December 8, 2023

Break things down until they no longer intimidate you


The reason we fledge instead of flourish is because we try to do too much at once.

We try to eat the whole world on the first day, or even in the first year.

But to thrive in our businesses, we have to find ways to tame the blizzard of action that threatens to overwhelm us. We rewrite our situation in an effort to make it seem less daunting. Otherwise we’ll invest all of our time and energy and emotion trying to bite off more than we can chew.

I’ll never forget a job interview I did for a fintech startup. The job was for director of learning and development. Definitely a subject I was passionate about, but a position I had never held before.

The role was so far over my head, I couldn’t see my own hat. And the hiring manager could sense this in me. Working for her company clearly would have been an insane stretch for my talent.

But she said something during the interview that always stuck with me:

When you’re in over your head, it’s all about rhythm and pace. Once you find the right rate of action and the right style of play, you’re golden.

Isn’t that reassuring? Have you found that healthy tempo for your work? Do you believe that you can dictate your own sense of balance and proportion and efficiency?

All prolific creators do this well. They learn how to accomplish as much as necessary, but as little as possible. It’s the only way to avoid burning themselves out working at an unnatural cadence.

Here’s a pacing tactic that you can try.

Break things down until they no longer intimidate you. Frame your work in terms of the minimum viable execution.

For example, many entrepreneurs who start digital businesses often realize that they only really need a hundred customers to be profitable. They don’t have to open big and go viral and earn millions of unique page views in order for their business to win.

If their monetization strategy is solid and they’re running a recurring revenue business, then a hundred customers is enough.

If you really think about it, that number is actually quite low. One hundred people is nothing. Your kid’s mitzvah had double that number.

Dunbar’s cognitive limit to the number of people most humans can maintain stable social relationships with is one hundred and fifty, and so, this goal should be imminently doable.

Focus on finding, acquiring and servicing the minimum viable execution of a hundred paying customers. It will make your business seem so much less daunting. And you’ll lock into a rhythm and pace that is sustainable.

Instead of overwhelming yourself with the fear of being in over your head, give yourself permission to begin small.

What is the right rate of action and right style of play for your business?