Don’t Be An Ass (Buridan’s Ass)

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Have you heard the story about Buridan’s Ass? (like a donkey not a person’s butt…)

It goes like this:

An ass is hungry and thirsty. It’s exactly between a pile of hay and bucket of water.

Normally, the ass would go to which ever is closer, but it can’t decide since the hay and water are the same distance.

So the ass dies of hunger and thirst since it can’t decide.

A lot of internet marketers (and internet marketers-in-the-making) make the same mistake.

They can’t pick something to work on for more than two weeks before chasing some other opportunity.

It reminds me of a diagram from the book Essentialism.

Greg McKeown says: “In the image on the left, the energy is divided into many different activities. The result is that we have the unfulfilling experience of making a millimeter of progress in a million directions. In the image on the right, the energy is given to fewer activities. The result is that by investing in fewer things we have the satisfying experience of making significant progress in the things that matter most.”

Most reasonable ideas will work if they’re executed well. They really don’t even have to be very good ideas.

If you can execute a plan, i.e. Do The Work, then you’ll be successful.

In Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, Derek Sivers said that people should adopt a long-term view to combat this issue.

Let me explain…

If you focus on the short term, you may find yourself trying to:

  • Create a niche site (like an Amazon Affiliate Site)
  • Provide a service (like Local SEO)
  • Create courses (like on Udemy)
  • Create a software product (like a mobile app)

All at the same time.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

You’ll be frustrated and stressed out. Worst of all, you’ll make small progress for each project. And nothing gains traction so you get frustrated.

You can actually do all those things, but not all at the same time.

We feel like if we don’t get started, if we don’t do everything this week, then we can’t do them at all. But if you zoom out and think about the long-term, you have time.


If you focus on one project for as long as it takes, you can make it successful.

Then, you can move on to the next thing if you want to.

You’ll be smarter and wiser by then, too. Sometimes you realize that you would rather keep focusing on one project than to move on to another one.

Interested in improving your productivity?

Check out the Productivity Masterclass to kickstart your progress.

What do you think?

Leave a comment and tell me:

  1. Do you find yourself working on too many things?
  2. What project are you going to focus on first?

I’ll go first…

About the author: Doug Cunnington is the founder of Niche Site Project. He shows people how to create Affiliate Sites using project management and a proven, repeatable framework. Doug loves creating systems, using templates, and brewing beer (but usually not at the same time).

14 comments… add one
  • Doug Cunnington

    1. Do you find yourself working on too many things?
    Yes, all the time even though I wrote this post! I am getting better though.

    2. What project are you going to focus on first?
    Shoot. My first inclination was to mention 2 things. But I’ll be working on Five Figure Niche Site this week: reshooting some videos, adding some new keyword research tools, adding new bonus units.

    After that I’ll be ramping up my content team again. I want to add multiple hundred posts to some niche sites. That will be a multi-month effort and should help improve the earnings after the Amazon Associate Commission changes in March 2017.

  • Nagarajan

    That’s exactly the post I wanted to read!!!

  • luke

    1. yes, i’ve a lot of projects and now that i quit my job to work from
    home i have to become better at planning and stay focused on my projects

    2. i’m a soffware developer, what is commonly named a “full stack” developer. I’m in charge of a client’s web project that would pay my bills. Then i’ve to run a dropshpping site launched one year ago and working on a new niche site whichbwent live a week ago. Moreover I plan to work on some shopify app and a brand new subscription saas.

  • Kyle

    Great post, Doug! The diagram from the book Essentialism sums up my struggles with being an, “ass.” I make a millimeter of progress in a million directions.
    1. Do you find yourself working on too many things?
    Yes, I have a bad case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I am getting better with focusing and prioritizing my efforts towards one goal, though.

    2. What project are you going to focus on first?
    My Shopify store. I will focus on running successful Facebook ads that will convert into sales on my store.
    After getting some consistent sales, I will start focusing on an email marketing campaign to retarget my customers.

  • Sabin

    Yes. I was one of them. I had handful of Projects at the same time. And so could not complete even one successfully.

    But now I am just focusing on one. Getting rid of half and keeping some. ?

  • Eric

    Hi Doug,
    Well said. My problem is the hole in the bucket syndrome. I can see the goal of a successful website, however, I see all the various moving parts and it is difficult to figure out what to concentrate on. Fortunately with your course, which is clearly laid out, it helps to just focus on each lesson, and leave aside other stuff that does need to get done, but will have to wait its turn, even if it’s not correct.

  • Grant Williams

    Great post. I can’t help but reconsider what I’ve learned already – the idea of “multitasking” is a joke and something that people like to brag about (I’ve noticed) but is just another way of trying to do too many things at once, and specializing in none!

    It’s given me a pinch of motivation when I needed it. Thanks guys!

  • Jay

    I have several things I want to do and my ADHD riddled brain is all over the place consuming anything shiny that has anything to do with it. I need to focus down and am trying to make that decision.

    • Doug Cunnington

      Hey Jay, Thanks for checking it out!
      Focusing is super hard even when we know we should do it.

  • Yesh

    Awesome post and very timely as well!
    1. Do you find yourself working on too many things?

    I’ve been having some issues with trying to do too much recently and I realized (just a few days before actually) that I need – and actually want – to scale down. Sometimes scaling and expanding isn’t always the way to go, at least for now.

    2. What project are you going to focus on first?

    Focus on creating better websites – as in make the best of the best. I’m not going to be scaling things, but I prefer 10 very happy clients to 30 feeling-ok clients. Also finally focus on publishing more articles for my niche site. My target for now is release about 50. That should enable me to hit a lot more keywords without trying to build too many links.

  • Nick Brisson

    1. I’ve definitely struggled with working on too many things at one time. It causes me to be paralyzed and end up not working on anything. At the same time if I don’t have enough going on I’ll find things not challenging enough and get bored.

    2. Right now I’ve been bouncing between starting a Digital Marketing Agency and creating my own niche site. I’ve decided to focus on the niche site for the next month or two.

    • Doug Cunnington

      Nick, thanks for reading!

      So you get bored if you’re not stretched? Interesting…It makes sense in some ways but then you really make progress through long term effort.

  • Lucas

    Perfect. You do not know how many shiny ideas I have crammed into my eyeballs. I cannot focus on any one of them for more than a day before I hop off to the next one. Even writing this reply of gratitude to your timely email is another shiny object I really should have just ignored and stuck with what I was doing when I decided to have a quick glance at my emails. Anyway, Enjoy your vids and posts and am listening to your words of advice. Now I shall go immediately to where I left off before I read your email. Thank you. Lucas


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