When the Blinders Come Off…

I could not respect how he functioned so completely immersed in the structures of his professional micro-universe. Yes, I too had previously derived comfort from my firm's exhortations to focus intensely on work, but now I saw in this constant striving to realize a financial future, no thought was given to the critical personal and political issues that affect one's emotional present. In other words, my blinders were coming off, and I was dazzled and rendered immobile by the sudden broadening of my arc of vision.

– Mohsin Hamid in his novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist, page 145, my review here

I read that paragraph slowly. It happens at a point in the novel where the main character is distracted at work by a brewing Pakistan-India war, and he notices his colleagues' total apathy to anything other than the company task immediately in front of them.

Most ambitious companies — certainly start-ups — require of their employees single-mindedness. They demand all-consuming focus, and to "give thought to the critical personal and political issues that affect one's emotional present" is seen a distraction. Some of the successful business executives I've met are absolutely immersed in their professional micro-universe. The politics of the world, their personal relationships, their personal philosophies: who cares? Whether they realize they're wearing blinders, I don't know. Whether blinders are necessary to achieve massive professional success, I also don't know.

I do know that most of the start-up folks I meet have a fairly narrow arc of vision (this is an observation not a criticism) and many cite this hyper-focus as key to their success. To me, if the narrow focus Hamid describes is necessary for professional success, and if such focus is especially necessary to start a start-up, and if you are a curious person, and if said focus requirement impinges on the flourishing of said curiosity, this represents one of the main downsides of the start-up entrepreneurship lifestyle.

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