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The Telephoto Lens📸
A Flyby Analogy
This post is about adjusting focus and is a snappy 4-minute read. 📸
In the last post, Step by Step, Ferociously, we discussed zooming into the details of a project and building up from there, gradually, with utmost care, but also ferociously, without messing about. 🦁
There's an interesting paradox here, though. Zooming in can indeed be the way to beat the fear and not get paralyzed by large goals, but it can also cause us to get obsessed with the details too much and lose sight of the bigger picture.
This is especially the case when you don't have the right road map or are moving in the wrong direction entirely. See Failure to Launch for an example of what I mean, or if you want a refresher, as there might just be a (much requested) sequel in the works (*wink*).
So what's the answer? Zooming in or Zooming out? I'd say it's a mix of both.
I like to use the analogy of
The Telephoto Lens.
Imagine a lens that can zoom into the smallest details, capturing the minutiae of a dewdrop on a flower, but also able to encompass the grandeur of an entire cityscape, a panorama of the surroundings. When we need to get something done, zooming in the lens is the way to go. But every so often, we need to zoom out and make sure we are still on the right track and that everything else is working as intended. 🔭
We discussed the example of this newsletter— zooming in on the work, an hour a day of absolute focus, is the
best only way for me to keep writing. But at times, I also need to zoom out to make sure the vision is still on track, improve the publication, and do marketing-like stuff to keep growing and zoom into those areas as needed.
And then, if you have other projects, like for me with software, it's about zooming out of one area completely and then zooming into the other one and adjusting the lens based on the granularity required there. As a side note, more projects might sound fun at first, but the further along you get, the fewer, the better. So take things
one at a time and focus on the ones that truly matter (unless they are hobbies, tools, etc). More sounds cool, but sometimes,
less is more.
I think this is the most valuable skill you can have as a Founder, if not THE skill you need to have.
If you are building everything yourself, then this becomes apparent very quickly. If you are too zoomed in, you might end up never finishing, keep adding features, and end up with a product that is too hard to use. Nobody wants that. But if you are too zoomed out and looking at the big picture all the time, then who's doing the actual work? You might end up with a solid vision or a plan but no one to execute it. We already know that execution is the only thing that matters, right? Not quite. It's executing the right vision. So, it's about adjusting the lens to the right focal point continuously and moving forward, step by step. 👣
It's the same when you have a team, really. You just have to zoom in and out but stop at certain levels depending on the size and structure of the org. I've worked in companies of many different sizes. The pattern with smaller ones tends to be that everyone is too zoomed in and generally missing the bigger picture. In bigger ones, everyone tends to be too zoomed out and moving at a snail's pace.
That's why tiny startups can have an advantage against big companies. The big fish tend to not have time to care about building something fresh and exciting or embracing the unknown. If they see a threat, they'd probably prefer to just wait it out and try buying it eventually. But in startups, there does need to be someone looking at the bigger picture, especially if you are flying solo or just a few friends building something. Otherwise, you might end up never shipping, overcomplicating things, or building something nobody wants. Yup, you can say that again, nobody wants that. (The last error can be avoided by “scratching your own itch,” but the first two would still be a concern.)
We saw this play out a few months ago in What is the E-Myth? The book (E-Myth Revisited) talks about the three personalities that go into building a successful business— The technician (day-to-day work), the manager (coordinator), and the entrepreneur (visionary). In our lens analogy, the technician is working on the zoomed-in image, the entrepreneur is working on the zoomed-out one, and the manager in you is, well, the one adjusting the level of zoom. 🎥
And if you've ever shot with a professional camera, you'll know that each level of zoom requires you to focus in again, or the image will be
blurry. The focus needs to be constantly adjusted as you move or the target moves. It might be tricky or even annoying at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's no big deal and, honestly, quite enjoyable. Same here. You just need a bit of practice to adjust your lens, and then you'll end up building a system for yourself that works and makes it all a snap. That's why we take it step by step, ferociously. Building up the details while keeping the bigger picture in mind.
📸 *SNAP* 📸 *SNAP* 📸
P.S. — This concept applies to more than just projects. Can you think of some other areas?
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