When I was taking training from Steve Maxwell, he had me email my training goals. This I did and then he designed a program to help me meet them. Simple enough.

But what I vividly remember is sneaking in a workout with a friend that had nothing to do with my goals. He berated me for it. I thought it was no big deal, but upon reflection, I was doing a bunch of activity in line with a single purpose and then completely deviated without giving it a second thought.

That taught me focus. Think about this in the corporation. How many meetings are you in where people are rambling all over the place? Where no agenda is followed? Where nothing really gets done except status checks? Where a side conversation dominates for 20 minutes?

Focus takes gumption. You have to look at things that might seem enjoyable and say no because you have other things going on.

The other thing you have to do is pay attention. You can’t focus without directing your attention and when you direct your attention, you find that many people are half present. People are half present because things are unfocused. I’m talking specifically meetings here. A rambling meeting is a crime, and the attendees know this and start doing other stuff. But the same thing happens in exercise, and many other activities in life.

I remember reading Red Gold and going through the exercises. My favorite story is (I’m in my 20’s here) being at a all night party getting drunk and being amidst all these strangers I had never met before. Around 20 of them. I knew everyone’s names and whatever details about their lives they supplied. That’s because I was doing exercises like staring at a paper clip for five minutes or staring at the second hand on a watch for five minutes saying, “I am sitting here staring at the second hand on my watch.” I could pay attention and paying attention is the key to remembering.

Focus – attention – concentration.

Last point. Another lesson from Red Gold. This is a book from communist era Russia where glory to the state was won by success in highly visible events of human performance. Human achievement was paramount. One of the things the book mentioned is the overestimation of intelligence in determining success. In fact, intelligence wasn’t that big of a deal when determining success. You know what was? Self-control. Enough said.