The secret of success is to stay focused on one thing.

the power of focusYou probably have a few friends who always seem to be into something new, each time you talk with them.

They are jumping into the latest new trend, or have discovered some amazing hidden opportunity.

You envy their enthusiasm and optimism. They seem so alive, so curious, so plugged into what’s happening. Their eyes sparkle, their level of energy is contagious.

In fact, you pretty much want to do what they are doing. It looks like a fun life, and a fun way to make a living.

But…when you step back and look at them more carefully, you see they are not particularly successful. They seem to make just enough money to get by. They are always looking for the “big one”, but never find it.

Why aren’t they achieving massive success? It’s because they lack focus.

They lack the self-discipline to choose one path, and then remain focused on that “one thing”, week after week, month after month, and year after year.

The most successful freelancers and entrepreneurs remained focused on a single topic, or skill, often for their entire careers.

For example, Jakob Nielsen’s site,, has been focused on web usability since 1995.

Danny Sullivan of has been covering search engine optimization since 1995.

And I, a relative latecomer, have been focused on writing for the web since 1998.

By remaining focused on “one thing”, you build an incredible body of knowledge and expertise. You also attract a large following, which allows you to monetize your work effectively.

Does this mean you have to go through your career wearing blinkers and ignoring every new innovation that comes along?

Absolutely not.

Danny Sullivan has written plenty about social media. But he writes about it from the perspective of how it impacts search engine optimization.

I also write about social media, because it impacts writing for the web.

But what we don’t do is lose our focus on our core topic, that “one thing”.

It is by having that one, immovable thing that we are able to filter signal from noise. When bombarded with a zillion shiny new innovations, we pay attention only to those that are relevant to our core topic and skill.

When you do this, it streamlines your work life. It makes you more efficient. It allows you to filter out everything that is irrelevant to your path.

And ultimately, in my view, mastery of one skill is a lot more satisfying than dipping your toes into a dozen different skills.

What’s your one thing? And will you still be focused on it ten years from now?

NOTE: I defined my path with the publication of my book, Net Words, back in 2001. How are you going to define yours?

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.

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6 thoughts on “The secret of success is to stay focused on one thing.

  1. You’re absolutely right, Nick!

    Sometimes I spread myself too thin, with too many irons in the fire, and doing them all half-assed…

    I never completely finish any of them, and it’s frustrating… But sooo easy to do. Especially with all the online courses and webinars and systems, balh, blah, blah…

    Focus is definitely the key. Just gotta do it… and realize/maximize my core strengths… starting now I think!

    Thanks for the perspective.

    Merrill Clark

  2. FOCUS is my 2012 chosen ‘word’, Nick.

    My goals and plans revolve around Focus and I have started off by emptying my in- and deleted-boxes and unsubscribing from all but the most relevant (to me at this time) sites. Well, almost finished the job – there are many!

    I still find myself straying (especially on FB) – but am working towards self-discipline and focus throughout my day.

    I have some further choices to make to distill my focus even further – so thinking about those things and I trust all will become clear(er) soon.

    All the best for a great 2012!

  3. We all know we’re supposed to do that, Nick, but many of us don’t.

    The realities of the free-lance life are that at first, you’re going to be pulled in many directions just to survive.

    Perhaps, after a while you can focus, but for many people — especially those in very competitive markets — a couple of skills are usually the core of their businesses.

    Still, we try.

  4. Yes, Nick, focus is key. But sometimes you have to flounder a bit before what your really want to do “comes into focus.” Even then it may not be exclusive. I will still take jobs outside of my main business focus. For example, right now I’m heavily copy editing a book (very well paying). It’s a nice break from my regular SEO copywriting work. But it doesn’t take up so much of my time that my main area suffers.

  5. What a great article, Nick and pulled my socks up. It was a good reminder. I’m must admit I have succumbed to those shiny elusive temptations many a time in the past and know the perils of them. But, thankfully, I’m becoming more aware of the value of being focused and single-visioned and determined. I’m still at the beginning stage of this webwriting journey and very often have felt discouraged that nothing has yet eventuated in terms of getting any income from it, hence the question as to whether maybe the next idea might be the one. It’s all a learning process which involves sorting, processing and synthesising. I guess it’s important to have faith in oneself, in the process and in those who have gone before us and have succeeded, like yourself and providing us great guidance and mentoring. Thank you!

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