I was riding my bike to work this morning, in a hurry to get to the office. I was going to teach an online class in crowdfunding to people all over the world. I couldn’t be late.
When riding fast in Los Angeles traffic you encounter people running stop signs, dogs leaping out at you, drivers opening doors, kids, strollers, you name it. It’s all coming at you. Since I didn’t want to be late, I focused on my objective, far down the road.
‘Far down the road:’ The metaphor wasn’t lost on me. Startup founders often have their eyes on a distant objective. Launch. Ship. Something big. Something Far Down the Road. As I wheeled down fast to my office, I realized that focusing solely on my objective might get me in trouble. Staring straight ahead at my objective caused me to ignore side streets, alternative paths, and all those dogs, strollers, people talking on phones and texting while crossing the street. It was dangerous. Staring straight ahead was leaving me unprepared for the unexpected.
‘Expect the unexpected’ is one of those silly self-negating statements, but it has its utility.
When launching a startup, or an online school as I was doing today, you have to consider who will be entering from the side streets, who comes in ‘in the middle,’ who won’t be taking the path you’d assume. People join my class late or can’t get the audio portion of it. I’ve learned a contingency approach. Put up slides inviting people to call in on an alternate phone line. When I was developing an online project management app called Red Cup Office I learned to learn from the way people broke it. They used it ‘the wrong way’ or came in late, or used a metaphorical side street that I wasn’t expecting.
My bike ride to work ended well. I made it early, ran audio tests, signed on, taught the class.
In was worth it to ride fast on the way in, but it also worked to consider the side streets on the way. A hyperfocused 1-degree angle of focus has its utility, but on this ride, and many others, a 180-degree view has always served me better.