Focus on Things Under Your Control

I’ve got a little end of day advice for everyone out there that is getting whipsawed around by all the craziness in the financial markets.  While this is aimed at entrepreneurs, it applies to everyone. 

Focus on things under your control.

When I was a teenager, my dad said something to me that has stuck with me and informs many of the decisions I make and things I decide to spend my time on.  He said something like "Brad – if you want to change the world, start with the 2% you know best."

Now, this doesn’t mean "don’t be curious."  It doesn’t mean "don’t learn new things."  And it doesn’t mean "don’t try new things."  However, it does mean "don’t get distracted by all the things you don’t know, or can’t influence."

This is especially important when confusing and chaotic things are happening all around us.  Since I’ve returned from vacation in England, I’ve been asked numerous times what I think of the current financial crisis, how it impacts entrepreneurship and venture capital, and what the government should do about it.  In general, my answer has been "I have no clue."  Now – I have some very specific ideas about how it might impact some of the companies we are investors in – especially if the macroeconomy continues to deteriorate.  But I know enough to know that I can’t actually predict what’s going to happen nor can I influence the macro stuff at all.

As a result, rather than get all spun up about what’s happening minute by minute in Washington or in the financial markets, I concentrate on making sure that the companies I’m an investor in are thinking through the issues that will directly impact them – either because of exposure to certain customers (e.g. the financial services market) or a broad macroeconomic downtown.  These are things I understand (in my 2%) and can influence.

Fear and anxiety comes from lots of places, including fatigue, misinformation, and the endless blathering on of talking heads on the television.  If you start feeling your anxiety level increase because of things you have no ability to influence, step back and reconsider how you are spending your time.  Go for walk around the block and enjoy a nice October afternoon.  Take your best friend out to lunch at a restaurant you’ve never been too.  Get a good night’s sleep.  Take a deep breath and – as my dad once told me, focus on things under your control.