How To Innovate (And Change The World)

How To Innovate (And Change The World)

Budi Voogt
February 27th, 2017

We’re all constantly drawn in multiple directions. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all places that constantly confront you with how things could be better, how others are living a more adventurous, worthy and attractive life. This is something I struggle with every day. I aspire to be the best I can be, yet I am constantly confronted with how I could be better – or to be frank – how I am not yet good enough.

Each and every one of us is ambitious. We want to be the best, experience the most, extract the maximum value and enjoyment out of life. However in the process, we often forget to enjoy what matters the most: appreciating the present and being good to others.

Endless options.

When it comes to business, this confuses me tremendously. What we are doing with Heroic and Budi Voogt is so exciting. This last year has been great to us. However when I reflect on our position in the world, our progress, I am often left with a feeling that we need to do more. That I need to be more.

Pair that with the endless optionality of modern life, the fact that everyone could get started doing anything they want, writing, teaching, music, running a blog, beginning a start-up, it’s tough to take one thing and see it through to the end.

I think we’re naturally inclined towards shiny objects. The grass is always greener on the other side and it’s easy to look at other people’s curated online lives and become convinced they are doing better and are more fulfilled.

What we forget is that they are also left with that empty void. They too look at others and aspire to be more, thinking they are not enough.

The result is that we all spread ourselves too thin. So many options, so little time, yet we want to do it all. Ideally, we’d do the things that are most public, so the gratification is instant and your ego gets the validation it so craves.

We love the new.

The better we do, the more options present themselves. Many of them are enticing. And we all love novelty over the old and familiar. It’s what Nassim Taleb calls neomania.

I am so guilty of this. I want our artists to thrive, to grow the labels, management agency and the blog. But if I’m honest, I want more. I’d love to expand into writing on business and philosophy and add public speaking in there.

It is never enough. Makes me want to read another article with 12 more tips for increased productivity.

I am reluctant to believe that the solution is working harder or more effectively. Maybe I could squeeze more hours out of the day or improve my output, but that can’t be sustainable… can it? I mean, what is a life if all you do is work?

The power of focus.

When we look at history, the greatest contributions to mankind were the result of specific individuals and businesses committed to a specific vision.

Think of Albert Einstein developing the theory of general relativity, Henry Ford who brought the automobile to the masses and Steve Jobs disrupting the consumption of music (iTunes Store).

What strikes me are the choices of the greats. They committed all their time to making these visions become a reality. No side projects, no opportunistic diversification. They have gone all in.

That single minded focus allowed them to do what hadn’t been done before. To go from 0 to 1 and truly make a difference in this world.

Steve Jobs said it beautifully:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Yet when you are in the trenches, working hard on that one thing, it can be easy to lose perspective.

You will want to chase shiny objects. It will seem like what others are doing is better, more attractive. You will want to start new projects. Do new things. Travel, go new places.

But you must not forget that those moments are when the difference is made. All you can truly do in life is be great right now. Excellence at what you’re doing at this very moment. Bypass all distractions.

Focus leads to excellence, leads to innovation.

What does it take to innovate - Focus

Eliminate distractions.

Steve Jobs was a master of focus. Every year he’d get together with his Apple executives and they would outline the projects that they should work on the next year. They would filter these down to 10 items, after which Jobs would eliminate the 7 weakest – until 3 items remained. That’s what they would focus on for the year.

This also reduces decision fatigue, which is when one’s decisions deteriorate after having made many before.

This principle is why leaders such as Jobs and Barack Obama are in the habit of wearing the same outfits every day. It leaves more energy for other – more important – decisions.

We can all learn from this practice.

Sam from EDM Production covers the topic of deep work amazingly in his new article on crushing your goals which you can read here.

Align your goals with your values.

Instead of chasing a plethora of desires and goals, we should identify which align most with our personal beliefs and values. Eliminate everything else. It will allow you to go all in on the things that matter the most.

This method hinges on an important question: “What do you want to do with your life?”

The purpose is not to specify an exact destination, where you want to be, but rather a general direction, of where you want to go.

Many would answer with an ethically correct: “I want to add as much value as possible to the world”, “I want to be a good human being” and “I want to be happy”.

I did. You likely will too. Aren’t we all special little snowflakes?

The next level is to add a level of application to that answer. How will you add as much value as possible? What will you do? That’s where the intersection between responsibilities and desires can be found.

I established this: I want to help others be better and better myself in the process. The medium is the label, management and teaching. Call it altruistic selfishness.

My resolution.

That answer allows me to set my targets for next year and beyond. It will be all about focusing on what matter most, eliminating everything else.

So many people have told me to do this and it is about time I listen.

We are closing UnlockTHIS, the like-to-download platform that we launched earlier this year. It was incredible learning curve to start a tech company, however without our dedicated attention it will reach never its true potential and inhibit success elsewhere.

In that same line of thought, I am halting all consultancy and lectures, beyond the projects that I feel are truly worthwhile.

I want to invest in the success of our existing management clients, the labels and our educational practices. More reading, more writing. More focus on the creative process.

Yeah, it’s still too much. However it is a step in the right direction.

It’s not about doing more of more, rather doing more of less. Focus leads to excellence, leads to innovation.

Your turn.

What do you want to do with your life?

What can you do less of and what should you do more of?

Let me know in the comments below.