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Per Linked-In, Asks Billionaire Entrepreneur Richard Branson, "in your career, how do you know when to slow down, and when to put the pedal to the medal?"

 

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Ask Richard: In your career, how do know when to slow down, and when to put the pedal to the metal?

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In a hyper-connected world where everything moves at lightning speed, it often feels impossible to slow down. After reading through hundreds of questions submitted to my Ask Richard newsletter this month, I thought this one from Cyril Dalawangbayan touched upon something everyone can relate to:

“Richard, everyone is hustling. How do we know when it’s time to take it slow, or put the pedal to the metal? How do you put timing to key moments in your career?”

Timing is everything in life, and it’s particularly crucial in entrepreneurship. People often equate success with luck, but it usually comes down to impeccable [and carefully mapped out] timing. Staying ahead of the curve; predicting market conditions; spotting opportunities before they arise; and forecasting the wider economic, social and technological landscape cannot be underestimated when starting a business. If this all sounds a bit complicated, the most important thing to remember is that the best time to go into a new business is when it’s being run badly by others.

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It’s also important to remember that good timing is less about speed, and more about being in sync. It’s easy to forget this in a go-go-go kind of world, but it’s so important for your career (or whatever it is you’re working towards) and your wider wellbeing too. If you’re starting to feel like you’re just going through the motions and losing sight of why you started, it might be time to take a break, collect your thoughts, get some rest, and re-assess your strategy. You don’t make your best decisions when you’re exhausted or overwhelmed, and you won’t have the capacity to spot new opportunities and think creatively. I’ve always said that if you don’t have time for the small things, you won’t have time for the big things. There’s something to be said for slowing down, taking stock and also in knowing when it’s time to leave altogether. As Joan Didion wrote in Goodbye to All That:

'It is distinctly possible to stay too long at the fair.'

On the other hand, there are many exciting points in your career [particularly as an entrepreneur] when you need to put the pedal to the metal. Again, this comes down to really understanding what people want, what is set to trend in the industry, and what is going on in the wider economic landscape. When you have this perspective, you can use instinct to move quickly, take risks and say yes! I’ve been known to say 'screw it, let’s do it' quite a lot in life, but I’ve learnt that this only works when the offer aligns with a well-timed opportunity.

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As I was writing this, I reached out to Andy Fishburn, the managing director of Virgin StartUp. Andy has his finger firmly on the pulse when it comes to entrepreneurship, so I wanted to hear his thoughts on how to become a master of timing. As always, he shared some brilliant advice:

"Timing can be everything when starting up. It can be the difference between building a thriving business and not. So often, ambitious and passionate founders come to Virgin StartUp with incredible ideas which they truly believe in, but either customers aren’t ready, there isn’t sufficient demand, or the market they want to operate in just hasn’t matured yet.

"Imagine launching an internet business before most of your customers had access to decent broadband? The idea, business model and team behind it could be fantastic, but you could enter the market too early, or too late. So when you’re thinking of starting up, ask yourself: 'Is the community I want to serve ready for this idea?' It could make all the difference!"

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All in all, timing is everything in business and in life. If you’re feeling close to burnout, it’s time to slow down. If you’re feeling inspired, don’t be afraid to pick up the pace. In all instances, try to be as observant, agile and open-minded as possible, you’ll be in a much better place to say yes when the right opportunity comes your way. 

Thank you once more for submitting such a thoughtful question Cyril. I enjoyed taking the time to slow down and write my response! 

Until next month,

Richard

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