Jobs taught him the true meaning of focus. Jobs would routinely ask him what things he said “No” to recently, and Ive always presented him with some sacrificial lamb or other — a project he had declined but actually never cared about in the first place. Jobs saw right through this, and eventually, Ive learned that…

“Focus is not the sort of thing you aspire to or you decide on Monday. It’s something you do every minute. What focus means is saying no to something that you, with every bone in your body, you think is a phenomenal idea, and you wake up thinking about it, but you say no to it because you’re focusing on something else.”

I wish we could do a podcast. I’d love to have an app. If I had the resources for Four Minute Books to post on every social media platform every day and be available in every possible format, it probably would — but I don’t, and, thankfully, I don’t have to. I can just focus.

Focus means choosing to prioritize what matters most at the expense of everything that matters less — even if those other things are also good and valid.

Forget “more.” How about “less?” What’s the thing that really matters? The thing that you should focus on? Choose it. Commit to what’s truly important and don’t look back — regardless of how many well-meaning ideas people will present to you over the years.