Conventional wisdom says that growing a business means putting yourself out there. It means prolifically producing and sharing content, meeting new people by networking and having meetings, following up clients and prospects every day and being busy exploring opportunities. When the mission is clearly defined, however, a scattergun approach might not be right. Here’s where rifle shots and a low profile can be the right strategy to deploy.
Alon Shabo is the founder and CEO of Sabaidee Hemp, an organization with the goal of helping one million people live a healthier and happier life. He’s also the author of Why You Should Climb a Mountain. In 2017 Shabo entered the legal cannabis industry with the intention of doing something about its transparency. Shabo was on a mission to raise the standards for testing and consumer education in a relatively new market. Within two years, he built a lean operation with a small team and served over 100,000 customers globally.
How did he do it? By hiding. By having ruthless focus on one outcome. I interviewed Shabo to find the unconventional strategy behind his success.
Enter the shadows
Shabo believes that although balance is required for a healthy and content life, “achieving truly spectacular results in a short period of time is simply not possible with a healthy balance.” Shabo recommends that entrepreneurs enter what he called “the shadows,” described as “a period of time to get obsessed with your success and growth, honor your inner vision, and ruthlessly focus on execution.” During this time Shabo recommends you “shield yourself from time vampires, attention-destroying distraction and mind-altering dopamine poison.”
The purpose of the shadow phase, according to Shabo, is “eliminating all of the things that hold you back and focusing on all of the things that move you forward toward your vision and goal.” Within this time you, “intentionally remove yourself from the regular daily habits you have been following and break down the patterns of your lower self.” Shabo mentions that the shadows is not for the faint of heart and adds a word of warning, that entrepreneurs “proceed with caution into the shadows”, which are defined by seven key characteristics:
When Shabo started Sabaidee Hemp, he moved to a new city with the intention of keeping a low profile, avoiding socializing of all kind and staying focused on his mission of growing the business to its first milestone. Whilst moving to a new city might not be possible for everyone, Shabo recommends you “reserve a number of hours in each day that are completely uninterrupted and dedicated to the mission.” Your mission should be clear, visible and documented and you must “remind yourself of the mission every day.”
This mission should be tangible and you must know when you have achieved it. For Shabo, it was a simple revenue milestone of $1 million. “The clearer your goal, the better.” Start by stating your mission in simple terms, then write it down and commit to doing everything necessary to achieve it on a daily basis.
Once the mission has been identified, the next step is to cut away anything that stands in its way. For Shabo, this was “energy-zapping junk food as well as media, news and negative people.” He said that “mindlessly scrolling takes away our ability to focus and think clearly, and everything we consume programs our mindset for better or worse.” For him, this included deleting social media apps, removing himself from WhatsApp groups and saying no to all social invitations or requests for catch ups.
During the shadows phase of sustained focus, be “extremely discerning over what you let into your life.” In practice this means unplugging the television or giving it away, unsubscribing from newsletters and ignoring people who don’t fill you with positive energy and valuable information that serves your mission. It’s not always easy to turn down dinners with friends and new opportunities, but you must. Just say no, with no exceptions. Being ruthless here will carve out more time and mental space for you to work on your mission.
During his twelve months in the shadows, Shabo committed to 500 hours of boxing training and credits the sport with an increased ability to be quick on his feet, handle pressure, endure, and win. Whilst hiding, have something in your life that develops you in ways other than business. The commitment to learning something new fires up new connections in your brain and changes you. It makes you smarter and elevates your performance. Not only that, but improvement in one area of your existence typically leads to improvement in other areas. Self-development is now second nature. Excellence is now a habit.
Shabo recommends learning something that stimulates you mentally and physically. He said, “some of my biggest breakthroughs in the business occurred in a boxing gym while in flow state” and the sport increased his mental toughness. When learning something new during the shadows phase, be realistic and trackable. Shabo’s goal was not to “be a good boxer”, but instead to complete 500 hours of training, and reassess from there. Learning new skills is about the process itself rather than the outcome.
Your health affects everything from the way you feel and how much energy you have to the thoughts you think. In pursuing business success, sacrificing your health is a false economy. Declining health can be irreversible, so don’t let it slip during your hiding phase. Shabo, a former personal trainer, credits his sit/stand desk and taking walks often for his ability to work long hours whilst staying in the best physical and mental shape he can. That, plus boxing and meditation, which he said is to “optimize the mind for further concentration and catch the sabotaging nature of the ego and limiting beliefs,” means his health is not neglected in favour of business success.
Coupled with “getting more sunlight, drinking more water and conscious breathing outdoors,” there are many simple ways to keep health high during intense periods of work. There’s no excuse. “When your mind is clear and your health is optimal, you can consciously direct your thoughts to serving your mission and improving your business and life,” he added.
With the space cleared, the mission is front and centre. Work intensely on your business to achieve the goals you created for yourself. During this tunnel-vision period the goal is evolution, growth, and tangible achievement. Shabo warned, “the windows of time for opportunities open and close quicker than you think, so once you identify an opportunity that you want to pursue you must make the most out of every day, thought, and action.” With this understanding, Shabo exercised discipline and diligence, and committed himself to moving the mission forward.
Shabo believes the practices described above are “useless without a crystal clear vision and five year plan.” When those are defined, however, “every decision of every moment can go through the filter: Does this help me reach my goal, or does it distract me from manifesting destiny?” Shabo wants you to be intentional about entering the shadows, believing that, “When done correctly, you’ll be able to look at life before the shadows, and after the shadows” and “when utilizing the shadows, you can accomplish ten years of work within one.”
Shabo believes that this phase is not just for business success, but that “it’s for deep level growth and evolution in all areas of your life.” He added, “When you remove all distractions from your life and apply ruthless focus and discipline to your mission, great things happen. It’s uncomfortable, but all profound growth is.”
Most business owners bumble along craving balance, trying to please everyone and just missing out on real success. The shadows rejects this mediocrity. Entering the shadows starts with vision and intention, is maintained through discipline and willpower, and ends with glory. Make your plan and stick to it. How long will you commit to, which rules will you live by? Prepare to enter and warn your loved ones. This means business.