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How to Stay Focused on the Future of Your Business

Far too many entrepreneurs get caught up dwelling on past mistakes and ultimately crippling potentially promising times ahead.

It’s unlikely entrepreneurs ever asked Satchel Paige for advice, but the legendary baseball pitcher is credited with a quote that everyone involved in business should heed.

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you,” he famously said.

I have seen many entrepreneurs get caught in the rear-view mirror trap.

If you get stuck in this trap, you are so emotionally consumed by prior mistakes or things that you tried that did not work, so you can’t bring yourself to learn, adapt and move forward.

There are two kinds of businesses in the world.

If your business is backed by venture capital or equity, you’re probably hell bent on growth and speed more than profitability and are likely to throw the kitchen sink at both problems and opportunities.

Then there are the other 99 percent of businesses, which don’t have that blessing (or curse depending upon your perspective). Those businesses are forced to regularly make choices about how to invest their time and money. These decisions often need to be made quickly to capitalize on opportunities, and that means you might be taking imperfect information into consideration.

Therefore, sometimes you’ll be right and sometimes you’ll be wrong. Using another baseball analogy, a .300 hitter is considered a superstar (and that’s someone who’s only successful 30 percent of the time). If you nail even two of every three business decisions, your future likely will be bright.

The key to business success is remaining flexible and fluid as information and market conditions change and revamping your course as warranted.

As I have built my company over the years, there are dozens of new ideas we have tried, and had to let go of because they were not getting traction. There are examples of partnerships, marketing ideas, new sales people and new product strategies.

Saying this is not working is really hard. Who wants to admit a mistake?  Who wants to feel like they wasted some months of time ane effort?  Isn’t it easier to hang on and just keep trying?  

You have to do an honest check in with you and your team about how things are going, and if the new idea is showing signs of life or creating more problems than it’s worth.  And if you’re getting worried, you can’t be scared to let it go, understand what you learned, and move on to the next opportunity.

The worst thing you can do is not make changes because you’re afraid you’re going to fail, at least partially because you’ve failed before.

This is starting to sound like a pep talk, but so be it.

Here’s another baseball anecdote. Years ago during spring training, then-New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra was in the dugout and looked out at the other pitcher warming up. He asked a teammate, “Who’s that big doofus on the mound?” The teammate responded, “Uh, that’s Steve Carlton, who’s won four Cy Young Awards.”

“I can hit him,” the young outfielder proclaimed.

Whether Dykstra could or couldn’t hit a Hall of Fame pitcher is beside the point (and he’s had plenty of his own problems since then), but he had confidence in himself and that’s half the battle. No matter the profession, those at the top of it always have faith in themselves.

If you think you’re going to lose, you probably will. Make your decision, execute your plan and move forward. If you fail, so be it, and believe that the next choice you make will be the right one.

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