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The Unstoppable Power of Focus

By: Brian Kim - July 19, 2006

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Learning to focus on ONE THING is quite possibly one of the best things you can do to invest in yourself. This is probably one of THE MOST overlooked areas of self improvement.

You would think focusing on one thing is easy to do, but it’s actually pretty hard.

To illustrate my point of how hard it is for people to focus, let’s focus on one of the things that a majority of people would like to accomplish:

Make substantial income.

The ways to make substantial income are endless. Here are just a few examples.

Opening your own business Selling merchandise on Ebay Flipping houses Buying apartments to create passive cash flow Investing in the stock market Network marketing FOREX Writing a bestseller book Becoming a famous actor/actress Getting a high paying job

We are constantly bombarded by ways in which to make substantial income whether through word of mouth, TV, radio, Internet, or by looking at other people who have made substantial income.

To illustrate: the typical John Smith hears the rave on how real estate is the way to go. He buys the books, goes to the seminars, tries a few deals out that doesn’t do too well, and then tosses his hands up in the air and decides real estate is not for him and it’s not the way to go.

Now he hears the market is hot, so he calls up his broker for stock tips, reads Buffet’s books, subscribes to magazines. After buying and selling a few stocks, he realizes it’s not for him.

Now he hears people becoming millionaires on Ebay so he decides to do that. Contacts a few wholesalers, sets up a store, sells some items, but the business doesn’t really take off. Same result. Why is John Smith experiencing the same results of not creating substantial income over and over again?

It all comes back to lack of focus.

Let’s look back at some of the people who have learned how to harness the power of focus. Warren Buffet, when you hear his name, you think investing. Donald Trump, real estate. Thomas Edison, inventions. Tom Cruise, acting. Jay Leno, comedy.

The pattern here is that all these people have chosen to focus on one subject and to keep at it.

Google prided itself on being THE search engine. It now has ventures in pay per click advertising, video search, Google Earth, Froogle, etc. By establishing itself first in one venture, it was able to launch several other ventures without having to go through the monumental effort of establishing itself again.

Some people might say Donald Trump makes substantial income via book writing and TV shows too. But that’s AFTER the fact that he made it big by focusing on real estate.

You will find that if you focus on one single subject and excel at it, many other doors will begin to open for you.

That last sentence is very important so I will reiterate it again. You will find that if you focus on one single subject and excel at it, many other doors will begin to open for you.

Let me give you an example that will hopefully illustrate the power of focusing on one subject.

Focusing on one subject is analogous to building your own staircase.

The longer you keep focus on a subject, the more stairs you can build.

Let’s say you keep focusing on a subject by reading about it, asking people about it, practicing it, whatever it is, so long as you’re focused on that one subject. You will soon have focused enough on learning that subject that you effectively built your first stair.

Now you get to stand on that stair and look around.

You’ll probably see things you’ve never seen before when you were at ground level.

You’ll probably see things from a different perspective than when you saw them on ground level.

Now that you’re on higher ground, you’ll have access to things you never had before because they were previously out of reach.

Other people may be able to give you a helping hand on their respectively built staircases, since you are now within reach because of your newfound height.

Keep focusing again on the same subject, and now you’re be able to build another stair and another stair, probably more faster than before as now you have access to resources to help you build faster that you previously did not have. As you climb higher and higher with each step you build, you will find more and more opportunities at your disposal.
Now let’s say you don’t focus and skip from subject to subject. It’s the same as you building half a step and destroying it. Then building another step halfway and then destroying it.

You’re always going to stay at ground level. You’re always going to stay at ground level. No, that’s not a typo.

By focusing on one subject, you will start to capitalize on all the experience and knowledge you gain from it. And once you master that subject, you will have built stairs that will take you to heights that you’ve never been before and opportunities that would have never been available to you at ground level.

Let’s use another example to illustrate.

John Smith loves to play tennis. He’s not good, but he loves to play. So he practices, day and night. Gets lessons. Reads books. Watches professional players. Asks for help. Plays pickup games. Enters tournaments.

Now he’s at a pretty good level. He can now teach neighborhood kids for money. He can enter tournaments and win prizes. He can play professionally. He can write a book. He can organize teams at the local park, and be an instructor there. He can publish beginner videos. The possibilities are endless. All because he decided to focus on one subject and to master it.

That’s the power of focus.

However, in order to fully utilize the power of focus you must choose a subject that you love to immerse yourself in. If you abhor Shakespeare, no matter how hard you try to focus, you’re not going to focus and master it.

