“You’re proud of what you have accomplished in your life. Yet there is a voice inside your head that says you should be further along than you are right now. So what’s holding you back from having the impact you desire?”
These are the words on the back of David Schnurman’s new book, The Fast Forward Mindset: How to Be Fearless and Focused to Accelerate Your Success. The power of his book is in grasping the psyche of all motivated people: we want to have an incredible impact and achieve our dreams, but there’s often something holding us back from reaching that full potential.
I know this feeling well. A forever believer in the power of timing, I sat down with David to talk about his book and its messages when I really needed it most. I’ve always had big dreams, but at times, I’ve just felt… stuck. Stagnant. Or the worst of all: like a hamster on a hamster wheel, getting nowhere . . but not knowing how to change. This book gets it.
David boils the two central challenges of any entrepreneur down to the following:
- Lack of confidence in oneself
- And lack of focus
“When I’d look back throughout the past 11 years of my business, whenever I was trying to break through a wall and I couldn’t, it was always because of one of those two things,” he shared. “So, this book tackles how to be fearless and focused head on.”
A 30 Year Vision
But, focus isn’t always as micro as staying on-task during a busy day at the office, or even prioritizing one smaller project. David posited the idea of the “30 year vision” in our conversation – taking a major step back to look at our lives through a macro perspective, and incorporating what we want our lives to look like throughout the next 30 years into our focus. “It took me a while to realize that I could think further than six months ahead,” he commented.
For example: In 30 years, I personally hope to win an Emmy. I could let that dream float out there in 30-years-from-now land, or I could pull the focus from that vision into what I do today. This is what the fast-forward mindset hinges on: rather than leaving goals up to chance, or working halfheartedly on them, we speed up the achievement of these goals by breaking down the process into micro steps with pronounced focus.
But, it doesn’t have to be as cut and dry as, “I will win an Emmy by 2050.” In fact, David says that 30 is really an arbitrary number. It can be any length of time. And for David, it’s not about one specific goal – it’s about three major areas of his life (sustainability, education, and self improvement.) He uses these three areas, and what he hopes to accomplish within them in the next 30 (or insert your number here) years, and uses that to hone his focus.
It impacts decisions. For example: David was recently invited to participate at an Entrepreneurs Organization event at the UN, but originally said no. It was a busy time and he had an event the next night. But then he looked at his 30 year vision: the talk was about the UN Sustainable Development Goals … all the nine yards that fit into his “sustainability” life goal bucket. So he called them back to say yes.
The Power of Focus
Focus can seem to attract opportunities to us that were invisible before. “In the book, I talk about research that shows there’s a million bits of information around us at any given second, but we can only absorb 128 bits per second. You’ve selectively chosen to focus on only certain areas,” he said.
So, say you’re stuck in a finance job you hate, when you really want to be a graphic designer. If you’re only focusing on how staying in this financial analyst role is the right thing to do, you’ll meet more people in the industry and hear more stories about how that’s the place to be in your career. But, if you’re focused on your real dream of graphic design, you’re more likely to overhear a conversation at Starbucks about a company looking for a freelance graphic designer, or to latch your focus onto an advertisement for a graphic design course that your eyes may have glazed over before.
David shared that the key to staying focused is to make it a rule that you don’t break your commitments. In fact, if you do break just one, that’s setting the tone for all of your other commitments.
“A lot of people wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’m going to work out today,’” he said. “But then they don’t do it. And that’s a great example of breaking a commitment to yourself.”
On Incorporating Fearlessness
Of course, focus doesn’t become lethal until it’s paired with fearlessness. Focus without courage won’t get you nearly as far. But, we can’t just decide to BE fearless. It’s harder than that.
So, for a logical step we can take, David says: “Don’t label the outcome.”
The scariest part of being an entrepreneur and going after our dreams is the utter uncertainty of it all. He used me as an example. I left my job six months ago, but I couldn’t have done that if I had labeled the outcome as “bad” or “scary.” And if I had labeled the outcome, I couldn’t have been open to all the glory and opportunity that awaited me on the other side of that fearless jump.
For David, fear comes up with his big decision to move to Barcelona. He and his family, including his young children, will be heading to Europe next week. So, he says what also helps him is remembering that he isn’t alone in the fear – we aren’t the only people ever to make a big decision that leaves us panicked, wanting to retreat back into our comfort zones.
“In the book, I talk about tactics such as filling our buckets by serving others to distract us from wanting to go back to our comfort zones,” he said. It’s these distractions that help on days when we do have that, “Wait, what have I done?!” moment – the type that would typically send someone reeling back to their job or cancelling their plans to move across the world.
“My goal in the book is for you to live your life, and to look back knowing that you are as fearless and as focused as you could have been,” he shared. “Because I believe if you live that life, regardless of what you accomplish, you’ll look back and have no regrets.”