How To Find Focus When Drowning In Opportunity

By Yaro Starak
41 Comments

It was post-lunch, and I was sitting on my couch trying to find my productive energy, with the air-conditioning on during a particularly hot Australian summer day (35 Celsius to be exact). Sitting opposite me was Gideon Shalwick, my partner in crime in the Become A Blogger Premium program, equally struggling to find his mojo due to the combination of a full belly and a hot day.

We had come together to discuss our next big project – a live event to be held in Australia during the first half of 2010. However our conversation managed to balloon beyond our initial subject limitation and we were jumping from topic to topic, with each new issue opening up something else.

As the afternoon progressed it became clear that we weren’t going to reach any specific conclusions that day, although the discussion was certainly helpful.

As Gideon pointed out, decisions made now, will impact where you will be in six months. The start of a new year is a particularly important time as most people start new projects, or begin new phases in the development of their business.

In our case we’ve reached transition points, where we face a huge array of opportunities. Gideon and I don’t face the same decisions on all levels since our personal lives are different, as are the stages of development of our businesses. Since we share projects, some of the decisions we make must be made together, and when that happens, we need an extra level of clarity because what we do impacts not just ourselves.

It’s easy to change things when it’s only you in charge, but when you are in a partnership, each shift requires involvement of your partner, or you risk creating confusion and even conflict (read of this article on partnerships for more on these kinds of issues: Is A Partnership Right For You?).

Many of the new opportunities open to us, such as the live event, are projects that we have very little experience with. We’ve attended live events before of course, but never hosted one ourselves, hence we’re wary of what we don’t know that we need to know and prepare for.

Making the decision process even more complicated are the existing projects we have, which could be optimized and expanded, if we choose to follow that path.

To put it simply, this isn’t a simple decision. There are many interrelated issues, conditions and decisions that have an impact on other decisions.

Normally I pick one major project and focus most of my “new creation” energy there, while working to keep the regular processes, like blog articles and email content flowing as usual, but this time it’s challenging because all my new opportunities really are new.

In my case I already made the decision to launch a private coaching program, and if you’re already one of my paying members you should have received an email with a link to the invitation page to check it out. If it doesn’t sell out to my private members, I’ll offer an invite to the public, so stay tuned for that.

The rest of my decision making for the next six months is still a work in progress. This is of course not the first time I’ve faced this kind of “problem” and it’s a very common one for entrepreneurs.

Even as you become more stable, develop cash flow and determine what projects are worth pursuing and what should be scrapped or avoided, it doesn’t make the decision making process any easier. In fact it usually becomes even more complicated, since success tends to open doors to new opportunities, and you always have the opportunity to improve on what’s already working.

So how can you find the answer to the too many opportunities problem, especially when you reach major transition points in your business life?

Financial Return Vs. Personal Satisfaction

There’s an interesting thing that happens as your business grows. All early decisions are pretty much focused entirely on establishing cash flow. I know for sure if you’re getting started right now with your online business, your first goal is to generate money.

Momentum at the start-up stage is all about first surviving, then establishing cash flow to stabilize what’s working by bringing on more resources, in particular more people to help. Once cash is stable and you have at least a base level of regular income coming in, your decision making process actually becomes easier in some respects, since you don’t need money quite as desperately. Instead you’re looking to keep things moving along smoothly, keep the growth curve trending up by using your cash to open up the floodgates on what’s already working.

Once you pass through this stage, you can finally breath a little, confident that your business is running reasonably well without risk of falling apart. If you’ve built a money making machine business and have systems and people running things for you, your own workload will drop at this point as well, freeing you up to make decisions on where to go next.

It’s at this point that your decision making process changes. It’s no longer just about the cash, instead you choose projects based on what you want to do. Of course financial objectives are still important, but the feeling of desperation subsides, and you can go somewhat where your heart wants to take you, as well as your wallet.

This is a wonderful position to be in, but don’t be under any illusion that it’s easier, it’s actually more complicated because you have considerably more options to choose from. The downside risk is usually less, depending of course on what level of investment is required of you in new projects, but if you’re a boot-strapping kind of entrepreneur, or building online businesses, the risk is low.

The biggest loss you might have is the time it takes to get a new project off the ground. You could lose money too if your new project doesn’t work, but unless you’re spending significant amounts on advertising or software development, which are not the kind projects I currently focus on, then you really have very little to worry about beyond that sense of disappointment when something doesn’t take off like you hope it would.

Opportunity Cost

The real potential danger in this decision making process is opportunity cost.

Making a decision to focus on one project means you can’t work on another. If the potential upside on a successful project is hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, then choosing one opportunity over another means you could be “risking millions”, though the difference between loosing millions compared to just not making millions because you choose a lame duck project is quite different. It’s still a relatively safe place to be making decisions from.

