Sustaining your Focus


In last week’s post, The Zulu Principle, I said that focus is crucial if you want to become an expert instead of a Jack {or Jackie} of all trades. It occurred to me that apart from focus, successful people rely on something else to excel in their field.

Successful people have a passion for that thing they are doing. Passion is the fuel that sustains focus. It can be defined as a feeling of unusual excitement, enthusiasm or compelling emotion (love) towards a subject, idea, person, or object. What you are passionate about, you are driven to learn more about. It is not a chore but a joy. Passion helps you put in the required and extensive time and effort willingly and in a committed way.

People sometimes complain that they find it difficult to keep their attention focused on their work. You are however naturally attentive when you are doing what you are passionate about or what you enjoy doing. Attention and passion are connected. For instance – avid football fans, who are passionate about their clubs, tend to have extensive knowledge of the stats about their teams. This is as a result of their investment of time and money. Look at kids, when they are watching a television show which they love, their attention is focused. It is difficult to break their attention at this point. Chronic boredom is a potential indicator that you are veering away from your point of interest or passion.

Passion energises you. It certainly pushes you out of your comfort zone and enables you to push boundaries. It is a powerful driver and motivator. An intrinsic motivator not an extrinsic one because you will gladly do what you are passionate about for free. Yet successful people have been fortunate enough to know how to ‘monetize’ their passion.

I am currently reading Jon Gruden’s biography, Do you love football?!. Gruden was the former head coach (American Football) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who won Super Bowl XXXVII in his first season with the team. These two paragraphs from the first page of the book aptly captures the ‘focus’ and ‘passion’ concepts well.

“Football really is all I know. Other than going to the beach once in a while and watching the waves, it’s really the only interest I have outside of my wife and our three boys. I am not a scratch golfer. I don’t know how to bowl. I can’t read the stock market. Hell, I have a hard time remembering my wife’s cell phone number. But I can call, ‘Flip Right Double X Jet 36 Counter Naked Waggle at 7 X Quarter’ in my sleep”.

I love the competition of the game. I love the players who play it. I love the strategy, the variables. I love the smell of the grass, the sound of the stadium. I love the thrill of the victory. I like to see how we respond to the adversity that a loss brings and to the sudden changes that we have to deal with, whether it is a fumble, an interception, a fifteen-yard penalty, or something worse, like our right tackle suffering a broken ankle. What is the weather going to be like? What kind of crowd will we have?”

What is your focus? Is it aligned with your passion? Do you know how to monetize it?

4 replies on “Sustaining your Focus”

Interesting stuff. I agree with what you say above, I suppose the question is how do you sustain focus on something you are not (or less) passionate about? And (sort of related) is it possible to develop passion about something or does passion come from within?

Hey Sue,

My thoughts on your questions:

How do you sustain focus on something you are not (or less) passionate about?

I guess it depends on how long you are expected to focus on it. Sheer grit can help you persevere for the short term without the need for passion but for the long term, you need to find some passion (or like) for it in order to make it meaningful and enjoyable.

Is it possible to develop passion about something or does passion come from within?

You can catch passion from others but you need to own it if you are going to run with it. You can’t sustain yourself on second hand passion.

Thanks Prof. Passion indeed… it’s one of the few reasons to be a mature student in a pre-professional undergraduate course. I’m driven by the possibilities and my plans for society after I qualify, and I’m thinking get it done by any means necessary. I’m focused on the contributions that I will make, and it helps that I will get paid for doing what I love and enjoy.

I like what you’ve said about monetizing passion, and I agree. Unfortunately I run into many people who are just after the money so they are forcing passion to develop. These days you hardly hear that a degree was a pursuit of passion and love.

In the words of Black Eyed Peas… where is the love??!

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