Focus is not just about concentration. It’s a skill that you can hone to super-high levels.
I have struggled with focus all my life.
I thought it was a motivation problem.
Or a problem of lacking discipline.
And for sure, motivation and discipline are important facets of the self that we should develop, but after years of working on improving motivation, discipline and focus, I have learned that focus is just as important as motivation and discipline.
Focus is an amplifier.
If motivation and discipline provides you with linear benefits to your productivity levels, focus provides an exponential boost. And another benefit is that it even amplifies your motivation and productivity.
We all have the same 24 hours with some variations in our energy, discipline and motivation levels. One of the core elements of the ones who actually get some amazing shit done is their uncanny level of focus.
Learning focus is basically learning the art of perception.
You learn to perceive all the variables in the chess-board and effortlessly make the move that gives you most leverage and benefits.
Today I want to show you the lessons I’ve learned that have helped hone my perception and focus.
HOW TO GET SUPER FOCUSED
Most posts about focus in the Internet talk about improving your concentration and dealing with the endless distractions.
Concentration is important, but it won’t provide you with the skill of focus that you desire.
Focus is all about perception and perception will unlock your focus.
What this means is that once you learn what you should focus ON, it will be easy to keep your focus because it is so obvious what you should be focusing on. It becomes obvious whether you’re doing what you should be doing and whether you’re avoiding doing the things that you should be doing.
Once you unlock the perception, you just have to maintain motivation to do the obvious.
Motivation is a whole another topic. However one important tactic I used to unlock motivation is mastering my dopamine centers so that I can program the feel-good dopamine neurotransmitters to be released mostly only when I’m doing the things that are actually providing me with real progress.
Besides this, you should use all the strategies, techniques and tools that can help you stay motivated and disciplined.
Do not underestimate the Resistance, the tendency to procrastinate; you have to use all the tools at your disposal to maintain motivation and discipline.
HOW TO IMPROVE PERCEPTION AND KNOW WHAT TO FOCUS ON
There’s three things you should be focused on.
But before I reveal these, let me just quickly explain why maintaining focus is as important as knowing what to focus on.
I don’t know whether it was Sam Ovens who said it first, but I love this quote: “Grass is not green on the other side, grass is green where you water it.”
This quote is essentially about overcoming the shiny-object syndrome where you’re always looking for a different opportunity, different activity to do instead of watering the opportunity that you are already working on.
So stop changing your focus, stop getting sidetracked and getting lured to new things. If you want to add a new activity, you have to be prepared to sacrifice another activity because we all have just so much time and energy.
Another reason we should stick through is that the results get exponentially bigger the deeper you go.
The more we master one activity, one industry, the higher leverage we get for our actions. We start reaping compound effects because of our deep expertise, skills and stronger network.
Now let me show you what you should focus on. As you read these, try to think of the activities and opportunities that you’re working on. Check whether you should reassess where you’re spending your energy. There might be some activities that you should be more focused on, and also activities that you could get rid of.
1. FOCUS ON WHAT DOESN’T CHANGE
I don’t know what you’re working on right now, but it’s probably a long-term game.
The reason why you should focus on what doesn’t change is that you’re building a competitive advantage over-time.
One of the secrets (not really a secret because it’s shared in their annual reports) of Amazon’s success is that Jeff Bezos was obsessively focused on the long-term. This obsessive focus allowed him to create the juggernaut empire that Amazon is right now.
What long-term focus allows you to do is that it provides you with moat-like advantages.
Moats are artificial river-like bodies around castles that make it difficult for the enemies to attack the castle.
Amazon’s moat is its distribution system that allows them to provide super-rapid deliveries and amazing customer service. This is a moat that took them more than two decades to build and several billions if not tens of billions of dollars to create. Not something you want to compete with if you’re a online retailer.
Amazon’s other strength was their obsessive focus on the customer, which is another thing that doesn’t change over time.
Assess what activities you could do to build your own moats to build long-term competitive advantage. What are the things that don’t change in your industry? It’s mostly the same whatever industry you’re at, such as focusing on your customers, focusing on creating value, focusing on creating a brand. These are things that are not easily replicable.
2. FOCUS ON THE MOST REWARDING ACTIONS
This is kind of obvious, but you’ll be surprised how most people don’t do this. Many people might even know what their most rewarding action is, but they’re still doing the 9 other things that provide minor benefits.
The Pareto Rule states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the actions. The 80% 20% rule is present in different disciplines and scenarios, such 20% of employees being responsible for 80% of results, 20% of a company’s products representing 80% of sales, 80% of pollution originating from 20% of all factories etc. (https://www.heflo.com/blog/business-management/pareto-80-20-rule-examples/)
Once you find the most rewarding action that you can take, get massively focused and obsessed with that activity until it stops providing you rewards.
As GaryVee says all the time, once you find an amazing opportunity, you have to squeeze it completely or regret that you didn’t.
Personally I’m currently focused on building a brand and working on my product. Those are two strategic fields that I have to focus on right now. And within those fields I have three activities that I’m obsessively focused on.
These three activities are providing the most rewards and some of them also include a long-term competitive advantage as a moat.
I have only three activities because I have deliberately focused on them. I don’t try to do 10 different things. I have a single goal, and to reach that goal, I have three daily activities that I do almost all day.
Don’t waste time doing everything. Do a few most rewarding things all the time and you’ll start creating beast-like progress.
Go back to the the drawing board and check what is your goal. And then reverse-engineer your goal to a few activities that will provide you with fastest progress, rewards and long-term competitive advantage. And just do them over and over again.
3. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
Focusing on what you can’t control is one of the biggest energy drains and waste of time. What you can’t control simply isn’t your best use of time and certainly shouldn’t be in your focus.
It took me such a long time to learn this and it’s something that I’m still embodying as a natural skill.
It all comes down to taking one step back (in your consciousness if you can) and thinking what or who it is that you can actually control.
Instead of trying to directly affect the external world, we should first focus on accumulating the skills, the value and potential in ourselves.
Work on becoming a person of value.
Results should be the result of our mastery.
Think of the skills and expertise that would make you a more valuable person. Think of ways you could strengthen your potential influence by building a brand or community. Instead of only obsessing over results, think of the processes and habits you can integrate in your daily life that will make it easier to attract those results.