Finding Focus

Chris Brogan and the word focus rarely go together in a sentence. I hope to change that in 2012.

I am a fairly harsh critic of my own business. Maybe we all are. When I look back on my ambitions for 2011 versus what I accomplished, I fell short in many ways. Part of this came from my methodology: do a lot of things and then just move the successful ones forward. Part of this came from my self-created attention deficit disorder (not the actual condition, but what I felt was my entrepreneurial spirit, but to everyone else was my frustrating ability to start a dozen businesses a month without enough meat to sustain them). And as I’m readying for 2012, the soul-searching and goals are pointing to what I must do better.

Finding Focus Was a Start

Many things have changed in my life. My personal life has changed dramatically. My marriage has ended, but that news comes with the realization that I think that I, my kids, and their mom are actually happier now than any of us have been over the past few years. I’ve started a wonderful new relationship. And I’ve also gotten back to a goal of improving my health, including my fitness and my nutrition, as well as my spiritual well-being.

This all took (takes!) a lot of work. I had to live through the Builder’s story. I had to take back my strings. I had to get untangled. I became a Buddhist. And I started asking myself daily about focus.

Over the last several weeks, I trust that both Rob Hatch, my COO, and Jacqueline Carly, my girlfriend, will vouch that I’ve approached my planning for 2012 with a lot more focus. Heck, I’ve even heard from my kids during our visits that they’re enjoying playing with me more, which means that I’m focused on them when I’m with them, too.

In short, I’m saying that I couldn’t do any of what I’m about to accomplish in 2012, if I didn’t do a lot of work to find focus.

Though I have a long way to go on feeling like I am focused all the time, I’ll tell you a few things to look out for, as well as a few things to do more often.

Stop The Following

  • Stop reading book after book, with the sense that you’re seeking something. You know what to do.
  • Consider stopping the consumption of world news. People argue that we must stay informed. I think that’s true, but I think we stay over-informed.
  • Stop reading every blog in the industry. I haven’t read TechCrunch or Mashable first hand for years (no disrespect to either company). Instead, YOU tell me what I need to know.
  • Stop saying “later.” You WON’T do it later. Do it or decide not to do it.
  • Stop settling. Jacq and I talk about this all the time. Don’t settle. If you don’t want to wait 40 minutes for dinner at a restaurant, don’t. If you’re unhappy at work, find new work. Don’t settle.
  • Stop operating without a plan. Winging it worked for a while. You need/deserve more.
  • Stop watching TV, surfing mindlessly, and all the other time-sucks. Give yourself 1 hour TOTAL of that a day.
  • Stop saying yes. Find very polite ways to say no. Faster.
  • Stop answering that you’re busy. We’re all busy. (I’m learning how to stop this one.) People who aren’t busy are busy wishing they were busy.
  • Stop thinking you’ll reply to those emails later. Delete them and start over. You’ve already missed the moment.
  • Stop spending time writing hateful, angry, snarky thoughts. Who does it help? What value does it bring?

Do More Of the Following

  • Sleep. Staying up all night to stay on top puts you at the bottom. Sleep is sexy.
  • Move. We are screen-beings, but fitness helps us focus, boosts our mood, and keeps this meat spacesuit alive.
  • Fuel yourself. Drink much more water. Eat the best food you can afford. Never settle for food. Celebrate it. (Sometimes, greasy beach pizza is the celebration.)
  • Find patience. We only have now. Learning patience is a huge part of learning focus.
  • Forgive. Do you know how many people wander around holding a grudge about ancient things that only mattered for a moment, but have left us damaged and tangled up for years? Gazillions. Do your part. Forgive.
  • Untangle. Other people’s disappointments in your are their problem. To focus, work on being the best you that YOU want to be, and never try to fit into someone else’s picture frame.
  • Prepare. Do. Measure. Improve. It’s astounding how astray from this I’ve been. The moment I remember to do these four simple things, the better my world becomes. (Improvement is kind of the opposite of what I’m learning in Buddhism, as we’re supposed to accept ourselves, flaws and all, but hey.)
  • Think narrow to hit big. The way to crack a massive stone is to find the single point of weakness. The same is true with most things. Don’t worry about a million things. Work on the one that cracks the big stone open.
  • Be Brave. My conversion to Shambhala Buddhism with Jacq was at a retreat that was titled “Being Brave.” Since that rainy week in August, I’ve thought of how many times “being brave” has improved my life. How? In the simplest of ways, being brave is an ingredient we all need more of, and when we create that ingredient, life opens up.

Focus is About Less

At its root, focus is about less. There can’t be two #1 priorities. In rebuilding Human Business Works with Rob Hatch (more on that tomorrow), I rebuilt my entire professional focus for 2012 around supporting a concept I’ve named the Human Business Way. If I can’t fit what I want to do into the Way, I don’t do it. It’s simple. It’s about less. (Want a hint about less? Check out The Power of Less.)

Focus isn’t easy. In fact, very little that’s worth anything is easy. Focus is so hard it makes you ache all over. But I will tell you this from the very bottom of my heart: my life gets better with every sweep of the broom and with every discarding of bad thoughts, excessive ideas, useless and painful emotions, and every random impulse that I used to follow blindly. The people in my life have commented positively on the changes my effort to focus have brought about, and I am bringing as much value to you as I can in 2012 (and beyond) based on how well I learn to focus.

You’ll see the results more and more here. I just thought I’d share a peek into how that came to be. As for you, I’m curious whether this resonated with you at all.

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