The Sharper It Is, The Sharper You Are
If you chase two rabbits, both will escape. —Unknown
What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.
—Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
A Different Kind of One-Track Mind
In 1998, the Atlanta Braves and the San Diego Padres played for major-league baseball's National League pennant, and I had the privilege of attending several of the games. Back when I lived in San Diego, I was a die-hard Padres fan, but when I moved to Atlanta in 1997, I changed my allegiance to the Braves. I rooted for them all season long—until they faced San Diego in the play-offs. Why did I change? I could not bring myself to root against Tony Gwynn.
Tony Gwynn is the greatest hitter in the last fifty years—the best since Ted Williams. He has won an incredible eight batting titles. (Only Ty Cobb has won more.) In his career, he has batted a tremendous .339. It's always a joy to watch Gwynn play. He is surely destined for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
If you saw Tony Gwynn on the street and didn't know who he was, you might not guess he was a professional ballplayer. At five feet eleven inches and 220 pounds, he doesn't look the part of the star athlete the way someone like Mark McGwire does. But make no mistake: Gwynn is a talented athlete, having been drafted out of college for baseball and basketball. And though he has tremendous talent, the real key to his success is focus.
Tony Gwynn loves hitting a baseball, and he devotes himself to it. Several times each season, he reads Ted Williams's The Science of Hitting, a book he first discovered and read while in college. He watches countless hours of videotape. At home he has a library of hitting tapes, continually fed by his five VCRs that record games via satellite dish. He even reviews tape on the road. When he travels for games, he takes two VCRs so that he can tape and edit every one of his at bats. And when he is not swinging the bat or watching tape, he is talking about hitting constantly—with teammates, at the All-Star Game, with great players such as Ted Williams.
Gwynn just can't get enough. Hitting is his joy. He has been known to arrive at social events with a batting glove sticking out of his pocket, having stopped to hit a few. And even when not practicing, watching tape, or talking to other hitters, he can be found playing Ping-Pong or doing activities to improve his eye-to-hand coordination. Even his decision to remain in San Diego his whole career has improved his game. "One of my strengths is knowing how much I can handle," Gwynn says. "There are few distractions in San Diego. There isn't a lot of media hoopla. That helps me be consistent."
Consistent is right. Gwynn has batted over .300 in every season as a professional except one—his first. Columnist George Will maintains that people who are great at what they do, such as Gwynn, have "cultivated a kind of concentration unknown to most people.
[WEEELLLL….. FROM ALL THAT I WOULD SAY HIS FOCUS IS UNBALANCED. NO ONE SHOULD BE LIVING WITH SUCH A HUGE, KINDA NIGHT AND DAY CONCENTRATION ON HITING A BALL - Keith Hunt]
Fleshing It Out
What does it take to have the focus required to be a truly effective leader? The keys are priorities and concentration. A leader who knows his priorities but lacks concentration knows what to do but never gets it done. If he has concentration but no priorities, he has excellence without progress. But when he harnesses both, he has the potential to achieve great things.
I frequently meet people in leadership positions who seem to major in minor things. That just doesn't make sense. It would be the equivalent of Tony Gwynn spending all his time studying base stealing. Now, Gwynn can steal bases. He has stolen more than three hundred in his career, but it's not his strength. And dedicating all his time to that instead of hitting would be a waste of his time and talent.
[AND DEDICATING ALL YOUR TIME AND ENERGY TO HIT A BALL IS OUT OF BALANCE ALSO - Keith Hunt]
So the important question is, How should you focus your time and energy? Use these guidelines to help you:
Focus 70 Percent on Strengths
Effective leaders who reach their potential spend more time focusing on what they do well than on what they do wrong. Leadership expert Peter Drucker notes, "The great mystery isn't that people do things badly but that they occasionally do a few things well. The only thing that is universal is incompetence. Strength is always specific! Nobody ever commented, for example, that the great violinist Jascha Heifetz probably couldn't play the trumpet very well." To be successful, focus on your strengths and develop them. That's where you should pour your time, energy, and resources.
