Imagine a one-year old child that is focused.
Imagine that one-year old is on a focused mission.
That mission is to ‘learn to walk'
First I shall walk, it says.
Forget everything else. I'm going to learn to walk, and that's it.
And then I shall learn to talk.
And then I shall learn a language. But only one language at a time.
And no one-year old does that at all
One-year olds have complex behaviour.
They're learning to walk, talk, balance, fall, speak, laugh.
And do it all at once.
Because one-year olds don't read books on focus
They don't have some sage old guru whispering ‘focus thoughts' in their ear.
And so they do what the brain does naturally.
So what does the brain do naturally?
It does the same thing you do when you're driving. It can enable you to change gears, listen to the radio, eat a banana, speak to a passenger, and still enjoy the stunning scenery.
All while pumping blood to your heart, and helping the body fight germs, among other things.
And that's brain function in a nutshell.
The brain network is like a complex bunch of highways, that crisscross, and yet meet. The more the crisscross, the more the activity in the brain.
We think that focus is all-important
But in fact, that ‘intense-one-thing-focus' is actually counter-productive to the brain.
So how do we know this to be true?
Imagine if your brain only focused on what your feet were doing while driving. Imagine if it only focused on your hand-movement.
Or your head.
Maybe it figured that peripheral vision was a bit of a distraction. You're getting the picture, right?
The picture about focus is horribly um, unfocused…
The most intelligent people in the world don't concentrate on just one thing. They work on many things. But not simultaneously.
And when I say ‘simultaneously', I don't mean ‘all at once.'
The most intelligent people on the planet (both past and present) usually have a zillion projects going.
Yup, at the same time.
What they learn to do is compartmentalise
And compartmentalisation is different from focus.
Focus (at least how we're taught) is to keep our heads down and master one thing till we get it.
And compartmentalisation is doing many, many things in the course of one day, one month, one year. Knowing of course, what you're going to do. And then setting the hours, weeks and months–and years aside to do what's needed.
In any given day, here's what I do, for instance
Let's take today for instance.
I'm learning about RSS Feeds to iTunes. I'm learning about Photoshop techniques. I listened to a presentation about how we're asking the wrong questions about ‘cancer'.
Based on something I heard, I'm listening to classical music (something I never did before). I'm writing this article too, as you've figured out, on an abstract topic of ‘focus.'
And then for good measure I'll draw some cartoons and learn some colouring techniques.
And people would consider me talented.
And focused. Like as if I was born with RSS in my brain.
Ho! Ho! Ha! Ha! Ha! Hee! Hee!
I had to laugh you know.
Because the smartest people on the planet are considered talented
But they're not.
They're compartmentalised. They learn lots of things. And then apply lots of things. And then their brains put five and seventeen together and makes forty-four.
Where as those that focus, put those numbers together and make twenty-two.
You think Tiger Woods is focused on golf?
Go speak to him. See how many topics he has a complete mastery over. You think Steve Jobs is focused on nice gadgets? Go speak to him as well.
You think the top brains in the world are focused on one thing?
Well, you're mistaken, my friend.
The smartest people know that single-minded focus is counter-productive
They know that the understanding of sound can improve a golf game. Or an understanding of music can improve their timing in a presentation.
Or an understanding of cartoons can improve their knowledge in the world of search-engine optimisation.
The smartest people do lots of things.
But don't believe me.
Find the smartest person in your town.
And go see the proof for yourself.
It's focus that causes us as individuals; as business owners; to lose our way
We're so focused, that we're blind to every thing else. Focus isn't where it's at.
Compartmentalisation is where it's at
A child does compartmentalisation.
I'll learn to walk right now.
Then I'll say some goo-goo-gaa-gaa things.
Then I'll crawl a bit, because hey, I need to work on my balance so I don't fall over.
And I'll do all of the above in the next twenty minutes.
Compartmentalisation of many, many activities is what's important
Ask any one-year old. Or really smart person.
And they'll tell you.
In three different languages, probably 🙂
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Yes and no Sean. Focus is about conscious attention.
We only have one conscious focus at a time. The child when focused on learning walking is not learning speaking at the same moment.
As behaviour becomes habituated it no longer demands conscious attention so that focus is no longer required.
So we do focus on one thing at a time consciously. To have only one focus in life or only ever focus on the same thing would be tragic indeed.
@Evan: I think you may be too focused on the 1st half of this article. Perhaps you missed that part about compartmentalization. That’s where the child is focused on walking in that moment. And eventually he’ll get to a place of relaxed expertise, freeing up his mind for new activities to learn in a compartmentalized way.
It’s only when he goes to some brain-dead school where they make him think in a boring and linear way that he emerges as a grinder, slaving away in a focused manner gaining little or no results, believing that is the only way to succeed in life, and dooming himself to failure.
And that is tragic.