The Focus Myth
The Focus Myth By Andre Taylor Years ago I gave a consulting client a one-word solution to overcoming his business challenges. The one word was, “FOCUS.” At our weekly meetings I emphasized t...
By Andre Taylor
Years ago I gave a consulting client a one-word solution to overcoming his business challenges. The one word was, “FOCUS.”
At our weekly meetings I emphasized the importance of focus for this successful entrepreneur seeking even greater success. We worked closely together to help him stay on track with his business goals. It was during this period that I really learned how powerful the concept of focus is, and why so many individuals whether they’re entrepreneurs, salespeople, managers, or other achievers find focusing hard to do.
Many popular authors and speakers talk about the importance of focus. I have found, however, their emphasis is typically centered on goal setting, habits, and will power. These are, of course, vital to the process of reaching our objectives, but I do not think these ideas really hit the sweet spot of what focus is all about – nor are they on point with the typical challenges most of us have with focus. In fact, I believe most personal development authors simplify the concept of focus and promote a sort of “focus mythology.” That is, that individuals who are somehow missing the mark are not focused.
Let me give you the reality.
The entrepreneur not reaching his or her revenue and profit goals, but working 16 hour days is probably very focused. The salesperson making call after call and still not reaching his or her performance goals is probably focused as well. The athlete faced with making a critical play during the big game but finds the effort unsuccessful is also focused. All of these individuals have goals that are important to them; they are probably working at the most important thing and what they do best, and putting in extra effort to make it happen. But that, in my judgment, isn’t what focus is really about. In reality, it’s only the beginning.
To really unleash the power of focus you first must understand what focus is. Whatever our mission, we do not operate in a vacuum. In every agenda we meet opposing forces. To the salesperson there’s administrative tasks, personal errands to run, a family crisis, bad weather, a car that won’t start and any number of competing issues. It is actually the salesperson’s ability to give these other issues attention, while booking new business that blows away the myth of focus. You don’t ignore these others things. You perform despite these things.
To use a sports example, (I ran a sports media company for a decade) superstar golfer Tiger Woods is said to be incredibly focused, not because he can make the big shot, but because he can do it under pressure. So step one for you students of focus is understanding that focus is first about obstacles. To really focus you must train yourself to perform under pressure. Rarely do we have a “wide open” target to which we can dedicate our sole attention. Focus means remaining committed despite having simultaneous, equally important, competing interests, opposing forces, and unsettled emotions.
The second factor in understanding focus is perhaps most contradictory to what the word implies. That is, focus is about balancing multiple priorities – not just one. You see, while Tiger Woods is trying to make the big shot he still has many potential distractions -- both visible and invisible. He just might have a stomachache. But what makes Tiger a winner is his ability to balance multiple priorities simultaneously and still get the result we all expect. An entrepreneur who can balance a product launch, a vital employee who calls in sick, calls from creditors asking for money, and a customer with a laundry list of complaints, and still close an important deal is a champion of focus. She’s a champion because she has a full plate – not just one item to devour.
Finally, focus is not always pretty. We have visions of happy, goal-directed individuals who whip everything neatly into place. This is where the Tiger Woods analogy ends. He makes it look a little too easy. My experience with the focused is that they are often chaotic, unconventional, and downright weird. Not all, but many are folks that arrive to meetings late, allow lesser things to wait, and are unapologetic about being ruthless with their attention. The point is all of these goals, obstacles, and multiple priorities don’t come together with a snap of the finger. There’s plenty of friction that drives the focus machine.
So, the next time someone tells you that FOCUS is key to your success, make a decision. Are you going to believe the myth – that you’re not pointed in the right direction, working hard enough, or concentrating on that one thing, or will you embrace the reality?
© Copyright 2007 – André Taylor – Taylor Insight Group, LLC. Go to www.andretaylor.com and get Andre’s free newsletter.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
André Taylor is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and advisor to growing companies and one of today’s dynamic voices on business and personal success. He’s the author of many audio and videos, courses, and coaching programs reflecting more than 25 years in enterprise management and the discipline of personal and organizational development.