Preserving your focus and drive

  • Columns
  • Monday, 25 Jan 2016

If you do what you love, then working hard won’t be a chore. —

When you start your own business, it’s important to try your hand at everything and identify which areas of operations you’re best at and enjoy doing the most. It’s important to do what we love and love what we do.

Q: I’m 17 years old, and a friend and I are starting a business focused on printing and distributing T-shirts featuring original designs. The problem is that I tend to procrastinate and often lose focus, which sometimes affects my preparedness when work needs to have been done ahead of time. What advice would you give me? — Axel Ramos Gómez, México

It’s great news that you’re starting out in business at age 17 — you’re never too young to be an entrepreneur!

Don’t ever let other people use your age as an excuse to not take you seriously. Young entrepreneurs look at the world with fresh eyes and such lively determination. Some of the modern world’s greatest ideas and innovations came from people like you.

As you probably know, I too started out my business career as a youngster with a simple idea. And, like you, I was easily distracted.

While I struggled with subjects like math and science, I was passionate about topics like pop culture, music and current affairs (especially the wars in Vietnam and Nigeria). It was nearly impossible for me to keep up in school due to my dyslexia, so I left at 16 to start a magazine.

Student magazine was a publication for young people, in which my friends and I tried to challenge the stale conventions of other magazines in the 1960s. My passion for what I was doing sometimes kept me working all night and certainly helped me to focus during the day.

It also helped me to stay positive during stressful times, and to tackle the challenges that arose as our team grew Student into a better magazine.

Axel, if you are passionate about fashion and design, it should help you to focus on your project, and working hard won’t be a chore. You should pursue positions like this one throughout your career — we spend roughly 80% of our waking lives at work, so it’s important that we do what we love and love what we do.

That said, it’s also important to home in on the areas of the operation that you enjoy the most and to which you are best suited.

When I started the magazine, I tried my hand at every part of the business. You name it, I did it: writing, editing, advertising, marketing, accounting. I soon realised that I just wasn’t suited for some particular roles — namely those that involved working with numbers.

I learned to hand over those responsibilities to people who did them well.

So, ask yourself: Which areas of the business interest you the most? Sales? Design? Marketing? Distribution?

Sit down with your friend and discuss your strengths and weakness, then divide your business’ crucial responsibilities between the two of you. If you love your role, you’ll find that you will be less tempted to procrastinate.

Your location is a great benefit. I’ve experienced Mexico’s entrepreneurial spirit firsthand. On a trip to Mexico City last year, to visit our staff at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Mobile Mexico, I met some inspiring business innovators.

The country’s startup eco-system is quite strong, and a new entrepreneurial spirit is pushing Mexico and its people in bold new directions. There are between 100,000 and 120,000 startups launched in the country each year, and organisations like StartUp Mexico are supporting new talent.

So get out to local networking events and seek out startup incubators and accelerators so that you can introduce yourself to entrepreneurs who are also just starting out — talking to people who are as passionate as you are can help you refocus.

And don’t be shy to ask for help.

Mexico is asserting itself as one of the world’s foremost entrepreneurial hubs, so there are bound to be many people who can act as mentors and help you focus on your business.

One final tip for the easily distracted — and everyone else: Take a notebook with you wherever you go.

I firmly believe that anyone who aspires to lead a company must develop a habit of taking notes. I carry a notebook everywhere, and am an avid note-taker and list-maker. This helps me to focus on what I need to get done and encourages me to be productive — and discourages me from procrastinating! — Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Please send them to Please include your name, country, email address and the name of the website or publication where you read the column.

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