How to Do Less and Influence More

Five life lessons on living your passion by narrowing your focus.

For eight years, I had the opportunity to creatively influence the experience of Catalyst, the Next Generation Leaders Conference.

When I started, I had no idea what I was doing. Our president looked me in the eyes and told me that if I felt a tension, others felt that same tension. I was a Next Generation Leader and was the person to lead. From defining event themes, to writing video scripts, to shaping interviews with new leaders that need to be heard, to determining the most creative way to introduce speakers, I've spent nearly a decade behind the scenes, crafting what others experienced. But in recent years, I’ve been doing a lot more supporting of other leaders and moving them to the forefront.

I love Catalyst. That doesn’t mean I should always lead it.

So, what am I doing next? The hope is to make Atlanta a center of social innovation in the world by bridging the space between the most influential leaders in our society and the poorest. To build on the great history of our city by addressing civil rights (like Martin Luther King Jr.) and playing headquarters to the largest brands in the world (like Coca-Cola).

There are many things we can do, and few things we can only do.

There are many things we can do, and few things we can only do. Sometimes, when we choose to do less, it results in a greater return for everyone. To fully do what only I ought to do, it means I need to leave what I am doing. It’s the only way I can fully pursue my calling.

Why would I leave my current influential community? Simply put, sometimes there is more to do by doing less. When I am more purposeful about what I do, the significance of the results exponentially increases.

I’ve had conversations with friends that are pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams. They may have a great day job (that pays well), but at lunch they are scheduling conference calls or secret meet-ups. During work meetings, they are texting with their cohort, and at night they are building websites devoted to their passion project. Their lives are endlessly balancing the excitement of the start-up phase with the question mark of the right date to launch fully. The are anticipating Kickstarter results and asking every friend to invest in their idea to get it off the ground. They are motivated, driven and nervous. Their greatest fear is rooted in the reality of having no idea how to pay the bills when that moment arrives.

Can you relate? Me too.

When is the right time to fully pursue your passion? I asked a friend this question and, without skipping a beat, he said, “Patience is a little bit longer than what you want.”

In other words, wait longer than you think you should wait. In my case, it’s taken three years to build my new job. Over that time, I have never taken a paycheck for my work, even though I have been at it between 30 hours and 60 hours each week on this dream. We have built a team of 11 employees. Our team has now hit a cap. The team needs a leader. Simply put, it’s time.

Here are five things I have learned in the pursuit of fully pursuing my passion.

When you do less, other people get the opportunity to do more.

We all want to keep doing the things that make us look good. You’ve been given a platform for your ideas, but it may be time to give other leaders an opportunity to use their creativity. Giving others access to your network is the most influential decision you can make. When you fully go after what only you are called to do, it opens doors for others to explore what they are made to do.

The less you do, the greater focus you gain.

Technology is creating ways for us to multi-task continuously, but one side effect is that this multi-tasking leaks into the rest of life. We get spread thin, giving everything a fraction of our attention, resulting in a fraction of the potential. Every time we choose to say no, it creates an opportunity to focus more. Get involved in fewer projects and your output will have a more significant reach.

Quantity does not equal influence.

the greatest influencers in our lives rarely have huge followings through social media.

For the first time in history—thanks to social media—there is a public quantity of people who follow your life. We quickly think this is equal to influence, but the greatest influencers in our lives rarely have huge followings through social media. A one-on-one conversation by a person who speaks into a life is exponentially more influential than having 50,000 Twitter followers. Make decisions as a leader to influence one person, and that influence will be shared naturally with others. If your platform has large quantities but your personal life is devoid of interacting with real individuals, you are not influential.

Doing less takes courage.

There are moments when we are challenged to make a defining decision. We will either be driven by fear or courage. We always hope we will make the courageous choices, but few do. Be courageous—that is the difference between leaders and followers.

We will be known by the problems we solve.

We all want to be known. Building your personal brand is part of a social media culture, for better or for worse. When you are solving problems that significantly change people’s lives, your name becomes synonymous with that solution. This is a good way to be known. There is always a place and space for people solving problems.

8 Comments

Tammy Helfrich

1

Tammy Helfrich commented…

I really appreciate this article, Jeff. It is such a great reminder that sometimes we have to take the next step, even if it's scary. Excited to see where this leads!

Jeff Shinabarger

4

Jeff Shinabarger replied to Tammy Helfrich's comment

Keep me updated on what scary thing you tackle. Overcome those fears and lead with courage, great things will happen. Its not easy, but important.

Kyle Reed

10

Kyle Reed commented…

this is great Jeff. Strong words and challenging.
I want Nashville to be the same

Jeff Shinabarger

4

Jeff Shinabarger replied to Kyle Reed's comment

Thanks man - we need to connect some time and dream about the possibilities. There are some great people doing significant work in Nashville - excited for that city in the days ahead.

Jeremiah Dowling

5

Jeremiah Dowling commented…

It is always great to hear someone reminds us that to impact sometimes you need to do less well rather than more poorly! Thank you!

Jeff Shinabarger

4

Jeff Shinabarger replied to Jeremiah Dowling's comment

Thanks for the comment. I hope it was an encouragement to you.

Erin Levin

2

Erin Levin commented…

Well said, Jeff! So grateful to have you in Atlanta and as a mentor in life & work.

Jeff Shinabarger

4

Jeff Shinabarger replied to Erin Levin's comment

You are awesome Erin. The next year is going to be fun to celebrate your film coming to life and I can't wait to be the first to buy a ticket to the opening night!

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