So that’s basically where Gideon and I find ourselves now. We have plenty of opportunities to make money by starting new projects and optimizing current ones, possibly even selling assets, but cementing what to pursue while a tantalizing choice, is still a difficult one because we forgo one opportunity by choosing another.

We also have to be sure to balance what we want to put energy into with the potential to profit from it carefully. The holy grail is a project that is fun to work on, satisfying on a personal level, and is the most or one of the most profitable. Identifying which opportunities match this criteria is actually very difficult because of the amount of unknowns and the nature of uncharted territory.

The Simple Path To The Lowest Hanging Fruit

The best advice I can offer you, which is the same advice I follow, is to seek the simplest path to the lowest hanging fruit, which represents both a financial and personal reward you are happy with.

By this I mean, choose the opportunities that are simple in nature, which you are clear about how to begin, that you are excited to do, and the numbers are satisfying, if things go well.

This process is going to be different depending on what stage your business is at. As I stated before, the level of momentum, your resources (including staff), and cash flow currently flowing in your business, dictates how much freedom you have to choose projects based on money versus fun. Consider this when deciding what’s important to you and offers quickest return on investment.

In my experience, having one major project going at once, which you work on to completion before starting another, is a successful formula. This gives you clarity of purpose and more importantly, tells you what you definitely shouldn’t be doing (anything that’s not related to that specific project).

In your case you likely have a skill, or talent, or perhaps you’ve built up something to a point where it could be leveraged for more, and you’re reasonably clear on how to start the process, or are at least prepared to put in the time to learn how to make it a profitable venture, which represents a lowest hanging fruit opportunity.

It’s not always a cut and dry decision, and you may need to seek input from your peers, or a coach or mentor, or as I like to do – mull it over for a while so you get a really good feel for how much you want to do something – just not too long!

It also helps to write out your opportunities on a piece of paper and rank them based on criteria like how much money you could make, how much fun it would be, how quickly you could earn a return and how much is your potential loss. Sometimes having this information written down and then put into a graph results in a very obvious winner – the numbers don’t lie if you’re being honest with yourself.

The most important point is, once you’ve made a decision, focus all your energy on that and ignore everything else. If you want to guarantee failure or at best, a very slow path to success, keep distracting yourself with new opportunities.

Good luck with your new projects this year!

Yaro Starak
Brainstorming

About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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41 Comments

  • This is an excellent post for anyone in business today! We live in a world of unlimited ideas, opportunities, and possibilities. You are right to point out how important it is to focus and get clarity before committing to too many projects at one time.

    I also like this idea of targeting “low hanging fruit” projects, though this is not always easy to do. Sometimes the lower-hanging fruit might be in competition with BIG IDEAS and projects that hold life-changing and even transformational power!

    Perhaps some of the decision-making we do in business as entrepreneurs is partly intuitive. Are some better than others at making such decisions? This is a question I have grappled with for as long as I’ve been building businesses myself.

    Excellent post, Yaro. Very thought provoking!

  • Hey Yaro,

    Excellent post there. I have a question regarding to your point about completing one major project first before starting another one.

    What if the major project that I am trying to work on did not work out like I initially plan. Do I still have to hang on trying to complete it?

    Just like if I try to start blogging business, is it better I choose a few topics to start off better than banging big on one, that might not work out?

    cheers

  • I believe had I to do it all over again, money invested in personal and business coaching would have been a far better investment – for me – than the years I invested in graduate school.

    Very interested in seeing what both of you end up doing this year, both together and individually.

    BTW, attempting to figure opportunity cost is what puts me into my worst “paralysis of analysis.” Tough one there.

    • Totally agree with you! I finished school for a BA and a year later into my business I am thinking “I would be SOO much farther ahead if I had just done my own thing from 18+ instead of staying in school”. I know it isn’t a popular idea with parents but I wish I had just been handed the money for school at 18 and invested it straight into a business instead!

  • I like your approach to handling opportunity and you have really succinctly presented the issues that you need to address.
    I often find that the problem is not so much a lack of opportunities but more, as you have pointed out, the difficulty in identifying and pursuing the ‘lowest hanging fruit’. Disciplined time mangagement and a killer productivity regime is your next post right… :) ?

    • I’ve written a few posts on productivity and getting things done, though I have to admit I’m not the most structured in this area beyond some basic 80/20 rule smartness.

      You never know of course Luke :-)

      • Hey Yaro,

        Will you write a series on your biggest mistakes online, what you learnt and what you would have done differently now?

        Cheers,
        Olusegun

  • Great post, I just wrote something similar entitled “How to be an idea hitman”

    You need to kill the ideas or risk killing THE idea and also have a system of benchmarking an ideas credibility at the beginning and at regular points through the development. If at any point an idea isn’t hitting the mark then it needs to hit the showers.

  • Great Hints! I am going through some of those same challenges right now. As an upstart I get about few new ideas a day and it is difficult to stay focused.

