Awhile back, I bought a book, Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence. I find it sadly ironic that I made it to page 3 before I put it down, interrupted by something important, I’m sure. The good news is, I picked it back up and am now back into it. The title is an interesting commentary on our lives today: we are FRAGMENTED during the best of our days, struggling to remain focused. The constant vying for our attention by a million things both important and totally unimportant, have created problems we can’t yet fathom. In business and our personal lives. I am guilty of it. No doubt you are more so than you’d like to admit.
But, to achieve excellence in ANY FIELD requires real focus.
Let’s talk fragmentation first…Take your smart phone for example. How many times each day do you look at it. Do you ever turn it off? Or, do you leave it on, afraid something might happen that requires your attention? I know people that sleep with theirs on, next to their head. My friend, Mike, a construction company owner, turns his off at 6pm every day. If you want to talk to him, you’d better call before then. And, he doesn’t read text messages. Email does not exist in his world. He’s got a “guy” that takes care of that for him. He delegated the fragmentation so he can focus on the highest and best use of his time which is finding the next “job” for his men. He has a very narrow focus.
I’ve intentionally done away with a lot of fragmentation. One of those is working in an office with 20 or 30 others pulling me hither and thon. I cannot function long-term in that environment. It lead to burn-out the first time. Some brag about being in such environment. I’m at my personal best working solo, focused, carefully choosing what gets my attention. (Note: You can be in a “group” working environment and pull this off…it’s doable!) Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy interaction with others. I just get to control when that is by leaving my office and hitting meetings for a set period of time, with a deadline always looming so those I do talk to know I have limited time and then it’s on to the “next thing.” When you are not at the chair, FOCUSED, drill in hand, sculpting the next beautiful crown, or, relieving nagging pain from a patient, you can adapt these same efficiencies and habits, if you choose to.
Now, to the “myth of 10,000 hours” and something I’ve gleaned from the book I mention above…and the bigger point of this Memo. Anders Ericsson, the Florida State University psychologist whose research spawned the 10,000 hour rule of thumb (it takes roughly 10,000 hours of study and work at a particular ‘thing’ to become an expert at a skill or craft) had this to say:
You don’t get benefits from mechanical repetition, but by adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal…You have to tweak the system by pushing…allowing for more errors at first as you increase your limits.
Think of this in the capacity of running your business…An example: Learning what actions by you and each member of your team influences profits. Observing outcomes. Making adjustments. Doing it again. And then repeating the process, over and over and over again. Pushing the limits…
Ericsson goes on to say that the secret of winning is “deliberate practice,” where an expert coach takes you through well-designed training over months or years and you give it your full concentration.
And, check this out: “When practice occurs while we are focusing elsewhere, the brain does not rewire the relevant circuitry for that particular routine.” (This refers to Neuroplasticity – the strengthening of old brain circuits and building of new ones.)
Re-read this post again, when you can really think about the potential you might be robbing yourself of this instant. There’s a reason why some solo dentists produce $40,000 a month and others $200,000 a month. The mystery is solved.
If you are fragmented, without FOCUS and not paying attention to the outcomes and re-adjusting, you’ll continue in the same vein you’re in.
Look at it like this: If every crown you made failed, would you change your technique? Of course. If you’re not getting all you want out of your business or life, change your technique. Change your focus. Adjust your attention from things that do not influence outcomes (like daily distractions) to things that do (behaviors and habits of yours and your employees).