Oct 112011

The Biggest Challenges

The Biggest Challenges

Do the biggest challenges bring out the best in us?  As entrepreneurs, athletes, achievers, even just as “regular old human beings,” we usually have a choice what we focus on and how challenging we make our lives.  For some, it seems, the less challenges, the happier they are.  For others, including the crowd I like to be around, the more challenges, the happier they are.  Why the dramatic difference?  I’m not sure, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s the focused and driven folks who can make a real difference in our world.  In my experience, entrepreneurs often “fit the bill,” at least those entrepreneurs who are looking to do something unique and special in their lives.  They seek out the biggest challenges they can find, then get to work on overcoming them.

I was reading a recent blog post from Guy Kawasaki about what he had learned from Steve Jobs.  One of his points was that “the biggest challenges beget best work”.  In my experience, this is absolutely correct.  In fact, as I’ve written elsewhere, I think it’s key that you don’t forget your next big goal either.  That is, not only should you have at least one big challenge you’re working on at any particular time, but you should also make sure you have the next one lined up on the horizon.  If you don’t, in my experience and observation, it’s too easy to get consumed by “shiny object syndrome” and jump on whatever the next great looking project is that may come along.  While this may be okay sometimes, it takes some luck for that “shiny object” to take you in the direction of your most important goals.  Why rely too much on luck, when you can be deliberate about taking on big challenges that you know will take you toward accomplishment of your most important goals?

Focusing on overcoming the biggest challenges also has the collateral benefit of preventing you from becoming bored, which in turn again helps to avoid Shiny Object Syndrome.  This is true whether you are working individually, or in a team.  In fact, in a team, in my experience, the benefits of focusing on a big challenge are magnified.  Not only does such a focus force everyone to “get on the same page,” it often has the collateral benefit of minimizing infighting and maximizing collaboration.  Rather than the constant, “my idea is better than yours,” which can be prevalent among bright, achieving people, a cooperative environment of “us against the enemy” (the big challenge), often ensues.  A related benefit of a big challenge, or series of big challenges, becoming the focus of the team, is that divisive personalities, of which there are always at least one or two in any decent-sized group, are often kept in line by the peer pressure of the team.  It becomes a “either you’re with us or you’re against us” mentality.

Can you create a “common enemy” in the form of the biggest challenge you can think of for yourself and your team?  Are you concerned that you or your team will not be up to the challenge?  My advice is to take the risk.  My bet is that you will be astonished by what you and your team, whether it’s in business, athletics, charity, or wherever, can accomplish with the help of the unifying focus a big challenge commands.  You may lose a person or two who are not up for the challenge, but my bet is that you will be shocked by some of the people who “step up”.  Your best contributions to overcoming the big challenge may come from the places you least expect, including from yourself!  What do you have to lose?  Give it a try.  Being ordinary and not at least trying to take on some big challenges is boring and unfulfilling.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin




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  • Ryan Williams

    This is really really good stuff. I am working right now to get control of my “shiny object syndrome” thank you for sharing awesome.

  • Alexandre Horn

    The best comment of Steve Jobs it’s: “My better apps are the rest of my life” When worked before your exit of Apple! Was one man with vision global e humanistic of business.

  • Yes, I agree with you. Ignorance is the biggest problem of humankind. So, the biggest challenge for anyone is how to make yourself learn for your whole life and how to apply that knowledge producing something useful.
    I read that scientists proved that children are less creative than adults, because creativity is a product of experience and gathered knowledge. So, what can we do? Sit back doing nothing with our experiences and knowledge or to try to do something that will push things forward? Another big challenge is making a CHOICE.

  • Thanks, Ryan. Yes, the “shiny object syndrome” is sometimes hard to take control of. The key is to set some aggressive goals in the key areas of your business, then make sure you filter all your activities based on: does this contribute toward accomplishing my objectives? Paul

  • Hi, Suzana … thanks for your comment. I agree that making a choice is one of the biggest challenges. Sometimes, particularly when we have a lot of options, it’s difficult to decide among them. In such a case, the worst thing we can do is take on 100 things in a mediocre way. It’s better to choose a manageable number of objectives and put everything we have into those. Thanks for stopping by. Paul

  • Grady Pruitt

    I’ll admit I’ve fallen victim a time or two to “shiny object syndrome”, though usually mine come in the form of other projects to work on.

    Over the last month, I have committed to working on my site, and by facing one of the biggest challenges of my life, I have learned to avoid some of the biggest “shiny objects” in my life — mindlessly watching TV and playing games. The more I see my efforts pay off, the more I am encouraged to keep them going.

    Thanks for sharing this great post!

  • Thanks, Grady! That’s great to hear! Whatever you can do to overcome shiny object syndrome, as long as it is something that helps move you in the direction of your big goals, is a worthwhile endeavor! Watching TV and playing games can be a huge time waster and one of the bigger SOS issues out there. I think it does have its place, in small doses, but in excess, like most everything else, it undermine your efforts to accomplish your goals.