What do a world-class athlete, a star rapper, and a high-performing executive all have in common? Focus – how well they pay attention to what matters most for their performance. Focus is the hidden ingredient in excellence – but a different kind of focus matters for each of these achievers.
For the athlete, how well she can concentrate and ignore distractions predicts how well she will do in upcoming contests. For a rapper engrossed in “free styling,” composing a rhyming rap as he goes, the kind of focus that counts is open awareness, where his mind drifts free to find those rhymes in the moment.
And for executives there are three specific kinds of focus that make the difference between mediocre and star performance: on themselves, for the self-awareness that lets them manage their inner world well; on others, for the empathy that lets them build effective relationships and interactions; and on the larger systems in which their organization operates, which dictate what strategy will work best.
I detail all this and more in my new book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. Focus delves into new, surprising findings from neuroscience labs and explains why attention is a little-noticed mental asset that makes a huge difference in how well we find our way in our personal lives, our careers, as parents and partners, and in virtually everything we do. Like a muscle, use attention poorly and it withers; work it in the right way and it strengthens.
In the new normal we are inundated by a sea of distractions. Attention has become a mental ability under siege. We need to get smarter about how to maintain our focus.