The late American entrepreneur and inventor, Steve Jobs, once said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

It is very difficult to let an opportunity pass you when you are in dire need. A consultant will find it hard to refuse to take the job of a client who can only pay far below his rates when he has bills to pay; a hunter will find it hard not to shoot hares dancing all over just to save his arrows for a buffalo not in sight. Most traders will find it hard to refuse to source and supply something outside their line of business when given an order.

It is natural for most people to fear missing out on opportunities and would do everything to seize them when they present themselves.

I have seen stable businesses wobble because the owner saw an opportunity to invest in a prime plot whose prospect of appreciation was certain. I have seen businesses cash flow messed up because the owner saw an opportunity to start another side business to increase revenue streams.

Once you are in business or you are somebody with means people will come to you with many ideas, offers, and opportunities to make money.

But in essence most of them are not opportunities to you. They are actually a chalice of poison that can easily kill you especially when grabbed too quickly.

They might be opportunities to others, but to you they are distractions that you must say no to if you desire to succeed.

Therefore, one of the most important skills you need to excel in your business or any career is the ability to differentiate and isolate a true opportunity from distractions disguised as opportunities.

To achieve this, you must be guided and driven by a set of principles and values manifested by strong and specific clear goals. Your goals and priorities must be so clear that any offer outside them activates a red alert.

You must know what business you are in and stick to it. The ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’ lives at the survival level. If you want to grow your business from survival to success you must be an expert focused on one line.

It may seem as if you have other resources to handle, some side jobs or grab hit and run opportunities that come your way. However, in reality you don’t have time and adequate energy to do it optimally without sacrificing your core business. Time is a limited resource that cannot be expanded and your mind can only focus on one area at a time.

Multitasking is a myth, but that is a story for another day.

Finally you must understand that any side job you take has an implication on your core business. In other words, it is a trade-off.

When you say yes to an offer outside your business you are giving up something else which may be of higher or lesser value. In most cases, the latter prevails.

One question you must always ask when doing a trade-off is whether what you are giving up to say yes to is worth it.

Will it benefit you more by sacrificing your core business to grab the new opportunity? Probably not, to be sincere. You stand to gain more by focusing on your business and letting the opportunity go.

This article was first published in the Business Daily on  March 13, 2017
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