  • Its a great post Yaro. It sure help a lot for those who want to start the new year with great success.

  • I love this post. It is so important to commit yourself to one thing and do it extremely well rather than committing yourself to several different projects and semi-completing it. I’m a firm believer in partnerships as long as they are partnership with the RIGHT person. If you have that one RIGHT partnership, you will be able to create a wonderful project.

  • Very nice post. I’m one of those people with a million projects I have. I need to apply your formula of one project at a time. Thanks!

  • I think the most important point you made is to ideally choose something that you will enjoy doing and will give you a good financial reward. Most people just look at the financial opportunity as their gauge if something is worthwhile pursuing.

    This first point is directly correlated to another point you made which is once you make the decision what you are going to pursue, stay focused! If you are not doing something you enjoy, it is very hard to stay focused especially when things don’t go exactly as planned which it never does.

    So, thank you for putting things in proper perspective and always encouraging us to operate from the inside out!

  • Amazing article and extremely timely for me considering how many projects I’m working on right now. I believe it’s caused a broken focus and scattered my energies. As I’m moving out of one project and working on many I can assure you it’s not the wisest thing to do. With that said, where attention goes money flows.

  • This is an awesome post, All to many of us now are suffering (or eventually will) from information overload.

    It happens… But this is a great kickstarte for anyone, whether you’d be new or old to the game.

    Keep up the great work.

  • jim

    I can sure relate to the perspective of having an ocean of opportunity in front of you. The WORST thing we can do is stand still…even the failures are invaluable lessons. My theory is that If you aren’t failing occasionally then you aren’t pushing yourself! Great article.

    Jim
    SilentJim.com

  • Nice post Yaro, interesting read.

  • Great post Yaro. Getting the year off to a good start is very important. Many in my business tend to slow down at the end of the year which only makes it harder to get off to a good start in the New Year.

    The wife is a huge tennis fan so our DVRs are working overtime taping the Aussie Open. Since our kids are home schooled the next two weeks are going to be a bit light in school.

    Roy Paeth
    Chicago First Time Home Buyer

  • Great post Yaro -

    This is the very issue I’ve been struggling with recently. When your running your own shop, it can be very (VERY) difficult to prioritize effectively.

    For those in the same boat as me, who don’t have cash flow to outsource and are a bit overwhelmed by the opportunity THIS is what works for me: stop chasing the ghost of tomorrow. It doesn’t exist.

    Do what has the highest ROI for the least amount of time today. You can use the cash to free up more time, which you can then allocate to other ventures. Rinse and repeat.

    Most opportunities aren’t going anywhere, and even if they do others will take their place in short order. Gotta do first things first…. as cliche as that sounds.

  • Particularly appreciate your advice Yaro about choosing the simple path to the lowest hanging fruit. Wise advice to follow the beacon of light that results in the path of least resistance, a high level of satisfaction and the best possible outcome for the effort required.

    Only today while working in the yard (quiet time), I developed 3 ideas to solve a problem I currently have. Each solution is fairly complex and profitable, but using your advice I can see clearly which one is the winner. The acronym K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid) springs to mind..

    Thanks!

  • Boy is this a timely post for me or what! It has brought a bit of clarity to my own current dilemma of choosing among three opportunities. Thank you.

  • This really hits home for me. I’m a full time practicing dermatologist and have just started a web based business offering the skin care information and products that I’ve used in my 20 years of practice. I wrote all the text, write the blog text and now participate in social media, all while practicing medicine. I can easily get lost in the trees and lose sight of the forest. I like your idea to identify the simplest low hanging fruit and work from there. Thanks.

  • Aahhh Yaro! Another awesome and unique post. Your use of language and the insight you provide makes your offering one of the most unique ones around. My personal favourite out of this brilliant post is “The shortest path to the lowest hanging fruit”

  • Awesome post yaro, very informative yaro, thank for great information

  • Yes, I think exactly te same as you: you must be motivated to do things corectly or even to reach a perfection level. Without motivation you won’t be able to do anything. I’ll see if I can take your course, it really looks interesting :)

  • Great post, I love it because I have been dealing with that a lot lately… so many ideas & opportunities? But which to chose, this has helped a lot. I think I will follow my most passionate opportunities first :)

  • Hmm… Hi, Yaro,

    I knew something big was cooking when you started missing the regular 3-day interval between your posts.

    Great to know you are finally going live. That automatically increases you channels to reach even more people with the value you provide.

    I believe that life is about internal balance – You have to set the intangible as priority over the tangible ALWAYS.

    Once that’s done, every challenge is half solved.

    I have been learning about my strengths lately and i’m about to take the KOLBE test and the Johnson O’Connor Institute of Human Engineering Test also in future to know where I can focus 80% of my attention on.

