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Why I Strive To Be As Narrow Minded As Possible

A Laser Focus Is The Best Kind Of Focus

The people, companies, brands, and organizations I respect most have one unique thing in common: A laser focus.

I believe a laser focus enables people to be less stressed and make better decisions about their work. And when they’re less stressed and make better decisions, they produce better results.


If you have the privilege of living in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, or Texas, you have access to something magical. Something the rest of America is dying to get their hands on. And no, it’s not the sunshine. It’s a special little restaurant called In-N-Out Burger.

The success of In-N-Out is in its simplicity and narrow focus. Three delicious items on the menu, operating in only 5 of 50 states, with employees who are friendly, well groomed, and well compensated.

Nothing more, nothing less. It’s beautiful.

Because of the laser focus on their core business, for the executives and managers at In-N-Out, they are less likely to encounter complex situations requiring overly challenging decisions. You see, In-N-Out doesn’t entertain ideas around new products for the changing times. They don’t waste their time thinking about slick new marketing, celebrity endorsements, or Super Bowl ad buys.

While they are definitely smaller compared to other fast food chains, they are better informed about their core mission. And a narrow focus on their core mission means fewer complex challenges, fewer mistakes and less stress about the future.

Here is In-N-Out CEO, Lynsi Snyder,

“How we make our decisions is not looking to the right and left to see what everyone else is doing. It’s just looking forward and doing the same thing that we’ve done in the past, because it has worked. We don’t have plans to change the menu. We don’t have plans to crank up the growth. It’s just kind of doing the same thing and being smart, and everybody doing their job. Like a plane on autopilot. There’s so much momentum, with all the people who’ve been here and have tenure. There’s so much strength, as a whole. So we just keep on doing the same thing, and it runs pretty smoothly.”

See what she said there? “Like a plane on autopilot.” That is a CEO who is in charge of their values and in charge of their destiny.

I read a great article in Fast Company called the 4 Weapons Of Creative Leaders. This was line that stood out:

Great leaders are not necessarily braver leaders. They’re just better informed about the consequences of their choices, which makes it easier for them to make the hard ones.

Let that sink in.

Great leaders aren’t braver or smarter or more dynamic or better looking. They’re just better informed about their core mission, so it’s easier for them to make the right decisions. They don’t get pulled around in 10 different directions.

In the not-for-profit sector, a lot of organizations struggle with a terrorizing force called Mission Drift. Mission Drift is the slow compromising of values, programs, and principles that will kill an enterprise over time. Credit to Peter Greer from Hope International for writing a great book about it.

In my work at These Numbers Have Faces, we’ve taken the warnings of Mission Drift very seriously and worked hard to implement a laser focus with consistent organizational values.

At These Numbers Have Faces, our programs only focus on three specific demographics:

  1. African young people ages 18-30 from 4 specific African countries.

  2. Students with passionate interest in 6 main fields: Business, medicine, law, science, engineering, & technology.

  3. Young people with a deep desire to solve problems through entrepreneurship, innovation, community impact, and more.

This laser focus on the population we serve means I have fewer complex decisions to make than other people in my industry.

This narrow focus also means we turn down outside opportunities every week.

People call us all the time about expanding around the globe. We get asked to partner on clean water projects, human trafficking initiatives, medical clinics, primary schools, and more. We’ve walked away from hundreds of thousands of dollars because, while the opportunities were noble, they didn’t fit our core mission.

Turning down grant money or a lucrative partnership is hard. But as I’ve studied others who have gone before me I’ve learned that:

The best leaders rarely compromise their mission because they are miles away from being anywhere near a situation where their mission could be compromised.

Great leaders literally flee temptation both in their personal and professional lives.

Of course, having a narrow focus on your core mission isn’t just for organizations and enterprises. It’s for your personal life too.

Making the conscious decision to live by clearly defined priorities, principles, and values can make your decision processes 1000x times easier. It also has the potential of mitigating the stress, fear, and worry from your life.

When you truly let your “yes be yes and your no be no” a much smoother path to success can be achieved.

- JZ

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