[PRETTY NATURAL COMMON SENSE I WOULD SAY. I’M NOT A GOLFER, SO PUTTING ENERGY INTO LEARNING TO BE A GOOD GOLFER DOES NOT INTEREST ME ONE TINY BIT. I PUT MY LEISURE TIME INTO THINGS I LOVE DOING - Keith Hunt]
Focus 25 Percent on New Things
Growth equals change. If you want to get better, you have to keep changing and improving. That means stepping out into new areas. Gwynn modeled that several years ago after he had a conversation with Ted Williams. The old pro suggested that learning to hit inside pitches would make Gwynn a better player. Gwynn, who preferred outside balls, worked on it, and his average went up significantly. If you dedicate time to new things related to areas of strength, then you'll grow as a leader. Don't forget: in leadership, if you're through growing, you're through.
[OF COURSE LEADERS SHOULD HAVE AN ATTITUDE OF WILLING TO LEARN MORE, BUT THERE COMES A TIME IN LEADERSHIP WHEN YOU HAVE CLIMBED AND ARE NOW ON A LEVEL WITH AN OCCASIONAL NEW CLIMB; TO KEEP THINKING “WELL I MUST GROW THIS WEEK AND IT’S FRIDAY ALREADY,” IS A MIND STRESS YOU DO NOT NEED - Keith Hunt]
Focus 5 Percent on Areas of Weakness
Nobody can entirely avoid working in areas of weakness. The key is to minimize it as much as possible, and leaders can do it by delegating. For example, I delegate detail work to others. A team of people at The INJOY Group handles all the logistics of my conferences. That way when I'm there, I stick to the things I do best, such as the actual speaking.
[TRUE…. A GOOD LEADER KNOWS HOW AND WHEN TO DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITY TO OTHERS - Keith Hunt]
Reflecting on It
How would you rate yourself in the area of focus? Have you been majoring in minor things? Have you spent so much time shoring up your weaknesses that you've failed to build up your strengths? Do the people with the least potential monopolize your time? If so, you've probably lost focus.
To get back on track with your focus, do these things:
Work on yourself. You are your greatest asset or detriment.
Work at your priorities. You will have to fight for them.
Work in your strengths. You can reach your potential.
Work with your contemporaries. You can't be effective alone.
Bringing It Home
To improve your focus, do the following:
Shift to strengths. Make a list of three or four things you do well in your job. What percentage of your time do you spend doing them? What percentage of your resources is dedicated to these areas of strength? Devise a plan to make changes, allowing you to dedicate 70 percent of your time to your strengths. If you can't, it may be time to reassess your job or career.
Staff your weaknesses. Identify three or four activities necessary for your job that you don't do well. Determine how you can delegate the jobs to others. Will it require hiring staff? Can you partner with a coworker to share responsibilities? Develop a plan.
Create an edge. Now that you've looked at priorities, think about concentration. What would it take for you to go to the next level in your main area of strength? What new tools do you need? Rethink how you do things, and be willing to make sacrifices. Time and money spent to take you to the next level are the best investment you can make.
Experienced animal trainers take a stool with them when they step into a cage with a lion. Why a stool? It tames a lion better than anything—except maybe a tranquilizer gun. When the trainer holds the stool with the legs extended toward the lion's face, the animal tries to focus on all four legs at once. And that paralyzes him. Divided focus always works against you.
OF COURSE HAVING FOCUS IS AN IMPORTANT WAY TO BE IN THIS LIFE; TO DO A JOB WELL YOU MUST FOCUS WHILE DOING THE JOB; I GUESS DOING ANYTHING WELL TAKES FOCUS, AND NOT HAVING FOCUS IS WHAT WE SOMETIMES CALL SUCH PEOPLE [THE NORMAL AVERAGE PERSON I HAVE IN VIEW] - “SCATTER-BRAINED” - Keith Hunt