The day having turned to night hours earlier, there was still more than an hour left in the 14-hour race at twisty, hilly Road Atlanta.
Nearing the end of a grueling two-hour stint, I was battling another car for position. I reeled in my adversary two laps earlier and was watching his line through each corner, looking for a weakness I could exploit to make a pass. I found it and was ready to pounce; he was taking the very fast turn-one a little wide, failing to drive fully to the corner’s apex. Approaching the corner in fifth gear, throttle flat to the floor and only a couple of feet behind my opponent, I waited a split second longer than usual before I briefly stabbed the middle pedal and downshifted a gear. The car settled and I steered for a late apex, expecting to power inside of my opponent and pass him going up the hill to the next corner. I rolled on the power and began the pass when I saw my opponent swing even wider than before, perhaps distracted or blinded by my headlights which filled his mirrors. As I accelerated, his strange line caught my attention and I glanced at his car and watched him drive straight off the track—and then I drove off the track right behind him. His taillights disappeared in a cloud of dust, dirt, grass and small stones. The noise of the debris pelting my car was deafening and drowned out the raspy whine of my engine.
I had just violated one of racing’s basic rules, ‘Always look where you want the car to be, because your hands will follow your eyes.’
Business is no different—what has our attention is where our energy and focus will go.
I recently talked with a small business owner that had a disruptive idea. Through experimentation he found a much better product to replace one that is commonly used in his industry. This new product was readily available from a different trade, and far exceeded the performance of the one used in his industry. He set up supply contracts, developed a marketing plan, and built an ordering and distribution system.
He should have stopped there and went to market. Instead, he lost focus on the primary goal; he decided to create other products to bolster sales of his idea. He spent enormous amounts of time developing training systems and new tools to use with his product.
Competitors heard what he was doing and being savvy businesspeople, they quickly found and began selling the product. Worse yet, his primary business of more than 20 years was suffering due his lack of attention on it. Taking his eyes off the target, he tried to do too much. Bill Gates said, “My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things.”
Business is about focus, the ability to effectively pursue a few things to conclusion and without distraction. A lot of people like to say they are good at multi-tasking. I disagree. On the crucible of a racetrack where everything happens fast, almost instantly, we can easily see how the slightest distraction leads to all kinds of bad things. The same is true in business and in life: you can do one thing with great clarity and efficiency, or you can do multiple things with mediocrity.
Gary Keller, author the must-read book The One Thing, says, “Multitasking is a lie.” Get focused on your one thing, because every racer knows that you must finish the race before you can win the race.