The Beatles are one of the most iconic bands of the 20th century. Soccer legend Pele is arguably the best player the game has ever seen.
Both are examples of what can be achieved when we apply ourselves to a single craft or discipline. We attain excellence, and that breeds significance.
The question is whether they actively set out to reach the pinnacle of their disciplines. Recently, I attended a talk by Pele whilst visiting my team in London. It was clear that he didn’t set out to be the greatest player. He simply enjoyed what he did and decided to do something nobody had ever done before.
“I was obsessed with soccer, I used to sleep with a football in my hands,” Pele explained. This obsessive discipline is the answer.
In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell refers to the fact that the Beatles played for thousands of hours before their big break. They had a weekly show at a local pub and usually played to rowdy and disinterested audiences. But they were disciplined in their pursuit of musical mastery.
Once again, an obsessive discipline for the craft.
The truism is simply this: Entrepreneurs should not focus on the ‘big picture’ too much, too early. Rather, they should focus on building the business and remaining of service (and relevance) to their customers.
1. Beware the big picture
Big-picture thinking is important and necessary. For entrepreneurs, however, the trick is not to obsess over it. Focus on the small details. The big picture is, after all, a cumulative sum of small details.
2. Obsess over remaining relevant
What should the entrepreneur really focus on? Remaining relevant. When you are running your business and crafting your value proposition in the never-ending onslaught of wily competitors you must keep your eye on remaining relevant in an ever-changing environment.
How do you remain relevant?
1. Personalised offerings
Offer your customers products and services that are based on deep insights about their ‘pain points’. All people transact to fulfil a certain need or ease a certain burden. Your job as the entrepreneur is to understand that need and know how that burden can be alleviated.
2. Meaningful interactions
Ever heard the expression ‘people don’t remember what you made them think only how you made them feel?’ It’s true for entrepreneurs and business in general.
If you make people feel that you are being authentic, honest and driven by a higher purpose, they will be more likely to want to help you build your business.
3. Let the customer lead you
The most overused example is Facebook. Did Mark Zuckerberg set out to build the most influential media company in the world? No. He simply wanted to build a social platform for students at Harvard.
If you are humble enough to know that you don’t know it all — and that your customers have insights that would help accelerate your business growth — you will shorten the learning curve and accelerate the journey to positive cash flows.
Greatness is not written on a business plan. It is often a well-constructed ‘accident’ by the universe. If you focus on the small things, the opportunity for greatness will show itself.
Facebook is a media business. It allows users to publish content, so it is essentially the largest media publisher in the world, yet it doesn’t deal in content creation or production. It simply gives its users the platform.