No-vember – The Essence of Focus
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”– Steve Jobs
When you take on too many commitments, you short-circuit your effectiveness. You juggle priorities in various states of completion. Balls get dropped. Deadlines appear in the rearview mirror. Actually doing something well feels like a luxury reserved for others. The solution, of course, is focus. But that is easier said than done. That’s why this year we’re putting the “No” in November. All month, the TwentyPercenter will feature articles on how you can devote more time and energy to the things that matter.
The first step is understanding how focus works.
For most of my life, I thought focus was a spotlight. The object of my attention standing on a dark stage in the bright halo of my concentration. The reality is quite the opposite. Focus is a filter. Our brains are constantly bombarded with stimuli – sounds, sensations, odors, sights, and stray thoughts. Focus sieves out the extraneous and, like a blackout poem, blots out everything in the background until only our intention is illuminated. The essence of focus is saying “no.”
It’s also saying “yes” to something in a wholly uncommon way. Truly saying “yes” is a lot like saying “I do.” We understand this commitment comes to the exclusion of all others. We remove ourselves from the crowd. We bunker into a quiet, temptation-free setting. In fact, the easiest way to commit to our “yes” is to eliminate the necessity of actively saying “no.”
So now you know. Focus isn’t a spotlight, it’s a filter. When we over-commit, we dilute our effectiveness. A “yes” should be precious. And when we pledge ourselves to a task, our environment should support our promise. The fewer distractions we allow, the more empowered we are. Welcome to No-vember.
Ready to get started? Kicking those leftover Halloween KitKats to the curb is a great way to dip your toe in saying no! Next week, we’ll explore why we don’t say “no” and how to say it more effortlessly.
One question to ponder in your thinking time: How can I become a person with fewer, more powerful commitments?
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