Don’t Try to Do Everything

It was his third year at MIT and Andrew Houston was excited. He had eaten enough Hot Pockets and Ramen noodles to save up enough money for a trip to New York City. This was it. He had the whole weekend planned.

The cheapest way to get to NYC was a Greyhound. He knew there would be a 4 hour bus ride one way, so he designed his weekend accordingly. During the long bus ride he would work on some homework, projects, and other backlogged items.

He fired up his laptop to start when he realized he had a problem.

He forgot his flash drive.

He could even picture it on his dorm room desk. Mocking him for leaving it there. All weekend. 8 hours worth of work gone down the drain.

It ruined his whole trip.

He asked himself, why in the world isn’t there a way for students to access their homework files over the web?

This was waaaaay back in 2007. Stone ages.

He scoured the internet and could not find anything that would help. So he did what any self-respecting computer science major would do – he began building his own platform. He wanted to build something that could sync files over the web.

A few months later, he entered into the Y Incubator business pitch competition. He impressed enough people to secure a $15K start-up seed investment.

4 months later, DROPBOX was born.

Drew and his co-founder Arash Ferdowsi both dropped out of school to pursue this venture full-time. Not something I recommend for my students or anyone, but I digress. They were short on cash, so they had to do everything.

They were the tech support, customer service center, they slept where they worked, they even tried marketing. They bought google ads.

And yet nothing was happening.

They had a good product. Their user base was small, but devoted. They soon realized they stunk at marketing. They weren’t business people. They were coders.

So they rather than advertise, they turned their small but loyal fan base into their salespeople. You got an extra 250 MB of FREE storage if you referred somebody else! Over 25% of their new customer base was brought in this way!

Two and a half years later, the snowball had rolled into a $4B valuation!

Don't try to do everything. Do the small things really really well. Crowdsource the rest. Click To Tweet

When you try to do too much all at once, your efforts become diluted. And you become frustrated and less effective.

The MYTH OF MULTI-TASKING: Stanford study found that those who multi-task are less efficient and get 40% less done than those who don’t identify as multi-taskers. Another study conducted by University of London found that people take 50% longer to complete tasks and their error rate increases by 50% when you multi-task.

Too many inputs lead to an overwhelmed brain. An overwhelmed brain leads to inaction.

This speaks to the incredible power of focus. Specifically, focus on small wins.

“I’ve found that small wins, small projects, small differences often make huge differences.”
~Rosabeth Moss Kanter

What small wins are you going after this week?

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