A curse of the entrepreneur is being unfocused and therefore, trying to do too many things at once. Whereas most people would add "and not doing any of them well," the entrepreneur would beg to differ - "just let me work hard enough, and I'll do them all well." And that's why it's a curse.
I'm as guilty as any entrepreneur of this. When you always have ideas flowing, the next one can look like it's worth pursuing regardless of where you are in the execution of the current idea. And in fairness, by definition an entrepreneur needs to deal with multiple types of problems, because s/he doesn't have the staff on hand to focus exclusively on each issue independently.
But, it really takes restraint to have restraint. And that's where acknowledging and embracing ABBA comes in to play. Treat ABBA as you would fire - appreciate its presence, but never get so comfortable you let it burn you.
So what is ABBA exactly? As you can see from the diagram at above, the A/B-B/A is highlighted in yellow, but let's start at the top of the diagram, with the first "A" and "B".
In any situation, you're often presented with two options - A or B. I have a waterline right under the initial A & B, because to the casual observer, all one sees initially are options A and B, like the tip of an iceberg. But underneath the surface, each decision leads to a myriad of other problems. Or, as Yongfook puts it, "How many problems does this solution create?"
Let me give you an example: Let's say your boss asks you to work late one day. But you already have a date planned with your significant other for that evening. What should you do? You could tell your boss you can't, but what if s/he has a special project for you to work on that you'll really enjoy? Or what if your boss is just testing your commitment to the company? But on the other hand, if you cancel your date, you're going to have an unhappy home life to deal with. And is your spouse going to hold it over your head that you cancelled? As you can see, we've only gone one layer deep in the A/B, B/A chain, but already the initial decision is complicating itself with other factors - most of which we can't anticipate until we actually experience them.
And the gist of it is this - absolutely every decision leads to "ABBA" (as we say in shorthand around the office). Even if you don't think it will. In fact, not thinking that something leads to ABBA is just an indication of your inability to anticipate problems before you're actually experiencing them -- a great fallacy of the human race in general (and often a result of not thinking in frameworks). And more to the point, whether you choose option A or option B, you're still going to be confronted with layers of ABBA at each decision point as you work through each option, so spend your time on this planet on the ABBAs you really care about. And that's really the point of this blog post - that you will always have to deal with ABBA, so focus on making decisions where you won't regret the ABBA-ing of your time. Focus on spending your time in ways that you will enjoy the challenge of figuring out all the little problems that come with every decision. Don't be fooled by the illusion that you can just "take care of it real quick" because there's an ABBA laundry list of problems lurking just under the surface, waiting to strike each time you do that, and your time will be sucked away by them.
A special thanks to my good friend Sean Shadmand, who has really been the driving force behind ABBA and pushing both of us to remember its impact. Now, before we make decisions, we both discuss the ABBA implications of each path.
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