From big circles to making smaller circles

When building a business, it is easy to get carried away. You start out with a fantastic little idea and soon this idea grows and grows into something potentially world-changing. You picture your business revolutionizing entire industries. You see your business taking apart all its major competitors. 

It is good to dream big. It will give you a clear vision and a goal to work towards. This will keep you motivated when times get tough. 

You will however soon realize that it takes a loooong time to grow a business. It could – depending on how bold you dream – take decades until your big plans actually become reality. 

Especially when first starting out nobody cares about your grand vision. The only thing that matters is to generate income – fast! It’s do or die. In this situation it is important to be able to apply the technique of making smaller circles. 

What is ‘Making smaller circles’?

This is a concept that Josh Waitzkin mentions in his fantastic book “The Art of Learning”. There he describes how in order to master something, you first have to master each component of it. We have to be able to do something slowly before we can do something quickly. So applying laser focus to nuanced parts of the process will help us down the road when we plan to execute more advanced and complex tasks. 

Here Josh explains how he would train for Tai Chi:

The next phase of my martial growth would involve turning the large into the small. My understanding of this process… is to touch the essence (for example, highly refined and deeply internalized body mechanics or feeling) of a technique while keeping true to its essence. Over time expansiveness decreases while potency increases.

The relevance for businesses 

Probably you are thinking: what the hell has this to do with running a successful business? As it turns out: a lot! A business can only work if all parts of it work together seamlessly. So in order to have a flourishing business, you have to go into the details. You have to take it apart and look at each component individually. Then you have to look at each of those components and see if you can optimize them further. You need to see what is absolutely essential for the success of the company and what is not. You need to apply laser focus on the things that are and can neglect everything else for the time being. 

Often times this will mean that good plans that you have have to wait. Just do what is absolutely necessary for the success of your corporation, but do this in the absolutely best way possible. 

If you do that, success will eventually come. And as you master your core competency and that way generate more and more income, you can slowly start growing other areas of your business. You can start expanding. You can start adding to your assortment. The circles are becoming bigger again. But this is only possible once you have mastered making smaller circles. 

If you are interested in learning more about this technique, I highly recommend reading The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. It is packed with useful information and wisdom. Here is a summary of it:


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