MIT Endicott House

I was in Boston to teach on the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation EMP (Entrepreneurial Masters Program) this week. MIT Endicott House is one of the most beautiful locations for leadership retreats and programs. I brought my drone to capture the scenery around the main buildings. You’ll see the drone shots right at the beginning of the video below.

Why Do We Need to Clarify our Purpose?

Dandapani in Barcelona, 2016

Dandapani was one of the speakers at the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Masters Program event this week at MIT Endicott House, outside of Boston. Dandapani spent 10 years as a Hindu monk, meditating with his guru on the purpose of his life.

Dandapani spoke about the importance of consciously deciding what is important and what is not important in your life. Why?

Because life is finite.

More from Dandapani

Dandapani on Instagram (he takes great photos) https://www.instagram.com/dandapanillc

“How to Concentrate”, Dandapani at TEDx

This video is about a strategy for focussing your life’s energy and resources into fewer but more strategic projects. (I tell a story that I have never told in class).

How do you ensure that you are dedicating your efforts to what is really important in life, and not diluting your efforts, resources amongst hundreds of small projects?

If you liked this post, you might like The Complete Guide to Personal Habits for Success and The Star Wars Guide to Saying “No” (from Obi Wan Kenobe).

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First understand the do-or-die importance of focus.

“If you don’t learn to focus, you will have a shallow and unrewarding life without any meaningful achievements.” Derek Sivers 

That is worth repeating.

“A shallow and unrewarding life.”

That’s bad.

You Need to Learn to Focus

So make it a priority.

Yes it’s hard.  The world is designed to distract you.  Facebook is a research laboratory focussed on human distraction.  They invest billions and are excellent at their work.  When facebook slip up, hard on their tails come Apple, apps, youtube, caffeine, bored friends, problematic neighbours and general office bullshit.

Apps are designed to be as addictive as possible.

Assume you are dealing with crack cocaine.  If you can see it, you will use it.  If you can hear it, you will use it.  Willpower is not going to get you through this.

There are many reasons why we delay work.  I think the most insidious is that I have a belief that the person I will be in future will be better than the person who I am today.  I have a consistent inner belief that I will be smarter, better, faster in the future.  The work that is hard today will somehow become easier for the better future me.  But, what if’s not?  I will only be better in future if I do the hard work of pushing through distractions today.

Who is Good at Focus?

I have spent a lot of time interviewing high performance athletes. My goal was to understand their motivations, how they train, how they prepare mentally, and how they face anxiety.  These successful athletes have an ability to focus on the one next step and, in the words of Nike, Just do it!

Josef Ajram, one of Spain’s top endurance athletes, tells himself “I will run another 15 minutes. Come on. Anyone can run another 15 minutes.”  In Josef Ajram’s words, he has completed the Marathon de Sables – 243km across the Sahara desert in 6 days – by only ever allowing himself to think about the next 15 minutes.

How to Learn Focus?

Simple, noisy timer

Use The Pomodoro* Method.

Here are my simplified instructions for following the Pomodoro method.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Pick a specific project you would like to work on.  For example “Write a blog post on focus”.
  2. Set a timer for 20 minutes
  3. Work only on this project until the timer stops.  Stop completely no matter where you are when you hear the timer.  Mid sentence is excellent (it makes it easier to re-start this work later).
  4. Repeat.

Count how many timers you can complete in a day.  I bet you will not complete one single complete timer the first day you begin this habit.  I didn’t.

Some clarifications…

*Any interruption*, you must reset the timer to 20 minutes.

If you need a drink of water, go get the water, then reset the timer.

If you need the bathroom, go, then reset the timer.

If you must check wikipedia to find out a fact, check wikipedia, then reset the timer.  (better… resist the need to check facts now, and use a future timer to work on the project “research focus and collect sources”)

If you must respond to a phone alert, respond, reset the timer.

I think you get the idea.  Only by working on 1, and only 1 project for the full 20 minutes = you get to count it as 1 timer.

* You can find the original Pomodoro Method described here: Pomodoro Method.

This week’s Rhetorical Journey video is all about the Ability to Focus

If you are viewing this via email, watch the video on the blog here: the Ability to Focus

Inspired by Derek Sivers..

This was inspired by Derek Sivers in his frequently asked questions.  I recommend a quick read.  It is lots of content in a short bullet point list.

Derek on focus: He shares 3 further tips for improving your focus…

  1. Read the book “Deep Work”.
  2. Read “Trying to pursue many different directions at once?”.
  3. Practice meditation.  Maria Popova of BrainPickings listens to this guided meditation by Tara Brach every morning…

Tara Brach Guided Meditation

Gratitude

Personally, this video about Gratitude is one of my favourite ways to Meditate for a few minutes.  If you are reading via email, check out the video on the blog here: Nature, Beauty, Gratitude.

How many Pomodoro timers can you do today?  Reply in the comments if you get 1 full timer done today!

If you liked this post, you will also like Focus and The Urgent and the Important.

I met Dandapani at EO Instanbul University and have since met him in Barcelona when he came to run a 1 day retreat for our chapter of the EO organisation.

He spent 10 years as a Hindu monk, and now shares what he learnt about using our mind and our awareness in an intentional manner.  We need to learn to use our mind well.  We need to learn to concentrate.

Here is his TEDx talk, titled “Unwavering Focus”.

Unwavering Focus

We become good at what we practice and most of us are experts at practicing distraction. We live in a society that trains us to multi-task and jump from one thing to another in an uncontrolled way. The great panacea for a world plagued by distraction is learning and practicing the art of concentration. In this talk Dandapani shares tools to learn to create focus in our lives.

PS My favourite joke in the speech 5:56 “She asked me ‘Is it ok for monks to use email?’  I turned to her and said ‘yes, but as long as there are no attachments'” 😉

IESE Classroom
IESE Classroom

The photo is the view just before my last class of 2012. As we reach the end of another year, I am reminded of a quote “The days go slow, the years go fast.” This year has flown by. I feel like summer has only just passed, and here we are approaching the end of the year.

I wish you health and grand adventures for 2013. January sets the tone for the year. What’s your 20-Mile march for 2013?


100,000 Video Views

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Thanks to your help my Educational YouTube channel The Rhetorical Journey achieved over 100,000 views this year. YouTube has overtaken my blog as the most consumed information that I have on the web.

My most viewed video is Improve Your Speaking with

  • 60,000 views
  • 127,000 minutes watched
  • 50% of viewers have watched more than 3:20 minutes of the video.

Focus and Discipline

My 3 words for 2012 were:

  • Create
  • Connect
  • Complete

I didn’t complete my one BIG project for 2012 – write a book.  However, I did manage to create a lot of content in my procrastination.  Plenty of video on the YouTube channel, an online course and an iTunes podcast; new seminar formats and seminars in new countries.

How was your 2012?  Did you have a focus?

What will 2013 be for you?  What words will represent your year?

Happy 2013 from me to you.