Every super-successful person knows the secret. The ability to focus is a superpower. Both the ability to sustain your focus and get things done, and to focus in specific ways, creating mental states that foster excellence. Here’s what some of society’s highest achievers have to teach you about accessing your focus superpower.
If you’ve been reading my articles, or you’ve heard me speak, then you know my core message - that your ability to focus is your superpower.
Whether learning new skills or new subject matter quickly, performing music, sports or anything else at a high level, managing stress and even physical pain, accessing your creativity, relating to people better – or any area where you wish to excel – your ability to focus is the foundation for achievement and excellence.
There are lots of articles throughout this blog about specifically how to harness your powers of focus. Sometimes though, it’s helpful to hear – in the words of the world’s highest achievers – how implementing those principles of focus has made all the difference for them. Here are ten of my favorite quotes about focus from the super-successful:
If ever there was a person in modern times who moved mountains, it was Steve Jobs. And central to his mountain-moving was his ability to prioritize and focus. As Tim Cook, current CEO of Apple, once said of Jobs, “There is no one better at turning off the noise that is going on around him. That allows him to focus on a few things and say no to many things. Few people are really good at that.”
Creator of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies and so much more, George Lucas is one of the most successful filmmakers in history. It was his relentless focus on what he wanted his films to be that fueled their success.
It’s impossible to think of the self-help movement without thinking of Tony Robbins. However, the elite don't turn to Tony for a “you can do it” pep talk. Rather, they seek
Tony out because what he really does is help people relentlessly focus to accomplish their goals. Marc Benioff started Salesforce after working with Tony Robbins. Other movers and shakers who Tony has helped to focus better and fly higher include Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Oprah and Serena Williams.
Best known as the inventor of the telephone, Bell also invented the metal detector, techniques to teach speech to the deaf (which he used with Helen Keller), and over a dozen other groundbreaking inventions. Bell understood the importance of focus to his own work. He deliberately did not have a telephone in his office because he thought it would distract him from his work (We could all benefit from modeling Bell’s approach with our own cell phones.)
Coming from Paulo Coehlo, these are not empty words. Author of the bestselling novel The Alchemist, which at its heart is a primer on focusing deeply on the world around you to achieve your dreams, Coehlo’s most famous work originally sold just 900 copies. With persistence and very clear focus on what he wanted, the now-acclaimed masterpiece went on to sell over 150 million copies published in 80 languages.
Bruce Lee’s life was and is a masterclass on how to focus. Acclaimed for his mastery of the physical side of martial arts and often called the “Father of Mixed Martial Arts,” Lee’s secret, in his own words, was to cultivate his mind and powers of focus on a profoundly deep level.
Bill Gates is known for his ability to focus intensely and tune out distractions. In the early years of Microsoft, he didn’t own a television and even took out his car radio. He would also take a “think week” a couple of times a year – for a full week, he would retreat to a cabin in the woods and just read and think with full focus and without distraction. Why would the CEO of one of the world’s largest companies take that much time away from the office? Because it was during those weeks of deep focus that some of Microsoft’s most lucrative ideas emerged.
Growing up in a poor family that struggled to put food on the table, Andrew Carnegie went on to define the steel industry in the U.S., and become one of the wealthiest businessmen America has ever known, as well as a leading philanthropist. The wording of Carnegie’s motto is critical. Your ability to focus does not exist in a vacuum. It must be applied to something. And more important, it must have parameters within which to operate. You’d be hard pressed to come up with better parameters than Carnegie's – honesty and industry.
Now retired, Chris Evert was rated the number one tennis player in the world for seven years. She won 21 Grand Slam championships and over 200 total championships. Her physical prowess on the court was legendary. Yet, she attributed the lion’s share of her success to her ability to concentrate. Evert would not even call a friend on the day of a match, for fear it would break her concentration.
Considered one of the world’s greatest living novelists, Haruki Murakami’s ability to concentrate has enabled him to write well over 20 novels selling millions of copies in his native Japan and around the world. Murakami believes that strong powers of concentration can even make up for less than stellar innate talent.