Focus

Newmarket, Auckland NZ 2010 (photo credit: Christian Espinoza)

I tend to go down rabbit holes from time to time. I become obsessed.

At the moment, it’s a new camera that I must have. A few months ago it was learning a new business skill, and a few months before that it was Johnny Cash’s concept albums from the 1960’s.

Before I enter down the various rabbit holes I find that I am first intrigued, curious, and that quickly develops into an obsession to find out more. I must step through to the other side and see for myself just what is waiting there. It is an addictive trait, and luckily I have not developed one for drugs, alcohol or chocolate (coffee, maybe), but it leads me to focus all of my energy and attention to it for as long as it takes.

Although I have always been like this, it is only recently that I have picked up the pattern and analyzed the behavior. In the past I have tried to teach focus with little success. I figured that by doing one task repeatedly for a long period of time it would be a meditative experience and, like meditation, would ultimately lead the person to a greater state of focus. But it’s not the Karate Kid and sometimes people get bored before they get focused, and give up.

Focus is an extremely powerful state and when followed by action, it can create new worlds for us. There is no prep involved, but you have to move towards it.

If curiosity develops, follow it to see where it leads you. Venture into the unknown, as scary as it may seem.

Just don’t get trapped down the rabbit hole forever.

Attention

Kingsland, Auckland NZ 2012 (photo credit: Christian Espinoza)

In 2019 it seems the greatest asset to have is attention.

I sometimes find myself in direct competition with others people’s mobile phones during a conversation. That’s not a gripe, just a common observation. I have taught rooms of people, conducted training camps, given presentations, given talks on stage, and performed to audiences, and if I ever spot anyone on their phone I know instantly that I have lost their attention. It is the single most obvious indicator that they have lost interest or, better yet, found something else more interesting to give their attention to.

I went to see Gary Vaynerchuk give a keynote speech last year at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland, and he described the notion of attention as being the new currency in business (and in life). This reminded me of something similar, as I had recently read Oren Klaff’s book Pitch Anything. In the book, Klaff delves into the psychology of delivering a high stakes pitch, in particular how to immediately excite the attention of the person or people you are pitching to in order to deliver the content you have to them. Without first cutting through the ever present defense mechanism inherent in all of us, what we have to say or show will likely fall on deaf ears.

In our everyday lives we experience constant forces pulling at our attention, in both a digital and physical sense. If you don’t know a world without technology at your fingertips then you might struggle to gain and regain focus.

Give boredom a try. It will likely force new ideas to light. If you’re on your regular commute, on the bus or the train, and you don’t know what the view looks like along the way, try paying attention out the window instead of your phone. Who knows, it may inspire you to create something.

Come one, Come all !

New Orleans 2017 (Photo credit: Christian Espinoza)

How do you gain attention ? What do you once you have gained the attention ?

There is something to be said about seeking attention in the age of social media. Arguably it has become more difficult to make someone turn away from their phone and cast their eyes on whatever it is that you have to say or show. There needs to be some serious mastery involved in convincing and alluring someone to do that. So we ask ourselves, what is our marketing strategy ? What is our PR strategy ?

P.T Barnum, of Barnum and Bailey Circus infamy, was a shrewd business man and pioneer ‘ad man’ in the 19th century. He would make extraordinary claims, drum up curiosity and wonder, and would sink top dollar into his advertising. But he delivered every time. We can’t believe the hype if it falls flat on delivery one time too many.

Expectations need to be met, or preferably, exceeded.

If my ‘puffing’ was more persistent, my advertising more audacious, my posters more glaring, my pictures more exaggerated, my flags more patriotic and my transparencies more brilliant than they would have been under the management of my neighbours, it was not because I had less scruple than they but more energy, far more ingenuity and a better foundation for such promises “

– P.T Barnum