Focus.

My personal project history now spans over 100 projects. These projects range in topic from sports-related services, to games, to social tools, to mobile apps, to browser extensions, to utilities, to web services, and beyond.

When looked at on the surface, I think this volume and variety causes many people to have the perception that I’m a bit ‘unfocused’. That I’m probably easily distracted. That I’m hacking without a purpose or a core mission in mind.

However, I feel this perception couldn’t be further from the truth.

I think if you look at my body of work as a whole, on an abstract level, you see that there is in fact a general focus on building 'really useful’ and 'highly adopted’ internet-focused software.

That is, the core mission I’m *really* working towards is building internet-based software that is useful, interesting, widely-used, and ultimately world-changing.

And I think if you’re serious about a mission like that, like I am, and want to be in a realistic position to make it happen, you’ve got to have a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience about a lot of things.

When I woke up to that realization a few years back, and knowing that I personally learn best through activity and experience in the wild, I started forming a plan.

I started thinking about all the areas, the technologies, and the concepts that I didn’t really understand yet.

I started thinking about all the things that I wanted to have more real-world experience with.

And most importantly, I started thinking about how I could go about filling all those gaps.

My solution was basically to stop playing Checkers and to start playing Chess.

That is, I began to focus on the larger, more complex game. To start trying to think about the moves two, three, or even four steps beyond just my 'next’ move.

I began to focus on really understanding how the pieces work. What moves could actually be made given my current position? What options did each piece provide? What trade-offs did each piece bring with it? How could I use the board as it is right now to attack? At the same time, what did I have to do to defend?

I haven’t been that concerned about owning or operating within a specific vertical (though I obviously have my favorites and ones I’ve found easiest to gain traction within – and I’ve clearly avoided many that I just have no personal knowledge or interest in).

I have been more focused on playing with a concept, understanding a model or an idea, like virtual goods, subscription-based services, or big-data opportunities.

When you take into account the fact that my personal work history involves a lot of agency and client work, and that I’m highly interested in marketing and branding as well, I think you can start to get an understanding of why a large part of this process also resulted in many 'new’ projects.

A 'new’ project gives me a clean slate to test and understand 'new’ things.

Plus I think it just makes sense from a marketing/branding perspective (it’s much easier to define something new to a person than it is to change a pre-existing definition of something for a person – and that’s HUGE when it comes to trying to gain traction).

As an added bonus, starting a 'new’ project each time also gives me the ability to test/understand various technologies…as well as to test and understand new approaches to branding, marketing, and advertising (and of course, by often picking different verticals I get yet another opportunity for learning and experience).

All of which plays perfectly into my larger goal of positioning myself to have 'a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience about a lot of things’…so that I was not only ready, but also actually capable, when the 'real opportunity’ presented itself.

But what was my plan for that 'real opportunity’?

Well, honestly I wasn’t sure…and so once again, that’s where this volume and variety approach has been a real benefit.

It’s given me a lot of insight into a lot of different verticals. It’s given me a lot of opportunity to explore, identify, and ponder potential 'big hits’. And to rule out bad bets and really small fish that I might have otherwise been easily woo'ed by or accidentally sucked into.

So while some might look at all of this activity and learning as 'unfocused’ or 'easily distracted’, I simply view it as core to my understanding and properly playing the game.

And while there have been ups and downs, throughout it all I’ve continued to 'gain a lot more knowledge and a lot more real-world experience about a lot of things’.

All of which is the long way of saying:

There is a plan, I feel that the plan is working, and that’s where my *real* focus is.

So what about you? What’s your approach to focus? And now that I’ve revealed a bit of details around it, what do you think about my long-term game plan and focus? 

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).