The temptation of distraction

The New York Times published a terrific profile of Adele this Sunday discussing her new album. Adele is at the top of the music industry right now, but seems as authentic and grounded as ever (or otherwise, her PR team is doing a bang-up job). It’s this authenticity that undoubtedly helps her fans more easily relate and connect with her. The author does a nice job of portraying her personality and giving the reader a real sense of who she is and what she’s about. What struck me, in particular, was this money quote:

Determined to be known for music and music only, Adele turned down endorsements and cross-marketing projects that would have kept her highly visible. “If I wanted to just be famous, like be a celebrity, then I wouldn’t do music, because everything else I’ve been offered would probably make me more famous than I am just with my music,” she said. “Commercials, being the face of brands, nail varnishes, shoes, bags, fashion lines, beauty ranges, hair products, being in movies, being the face of a car, designing watches, food ranges, buildings, airlines, book deals. I’ve been offered everything. And I don’t want to water myself down. I want to do one thing. I want to make something. I don’t want to be the face of anything. Everyone thinks I just disappeared, and I didn’t,” she said. “I just went back to real life, because I had to write an album about real life, because otherwise how can you be relatable? If I wrote about being famous — that’s [expletive] boring.”

There’s a certain amount of celebrity permeating the startup world these days. It’s never been more popular to be a startup CEO. In fact, to connect the music and startup worlds directly, at recent year’s Grammy awards, there have been a few members of our community in attendance. With the celebrity and popularity comes enormous temptation for distraction from one's core focus of building their business. Distinguishing what delivers value towards that end versus what is pure noise is very difficult, but in my experience, it's what separates great CEOs from the rest. Conferences, speaking gigs, dinners, junkets and other events all compete for attention and time. The best CEOs remain laser focused on the task at hand and focus their energies on activities that will advance their company's goal. This type of hyper focus has helped Adele quickly ascend to the top of the music industry and it’s the same focus that separates the best entrepreneurs from the crowd.