    I have also learnt from your interviews with Daryl Grant and Tim Ferris that you can live a great life without necessarily “owning a bank”.

    Cheers,
    Segedoo

  • Awesome post Yaro, it is way to easy to get into the info overload mode.

  • COSMOCTO

    I appreciate your point about “opportunity cost”. That is where things can get tricky ey?

    Personally I’m looking for the Grail but generally for better or for worse I don’t mind sacrificing some profit for more fun.

  • Sometimes there are so many choices. It gets overwhelming!

  • hai YARO…
    i’m new commer blogger…
    i just learn a few with your article…
    and i wanna say “thank you brother”

  • Hey Yaro, you are going good information through this post, everyone is getting good information and i like this point “Financial Return Vs. Personal Satisfaction”.

  • Thanks for the post Yaro – I’m one of those people with a hundred things on the back burner – your comments were very helpful – thanks

  • Excellent post once again. Keeping focus is usually pretty difficult for me as there are so many great opportunities out there. If there was only one option it would be easy to chose, but once you actually get to see the actual multitude of options online, it does become a bit overwhelming.

  • Thanks for your post, and also thanks to the people commenting here!

    Because I really also like to read comments on your posts because it’s nice to see that I am not the only one with all kinds of entrepreneurial decisions to deal with.

    Your post gave me an opportunity to think more consioussly and clearly about
    my online activities. I do believe that focusing has huge advantages of being able to have more energy to create what your want, On the other hand I also learned in a teleseminar about how Millionaires think that they sometimes simply
    don’t choose and do both.

    And currently I have multiple theme specific blogspots writing about
    all kinds of areas that I like to write about.

    This also reminds me of a principle I learned from the author of the Book titled: ‘The Lazy Way to Success’ (BTW you can find this book advertized at the leftside of one of my theme specific blogspots my Travel Blogspot.) As far as I undersand, in his view he let’s his focus be guided by simply developing multiple projects and as soon as there is interest and people begin to ‘Nibble’ on something he keeps on ‘feeding’ the most the ones that get ‘nibbled’ on the most.

    BTW it’s my experience that sometimes the things that are most successful
    come to me as a total surprise!

    As readers of my little ebook obviously will know, years ago I worked in the Sales Staff of one of the Major Record companies, (where we made decisions about how to promote well know (and also lesser known) International (and National) Popstars in our territory.) Sometimes we also had projects on the ‘Back Burner’ for a while with the opportunity to have time to gain new insights that – looking back – sometimes created better opportunities.

    For what discipline or a productivity regime is concerned, I don’t really bother with those to much because, currently it’s not a full time business for me and I don’t post that often because I simply declare my posts as highly exclusive!

    Can’t argue with that don’t you think?

    Did I mention the Lazy way to Success? :)

    All the Best,
    To your Happy – Entrepreneurial Home Business – Inspiration,
    HP

  • Iv’e decided to scrap music as a money making option. Why? I have many popular music sites. Nonetheless, people generally visit music sites for free stuff. They don’t want to buy or search for things. On the other hand, visitors to job sites are generally searching for jobs. Therefore, job sites are much more profitable than music sites.

    However, I could be wrong. What do you guys think?

  • Yaro, some great insights on “The Simple Path To The Lowest Hanging Fruit” … I think everyone has the potential to have many great ideas, but those who act on them are those who become successful. But more importantly, those who stay focused.

    >> “In my experience, having one major project going at once, which you work on to completion before starting another, is a successful formula. This gives you clarity of purpose and more importantly, tells you what you definitely shouldn’t be doing (anything that’s not related to that specific project).”

    I am so guilty of doing the opposite of this, I often have several projects going on at a time and it is very difficult to keep up and not get burnt out.

  • Yaro, I just subscribed to your RSS. I look forward to your feeds. By the way, nice hair!

  • Drowning in opportunity is a good problem to have, how you handle it is another issue, prioritizing is of utter importance to keeping yourself sane. I like the simplest path to the lowest hanging fruit advice, whatever your decision is, you do have to be fully focused and commited to the success of it.

  • It’s not always easy to find success, Yaro. But thanks for the enlightenment here. Being focused I guess, is of utter importance. When you lose hope it’s nice to see that people are letting you still remember what you wanted your own goals to have been at starting point.
    Thanks.

  • Right on point – there are always sacrifices and opportunity costs to any decision, be it in business or life. Opportunities can be daunting sometimes, and the fear of making the right decision in a venture or employee or how you spend your time even can be hard to overcome.

    I went to a business coaching seminar with Brad Sugars and the coaches there talk about strategies for finding the right balance and weighing out the opportunities. They have a ton of experience and can give some pointers that really do work. I paid for my tickets to go to the event, but there’s a site that is giving them out for free. http://coachmybusiness.net. It’s through Action Coach. I definitely got a lot out of it and I think your readers would too.

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