Mission and Focus

There have been a few different articles that I’ve seen in the past few weeks that discuss mission and staying in focus to achieve success.

In this post, Aaron Levie (CEO at Box, Inc.) discusses how he can still today, eight years into the product, be so focused and energized by what he’s doing —

“… As I thought about it more, I realized it was the mission we were on that compelled me to keep at it.

As best as I can tell, this is the most important factor – in addition to the people that you work with every day – that separates going into the office and dreading your job or having the time of your life.”

In other words, as the title of his post states “Be on a mission that doesn’t suck”!

Greg McKeown (CEO of THIS Inc.posted about the mistakes people make in their careers by not staying focused — being good at what you do, gets you lost because you keep taking on more.

“Step 1: Capable people are driven to achieve.

Step 2: Other people see they are capable and give them assignments.

Step 3: Capable people gain a reputation as “go to” people. They become “good old [insert name] who is always there when you need him.” There is lots right with this, unless or until…

Step 4: Capable people end up doing lots of projects well but are distracted from what would otherwise be their highest point of contribution which I define as the intersection of talent, passion and market (see more on this in the Harvard Business Review article The Disciplined Pursuit of Less). Then, both the company and the employee lose out.”

This post on the Harvard Business Review blog site that Greg McKeown refers to above discusses the “clarity paradox”;

“Why don’t successful people and organizations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is due to what I call “the clarity paradox,” which can be summed up in four predictable phases:

Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success. 
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities. 
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts. 
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure.

We can see this in companies that were once darlings of Wall Street, but later collapsed. In his book How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins explored this phenomenon and found that one of the key reasons for these failures was that companies fell into “the undisciplined pursuit of more.” It is true for companies and it is true for careers.”

Some interesting points brought up from different sources that I think merge to a conclusion — to be successful and stay successful; know your mission, make sure it’s one you love and that energizes you, and keep your focus on your mission.  Even though you’re totally capable of taking on more!

Beyond those points, also consider that when you feel that your mission has been accomplished be open to looking for a new mission.  Fully realizing a change effort can be thought of as accomplishing a mission.  If it’s a new mission that “doesn’t suck”, it will be rewarding for you to throw yourself and your capabilities into it.

Best of Holiday Wishes to you all!


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