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Narrow your Focus

A lesson learned from my closet.

If you didn’t know, we just moved. And my wife and her friend were instrumental in getting my closet set up. Melissa (my wife) asked me how many hangers I thought she would need to buy.

Now, if you wonder why she’d ask me such an odd question, it’s because I used to store all my clean clothes in a single, large pile on a chest next to my bed.

Yes, I was that guy.

I guessed that 15-20 hangers would do it. I was wrong. By a long shot. She ended up buying 5 times that!

Her first analysis was that she might have to buy twice that. So we had to come up with a way to make decisions about what clothes I would keep and what I’d give away.

To make the call, I had to ask a different question than normal. Initially, my question was always, “Will I wear that again?” and my answer was often “yes.” The new question was changed to, “Are you thrilled about this shirt?”

That single change in question shifted my shirt collection from 200 to 100. One single question.

But the power wasn’t in the question. It was in the focus. By looking at my clothing differently, I was able to shine light on what I really cared about. I was happier. My wife was happier. My closet was happier and even my clothes (the ones that stayed) were happier.

I cleaned up clutter, all because I chose to focus.

A lesson learned from In-N-Out.

I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten at a burger joint that lets you put anything you want on your burger. I had dinner last night, with some friends, at one called Five Guys.

It’s a great spot and offers tons of options. And that’s the cause of my experience last night. Since I was paying, I was standing at the register while each person ordered.

My friend stood there and must have waited 3 minutes before ordering. Now three minutes isn’t a long time, but it can feel long.

And that’s when I realized that I’d never experienced that at In-N-Out. You know why? Because their entire menu (not their secret one), is simple.

You can order a Cheeseburger or a Double Double (which is a double cheeseburger). That’s it. Fries or not. And soda or shake.

The result is that you don’t have a lot of choice. And that lack of choice helps people order quickly. And get their food faster.

And if you think a lack of choice has a negative impact, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

Their focus has resulted in faster decision-making and raving fans.

A lesson learned from Brian Gardner.

If you spend any time in the WordPress world, you’ve likely heard about a theme framework called Genesis. And the company behind it is StudioPress. And the guy behind the company? That’s Brian Gardner.

I became aware of Brian early in 2008 when I purchased the Revolution Pro Media Theme, which was one of the first premium themes I ever purchased. It was a no brainer to buy his next solution – which took off: the Genesis Framework.

And since then, I’ve watched him grow his business, merge it with CopyBlogger, and build a huge audience. His blog was filled with helpful code tips and made it a must-read.

He’s a smart guy. A genuine guy. A great guy to get to know.

So when he decided to shift his code tips to the StudioPress site and make his blog more personal, I welcomed it.

I remember the constant feedback I got when people reviewed my early writing was, “we want more of you in the post.” So as Brian said he was going to put more of himself into his posts, I cheered. I knew I would love it.

But I didn’t predict what would happen to his traffic.

“A few months ago I started to feel conflicted about my blog. I was balancing personal content and business content, which made it somewhat confusing for my readers. So I decided to recalibrate my blog to focus on the personal side of me, and put my business efforts into StudioPress. Ultimately this caused some unsubscribers and a decline in traffic but it really cleared the way for me to take my blog into a direction I’ve wanted to for some time.”

Other people worried about their emails and Gmail tabs. They worried that they’d get less open and click rates. And they were right, but what was interesting was that it resulted in better engagement.

Brian could have told them that. He’s seen lower traffic. But better engagement. And that’s what we all want, right?

His focus resulted in a more engaged community.

What about you?

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Where can you apply the lessons of focus? How can you make your products, lives, and blogs simpler?

I’m heading out to Cabo San Lucas this weekend, and I can’t take all 100 of my shirts. In fact, I don’t even take luggage. I pack a backpack. A little one. My trick?


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