I was listening to Derek Sivers talking on a podcast about the importance of focus. He said (and I’m paraphrasing) “If you don’t have focus - you lose. You have a big fucking problem if you aren’t able to put a concerted effort into something over a sustained period. And if you don’t? You die having achieved nothing, and that is a waste of life. To have been put on this earth and done nothing with yourself is a crime.” Wow. When I heard this, I was taken aback. It underlined how vital focus is when you have a finite amount of time to work with.
Harry Dry is the creator of Marketing Examples, where he creates a simple but helpful case study each week. Harry has an absolute focus on this one project, and his mailing list of 20,000+ is evidence of that. In a recent conversation with Harry, I was lamenting about how unfocused and distracted I was. He replied with “my success has come from not starting a podcast”. The podcast being a metaphor for anything he shouldn’t be doing. To back up Harry’s remark, I jokingly pointed out that Joe Rogan didn’t start a blog. The point Harry makes is that success comes from the things you don’t do, as much as what you do do. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Then why is it so hard to focus on one thing? Why do we let so much distract us?
Since I’ve decided to focus 100% on Workshop Tactics, I’ve done the opposite. I’ve said yes to too many distractions. Like having your hand on a stove, it’s only being aware of the fact that causes you to act. Now I’m aware of how unfocused I am, I can start to slowly climb out of this ‘yes-hole’ I’ve created. And that’s what it feels like, a deep pit. Each utterance of the word ‘yes’ digs me deeper. At the top of the hole is a green pasture. A metaphor for focus, as far as the eye can see. All I have to do to get out (and stay out) is say no.
And therein lies the key to unlocking the superpower of focus. Saying no. It’s such a tough thing to do because it feels personal. When someone asks me for a favour or a new project - I feel immediately indebted to say yes, merely by the fact I’ve been asked! Saying no feels like an insult. I don’t want to displease anyone. But that’s the price of focus. Holding fast to what you promised yourself to concentrate on. Absolute focus is like getting married. Committing wholeheartedly without even looking at or entertaining the idea of anything else. Perhaps treating your project like marriage might be a good way to go.