Aiming High

(My column as it appeared in Upmarket magazine week of July 15th)

For many the term aim high means setting lofty goals. Yet this time it’s more about actually how or what you’re doing to hit those levels, and why many find themselves constantly thinking they’re doing everything right while continually missing the mark.

For anyone who’s taken Drivers Ed. many instructors will tell you to aim high. This wasn’t some form of motivational speech to inspire you to become a driver for NASCAR®. (Although the way many drive maybe I’m mistaken, but I digress.) It was to have you look further down the road rather than right in front or to the side. The reason for this instruction was to help you in keeping the car on a straight path rather than drifting from side to side. When your focus is to close you tend to drift easier and more often resulting in sharper and more forceful corrections. This metaphor can explain why so many feel consternation when navigating the road of entrepreneurship.

You need to look well into the distance and let your peripheral vision awareness keep you from drifting. Your peripheral vision fills in many of the details that you need, and it signals you seemingly without any input on your part to make the small corrections needed to stay on your course. Where ever you focus is where you’ll tend to drift or veer towards. An actual skill taught at race car schools is if you’re sliding towards a wall you’re not to look at it. Rather you must focus on where you want the car to go, not where it’s currently heading. If you focus on the wall chances are you will hit it because your mere focus begins to trump your skill of regaining control. Same lesson applies to hitting the skids in business. Where you focus can trump acumen or skill. Yes, it’s that important.

How many forget to keep focus on their long-term objectives by staring blindly at short-term circumstances. Thinking you can’t lose a stitch of business regardless if it’s good business or not because times are tough is one example. You won’t focus on finding good or better business. Your focus will be directed at how to become better at keeping or not losing bad business. Or maybe you want to grow a business, however your focus is more inline with dodging pot holes (quieting unruly customers) rather than looking for a smoother road (customers that you can wow). Some will watch or listen to news with screeds of doom and gloom rather than steering their goals toward finding ways to increase their business. Many more will focus on not losing rather than gaining. Next thing they know instead of arriving at their destination all they seem to do is hit more detour signs. It’s not the roads that are problem, it’s your focus on how to navigate them. You can’t read signs or warnings to help navigate if all you do is focus on the curbs. Focus squarely on the potholes and that’s where you’ll end up. Put all your attention on not drifting into a ditch and you may just miss the sign that reads “Road Ends, Bridge Out!”

Being aware but not focusing on obstructions that may come along during your travels is what keeps you heading in the right direction. Focusing constantly on the side of the road as a means to stay clear will only land you in that ditch you so clearly wanted to avoid.

Have faith in your driving skill as an entrepreneur, focus on your destination, and the pot holes, detours, and other inevitable hazards you’ll navigate through. Almost as easily as being on autopilot.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr