The side project

Perhaps it’s inevitable anytime you get a bunch of smart people working together in one place. We live in a world where new opportunities abound and intelligent minds are overflowing with dreams of how to seize them. As an entrepreneur, you see the world, not as it is now, but how it could be. Everywhere you look, you see things that could be done better. There’s something in your nature that wants to jump at every opportunity you have.

So you have a new idea, but unfortunately it doesn’t fit into your company vision. It’s just a good idea that you know you can execute. Perhaps it’s enticing you with the promise of quick results and easy money, or maybe it’s just more fun than what you’re working on now. Either way, you get caught up in the excitement and before long a new entity is born: aka, the side project.

Over the weekend I had an idea for my own side project. It’s something that I have wanted to build for a long time and the release of the new Facebook API suddenly made it possible. I spent my day yesterday pursuing the idea, before coming to the conclusion that this isn’t the right time to be working on it. A big influence in this decision was the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. I went back and reread chapter 5 this morning. This time, the illustration about the fox and the hedgehog really hit home.

I can’t afford to let anything (not even a great idea) take focus away from what we are really doing this summer.

I know of several other teams at TechStars that working on side projects right now. That’s okay – your idea is probably more on target than mine was. My only challenge for you is to look at your goals and make sure your project is taking you closer to them instead of further away. You see, that’s the problem with side projects – they tend to distract us from what we first set out to do. They make us lose focus and we become scattered, diffused, and inconsistent in our vision.

As Jim Collins said, it is better to know only one big thing than to know many things. Go find that one thing that you can be great at, and focus all of you attention on that.