Think of one or two people you know who do exceptionally well for themselves. What is it that they do? What makes them so exceptional? Chances are, your list is a short one.
That’s because exceptional individuals (musical geniuses, or athletic superstars, or medical legends) are known for their talents and aptitude in one area – not many. This thread binds because the focus is narrowed just enough that they can “cut through the noise,” so to speak, and zero in on that area that will make them not just good but truly great.
Think about it: Are you trying to do too much? Are you paralyzing your potential in an area that comes naturally to you, or a talent that differentiates you from your peers, simply because you are trying to do too many things?
If this is the case, you stand the chance of being that “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
Remember what happened when I told you about my multi-tasking with technology? I’m always thinking of what I need to do next as I respond to another email and try to answer a call while walking into a meeting. Whew! That’s a lot to do at once. I haven’t done it just yet, but I could see myself being one of those people who is too busy to notice that I’m about to splash face-first into the middle of a large water fountain or walk smack-dab into a tree.
Not helpful for my focus. And the same principle applies to our efforts toward our talents or skills.
The following are some very deliberate steps we can take to narrow our focus, so we can accelerate success:
1. Identify obstacles and weaknesses. What duties do you a) not have to do, b) could someone else do better, or c) feel miserable about undertaking and, thus, are ineffective in executing these actions? Once identified, work to remove those from your lengthy to-do list, and focus 80 percent of your energies on the 20 percent of your most important duties. Suddenly, you’ll find out how efficient you can truly be by just “letting go” of the ineffectual excess.
2. Define your wants. The king of bluntness, Yogi Berra, put it like this: “If you don’t know where you’re going … you might not get there.” Put another way, you wouldn’t dare set out to an unfamiliar place without a map or GPS – unless you really don’t mind traveling in circles or wasting gas. With a specific goal or destination defined, it’s much easier for you to determine what activities throughout your day are just time-filler, as opposed to what actions are strategic in nature – and necessary for you to reach that desired objective.
3. Determine how to get it. This is one place where the wheels fall off for many people, in that we may have a passion for something so strong that we can almost taste it. A vision so clear we imagine it nearly constantly. But what good is it to have that dream, if we don’t put the wheels in motion and spring into the action necessary to fulfill it? Without a list of steps or actions, we’re just idle dreamers. One surefire way to hold our feet to the fire is to establish a list of tasks necessary to progress toward your goal, a deadline for each, and a method of accountability to measure our progress.
4. Do. It’s as simple as that – or is it simple at all? Even with the plans in mind, we will still be idle dreamers if we don’t start to act on those plans. Often, as I’ve told my mentees before (and I do well to remember myself), people have the tendency to use planning as a “crutch” – an excuse to delay the actual act of doing. Because we’re scared. Because we fear failing and falling flat on our face. Because it’s far easier to stay in the dreaming phase. No matter how talented you are, or what opportunities you have presently, it is impossible to be exceptional without doing the work. So says NFL quarterback and Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
Get to know what you do well.
Define what you want to do with that area of strength.
And work very diligently to filter and any all distractions from allowing yourself to increase your opportunities and successes in this particular area.