For most people, choosing that subject is the hardest part. Once the right subject is chosen, mastering it follows easily. If you don’t choose the right subject, mastering it will prove to be difficult. That’s why it’s so important to find what you love to do. If you haven’t already read my essay on how to find what you love, please do so here.

So let’s say you found the subject you want to focus on.

I guarantee your mind will start to stray.

It’s easy to stray with all the distractions we have today. Internet, TV, magazines, cell phones, etc. What we don’t realize is that these distractions can lead off on tangents that will steal our focusing power. We may have chosen tennis to be our subject of focus, but we see the World Cup playing on TV and decide to switch to soccer. No. We must stay focused on the subject at hand.

Above my computer on my desk, I have a quote printed out in big bold letters that reads “STAY FOCUSED ON THE SUBJECT AT HAND”. I then have another quote printed under it that I think sums up the gist of this article.

“Do not scatter your powers. Engage in one kind of business only, and stick to it faithfully until you succeed, or until your experience shows that you should abandon it. A constant hammering on one nail will generally drive it home at last, so that it can be clinched. When a man's undivided attention is centered on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied by a dozen different subjects at once.” – Barnum & Bailey.

Choose the subject you wish to focus upon wisely and then focus upon it, and only it. Do not stray and you will find a myriad of opportunities that will come about due to your constant focus.

[Stay focused] [Stay focused] [Stay focused] [Stay focused] [Stay focused] [Stay focused]

If you are ever tempted to stray, remember the staircase you are building.

Invest in yourself and make it happen.

[tags]focus, goals, success[/tags]

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22 Responses to “The Unstoppable Power of Focus”

  1. Chris W Says:

    A masterful article. You have a knack for clearly communicating the power of self-improvement tactics.

  2. Brian Kim Says:

    Thank you for your kind words Chris.

  3. Luigi Says:

    Absolutely.

    I love looking at the example of successful athletes. Ice skaters, swimmers, gymnasts, especially — ask them what they were doing in high school. They were getting up at 4am to go to the rink for 2.5 hours before school or training 5 hours a day at the gym after school while everyone else was taking piano lessons, karate lessons, then watching cartoons after school.

    Commitment to a single pursuit is no longer valued in our culture. In America we are bred to believe mediocrity is greatness, and as a result, most Americans know a little bit about a lot of things, but a lot about nothing.

  4. Brian Kim Says:

    Well put Luigi. Those who do take the time to commit to a single pursuit will find themselves way ahead of those who don’t.

  5. Edward Moore Says:

    Mr. Kim,

    If you find the time, I’d be delighted to receive an e-mail from you with regards to this question:

    If you could go back to when you were my age (i’m 22) what would you do differently? What would you focus on? I have just graduated from university and I feel a certainty that my niche is waiting for me, yet I just haven’t found it yet. I seem to have too many wide-ranging interests and not enough single-mindedness to concentrate on just one. You say that focus is the key and I tend to agree with you. HOWEVER…

    Imagine you want to focus on being one of the 21st Century’s greatest ever statesmen. A lot has to go into something like that. You have to focus on the books, on the reading of other people’s lives, focus on meeting people, focus on being involved in regional politics… it seems that that whole goal involves a splitting of one’s attention.

    What do you think?

  6. Brian Kim Says:

    Edward,

    Thank you for your comments and well thought out questions.

    Truth be told, I wouldn’t change a thing. I think I was fortunate enough to be one who knew early on what exactly they wanted to do.

    You say you just graduated from university and have a certainty that your niche is waiting for you. That’s a very good sign. I don’t know if you have read my article http://briankim.net/blog/2006/07/how-to-find-what-you-love-to-do, but if you haven’t, please do so. You’ve already completed step 1.

    I understand the fact that you have many wide-range interests, but you must sit down and FOCUS on one. Trust me. The best time is NOW. Do not wait until you are 40 and wonder where your life has gone. The best time to plant a tree is today.

    Regarding your question on focusing on being one of the 21st century’s greatest ever statesman, I agree with you in that a lot has to go into something like that. However, I don’t think that will be a problem because there is focus involved here. You want to be the greatest 21st century statesman ever. That is the focus. The focus should always be put on the END result. 

