As the father of a teenager I’ve thrown around the word “focus” a lot. For a while it was daily. Not because Kenny is a ditz, but because he was learning to drive. To teach him, I’d ride along as he drove himself to school then take the Jeep home. Focus, son. Son, focus. Dude, focus! I wasn’t going to let him get by just driving an automatic. He would have to learn to drive a manual. That way, if he ever found himself in a stupid situation, he could drive home from the party while his friend hurled out the passenger window of his own car…been there, done that!
So it was with interest that I read the following from Greg McKeown (https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140707144749-8353952-the-one-word-answer-to-why-bill-gates-and-warren-buffett-have-been-so-successful) about why Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are so successful. Seems they know how to focus! He also gives a great explanation about the right kind of focus; the kind you need when you’re learning to drive a stick shift and not only have to concentrate on what you are doing (focus as a noun) but react to traffic around you (focus as a verb).
When I was teaching Human Resources I’d say that Performance was the product of three factors, Effort, Ability, and Role. To do well you must try hard, have the requisite KSAs, and “be focused” on the right thing. As an example I’d throw out that many students would probably be disappointed with the grade on their first exam. They would come to me and proclaim that my test was unfair. That they had studied tirelessly. That this was the first poor grade they had ever received. Then they would tell me about the hours they were putting in at work(s). The sick sweetie(s) they were nursing back to health. The other former sweetie(s) who was/were hassling their current sweetie(s). The big project they were leading for their fraternity/sorority/club/SGA/church/etc. The this… The that… See where this is going? I would then tell them that fortunately they weren’t lazy or stupid, they just had too much going on and needed to decide they were a student first and an employee/sweetie/psycho-magnet/volunteer/etc second.
But Lonny, I HAVE to work these jobs. But Lonny, I HAVE to take care of him. But Lonny. But Lonny.
But nothing. Role is a choice, dude! When you finally get out of here and go to work, your employer will see you as an employee first and all the rest of that second. Sure, some hip, cool employers want you to go distribute shoes to poor children or teach homeless people to read. But that isn’t your job. Your job is the thing with a title that they print on your cards. If you suck at that role because you’re too busy with other stuff that isn’t your job, you get fired. In other words, you let other things get in the way of your primary role.
As a student, many of you see focus as a noun. You fixate on one critical outcome. Graduation. That’s cool, but what happens if you become so transfixed on graduating that you forget there are things you have to do after graduation like go to work, pay bills, replace that old beater you drive, and maybe find a significant sweetie. Others see focus only as a verb so you flit from critical project to critical project. You become addicted to involvement, join every club you can find, volunteer for every special project, want to lead every team in every class, take on multiple jobs or internships, volunteer for everything and say no to nothing. You have to be part of everything while you excel at nothing. In both cases, your focus is flawed.
I’ll admit, there are slugs and stupid people in college. But most of those get culled in the early rounds. You saw lots in Cornerstone, you’ll see fewer in Capstone. The critical factor for your success, then, is the role you choose and how you focus in that role. Are you going to spend the next two years as a student preparing for a career after graduation? Or will you succumb to distractions? Will you choose internships, jobs, and organizations that support the accomplishment of your overall career goal? Or will you just fill your resume with one of everything? Or a lot of nothing?
Like so many things, how you focus (and ultimately how you perform!) is up to you, and not some ponytailed HR Instructor with a Batman complex!