Imagine my surprise when this showed up in my inbox in a newsletter from Jessica Steward, a coach I admire. Not only was it specifically referencing a business challenge I’ve faced, but it’s actually written about me. I thought it was such a powerful article, I wanted to share it with you all here, in case any of you suffer from unfocused energy spray in your business the way I do!
Something clicked when I read this, and I suddenly realized that focusing my business energy isn’t the same as putting myself in a box or limiting who I am or what I do. It’s also okay to leave my business energy nebulous, if that’s what I choose to do. I found this article very insightful and professionally spot on, so I though you might too. Take it away, Jessica! -- Lissa Rankin
During the drag of the long winter break, I read a blog post from an amazing spirit, Dr. Lissa Rankin. Dr. Lissa is a Renaissance woman. She is a medical doctor, an artist, a mom, a coach, a motivational speaker, and an author. In other words, she is a marketing manager’s worst nightmare.
Lissa is angry because she feels that devilish marketing experts are trying to put her in a box, make her a neat and tidy soundbyte in order to make their jobs easier. Her spirited resistance got me (as one of those marketing devils) thinking about the challenge that many entrepreneurs face when asked to focus. In my role as business coach, I always encourage my clients to get very clear about what problems they solve and for whom. And like Dr. Lissa when faced with this exercise, many of my clients get very angry and accusingly shout, “No one puts Baby in a corner!” before bursting into tears and hanging up on me.
All dramatic hyperbole aside, why do so many entrepreneurs share a perception that narrowing their focus equates to being “put into a box" or reduced to a "soundbyte"? On the face of it, the very idea of being reduced to anything (other than a delicious balsamic glaze) seems to demean the gifts we bring to this world. We have BIG work to do and don't want to miss a single opportunity to affect change on any one life that needs us. It’s only natural that being asked to limit the focus of their attention would feel restrictive to such abundant minds.
However, is it really possible for one person to be all things to all people? Are we really so mighty that as individuals -- or even a small group of individuals – we can conquer the vast sea of issues that exist in this world?
The reality is that as solopreneurs or small business owners we have limited resources to execute on our limitless visions: we all share the same 24 hours in the day, our pocketbooks are never so full as to be overflowing, and our human capital is often capped at less than what we wish. When you narrow your focus, you don't have to give up the breadth of your dreams, but rather reduce the scope of what you are trying to accomplish at this one particular moment. In time, you can acquire additional resources to take on even more.
We can find the truth of this in the power of water. If you want to make water more powerful you must narrow the focus of its path in order to harness its energy. If you don't, your source of power meanders and your unfocused energy forms new paths and creates numerous diversions. It trickles out and your ability to help people is dramatically reduced. As a coach, I ask you to narrow your focus -- not to make my job easier, but to make yours less hard. When you harness the power of your focused attention, you create exponentially more energy because your attention is riveted on solving a very specific problem or set of problems for a very specific group of people.
Imagine water through a hose. When you tighten the nozzle, the jet is more powerful and the breadth of coverage is narrower. Your energy, similarly focused, ultimately produces or attracts resources – like money or people to your cause – because your passion and purpose means you are solving an urgent and pervasive problem and solving it well. Your abundance of resources can then be reinvested or redirected into new streams of opportunity, allowing you to create greater change in the world.
The truth is that the real power of water is its limitless persistence. If you narrow your focus on something that ultimately doesn't resonate for you or your tribe, you will find your energy almost immediately leaking out and forming winding streams, swirling eddies, and cobbled creeks. Notice where your energy is being diverted and rather than stopping up the hole, take some time to explore these unchartered waters. Spend some time in this new flow to figure out if it is worthwhile. And if it is, then start the process of narrowing and focusing all over again, but this time you know how to do it and it goes far more quickly.
When I ask you to narrow your focus, I'm not asking you to back yourself into a corner or fold yourself into a box. I'm not trying to cut you off from possibilities. Instead I am asking you to pick a point to focus your energies in order to allow you to create more resources and expand your possibilities. By taking the time to learn which way the water flows and giving yourself permission to feel its harnessed power, you will become mightier than the Mississippi and the current will take you exactly in the direction you want to be moving.
If you need any help figuring out how to get started on the path to harnessing your power, I’m here wading.
Sorry. I couldn’t resist.
Jessica Steward is a Certified Martha Beck Life Coach who loves helping her fellow solopreneurs and small business owners get out of their heads and into their gigs. With fifteen years of corporate marketing experience, Jessica combines her coaching with her practical, business side by helping her clients blast through blocking thoughts and beliefs, sift through and prioritize dreams and desires, and turn a seed of an idea into an actionable plan for your life or business. She also loves helping entrepreneurs use video to help them connect more authentically with their tribes. She lives in Boston with her husband, her dog, two cats, and two ukuleles. The cats cannot play the ukuleles. Yet.
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