The Benefits of Distance

Jason Fried recently wrote a really good post entitled Don’t be too inspired about how watchmaker Roger W. Smith benefits from being one of the few watchmakers in the UK. The physical distance allows him to focus on his work without too much outside influence. As Jason notes, distance – both physically and virtually – can have a huge benefit:

I love that notion  —  it’s one I’ve tried to hold dear myself. Don’t be influenced too much. Be aware of what’s great, but don’t get other people’s work too deep in your head or you’ll be doing their work, not yours.

I think we’ve benefited greatly by being physically distanced from Silicon Valley and to some extent Boston and New York City. We haven’t had the pressure to grow or take outside funding or copy the latest and greatest, which in turn has allowed us to slowly build the business that works for us.

The challenge when you’re physically distanced is to keep up with what’s going on without falling prey to obsessing over what everyone else is doing. Jason goes on to say:

It’s so easy to get sucked into other people’s work. Following industry news, attending every conference you can, picking brains. But I’ve often found it better to retreat into your own mind and bring something original. The more you see how other people do what they do, the harder it becomes to do things differently.

Last year when I stopped using Twitter, I mentioned how I’ve refined my consumption with a combination of RSS, podcasts, and magazines. That balance works for me. I’m able to keep up with what’s going on without obsessing or getting sucked in too often. The reality is that most of it doesn’t have any impact on our business or even any future business that we’ll start, so it’s a matter of finding and following those select few useful news sources, and then keeping the rest to a minimum.