Too often small business owners get distracted by conflicting input. This conflicting input or Noise can set you running in absoluetly the wrong direction if you let it. In a recent post Seth Godin talks about the “Noise” He says:

I’m not encouraging you to ignore the noisy edges. Far from it. The noise makes it far easier than it has ever been before to hear the thunder in the distance, to get early indications of what the fringes of the market are about to spread to the rest.

I think the trick is to listen to the noise, through filters. What is important to you? Who are your customers?  Screen out irrelevant input, even if it comes from well meaning friends and family.  Continually watch for trends and new ideas, but if they don’t relate to your core mission, give yourself permission to ignore the noise.   Seth concludes by saying:

What I’m encouraging you to do is to constantly readjust your balance. Figure out the difference between early warnings and selfish noise. Figure out what’s loud merely because it’s angry and personal, and what’s loud because it’s important. And most of all, get straight on who you are trying to please, and why.

I use Twitter and Google Reader to monitor the “noise” and watch for new trends.  I add the occaisaional survey to my enewsletter or blog post to see what my clients and prospects are thinking.  What about you?   How do you stay one step ahead?