    For example, if you’re focused on getting a place in New York, there’s a lot of things that go into it. You have to find an apartment, a roommate, save some cash, buy some furniture, etc., but ALL of that will be naturally taken care of so to speak because your focus is on the END result, which is getting a place in New York. As soon as you’ve made the FOCUSED decision of the END result, EVERYTHING that is related to doing that will get done. You’re not necessarily splitting your attention on the tasks because those tasks lead to the focused end result.

    I hope that has answered some of your questions.

    Thank you.

  7. Daily Snippets » Blog Archive » Power of Focus Says:

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  8. rmic Says:

    Great !!

    I just read your post and thought that I already read some posts on other blogs about this subject, but it does not matter.

    I really like the way you talk about it, I find it quite inspiring. I’ll certainly write a post mentioning this fact soon.

  9. Brian Kim Says:

    Rmic,

    Thank you very much for your comments. It’s nice to know you find it inspiring. Look foward to reading your post!

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  16. John Hill Says:

    Great article on staying focused, you are right that it is always easier to stay focused on something you like or are good at.

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  18. Danijel Orsolic Says:

    Again me commenting on an article from 2006/7 in 2008. :)

    Awesome article, just as pretty much any other on this site. I am taking it as a reference for myself, which is at the same time a reason why I come up with some questions considering certain unique aspects about my life.

    So, the ideal is to find *one thing* you love to do, and then focus on achieving *one goal* that can be achieved by what you love to do and then go on *one goal at a time* so that it is always singular, never doing more things at once OR never trying to achieve more things at once.

    Maybe the secret lies in the distinction between those two.

    Here’s my situation. I have inspected myself and what I love and what my purpose should be and found that I am in essence a social entrepreneur (perhaps not entirely by a rough definition, but close). In other words my passion is in starting new projects online which have as a goal not just making a lot of money, but also promoting or contributing to positive social change. My ideals are humanism and freedom, a world where technology empowers people rather than restricting them.. I already have a network of sites which work in that general direction, promoting Free Software (as in freedom, not price) and freedom in a digital world in general (think of opposition to RIAA’s lawsuits, draconian copyrights etc. to get the picture).

    So when I say I love to start new projects and that my purpose is in promoting a what I described above, a lot of stuff fits in. Projects I start will allow me to do a wide variety of things that fit in my skills/interest list. They may also have a wide variety of specific goals, but common to all may be the above purpose.

    So say my goal becomes to solidify my network of web sites into one of the most influential online entities which through socially aware and responsible business initiatives leads or contributes to social change. Say I *focus* on that goal as my END result. Is it too general for such focus to make any sense?

    I mean, by focusing on that I would still allow myself quite a bit of leeway to do various things of interest at any given point in time as long as it can result in the achievement of this goal. In fact, I will always keep that goal in mind and make sure that the thing I start somehow contributes to it, but that thing I start will also have a more specific goal of its own which I also pursue at the same time.

    It’s like having one big goal on top, which you consistently keep in mind, and many smaller scale goals as ladders to that top.

    Bottom line is that it’s hard for some people to simply say “I’ll be a dancer and focus on being a good dancer” or “I’ll be a great singer” or “I’ll be very successful at real estate”. Not everyone has such singular and specific desires. Not everyone is born to be that one thing. The rest of us actually have many interests and then end up realizing that it is in the journey, the exploration, the constant discovery of something new that they find their passion rather than in constant pursuance of a single activity. How does one focus then?

    So I’m thinking, to go a bit deeper in defining what exactly focus is. It may be like dispensable energy. Stretch it too thin and you wont have enough for anything, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t pursue a few things at once, as long as you really keep it at few things and as long as you *prioritize* them so that, when energy happens to run out for one thing, you know which one you’ll still continue working on. Another key thing besides prioritization is time management. Split my work time in three parts, the biggest part being for the priority 1 goal, second largest being for priority 2 goal and third being for third.

    Then besides the work time focus on other non-work things in life like exercise, biking, good entertainment or research etc. So the point is in focusing at one thing at a time of day, not necessarily at one thing 100% time of each day and all days, right?

    Sorry for another big post. I’ll try to be patient for a reply. :)

    Thanks a lot.

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  20. Brian Kim Says:

    Hi Danijel,

    I’ve read through what you’ve written and I must say I’m a little bit confused as to what you’re asking exactly but I think you’ve managed to answer your own questions as you’ve written what you were thinking.

    “It’s like having one big goal on top, which you consistently keep in mind, and many smaller scale goals as ladders to that top.”

    That would probably be one way to put it. You have this big vision in mind, but you need to focus on the smaller steps that lead to it.

    I hope that helps!

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