Finding Focus

Chris Brogan and the word focus rarely go together in a sentence. I hope to change that in 2012.

I am a fairly harsh critic of my own business. Maybe we all are. When I look back on my ambitions for 2011 versus what I accomplished, I fell short in many ways. Part of this came from my methodology: do a lot of things and then just move the successful ones forward. Part of this came from my self-created attention deficit disorder (not the actual condition, but what I felt was my entrepreneurial spirit, but to everyone else was my frustrating ability to start a dozen businesses a month without enough meat to sustain them). And as I’m readying for 2012, the soul-searching and goals are pointing to what I must do better.

Finding Focus Was a Start

Many things have changed in my life. My personal life has changed dramatically. My marriage has ended, but that news comes with the realization that I think that I, my kids, and their mom are actually happier now than any of us have been over the past few years. I’ve started a wonderful new relationship. And I’ve also gotten back to a goal of improving my health, including my fitness and my nutrition, as well as my spiritual well-being.

This all took (takes!) a lot of work. I had to live through the Builder’s story. I had to take back my strings. I had to get untangled. I became a Buddhist. And I started asking myself daily about focus.

Over the last several weeks, I trust that both Rob Hatch, my COO, and Jacqueline Carly, my girlfriend, will vouch that I’ve approached my planning for 2012 with a lot more focus. Heck, I’ve even heard from my kids during our visits that they’re enjoying playing with me more, which means that I’m focused on them when I’m with them, too.

In short, I’m saying that I couldn’t do any of what I’m about to accomplish in 2012, if I didn’t do a lot of work to find focus.

Though I have a long way to go on feeling like I am focused all the time, I’ll tell you a few things to look out for, as well as a few things to do more often.

Stop The Following

  • Stop reading book after book, with the sense that you’re seeking something. You know what to do.
  • Consider stopping the consumption of world news. People argue that we must stay informed. I think that’s true, but I think we stay over-informed.
  • Stop reading every blog in the industry. I haven’t read TechCrunch or Mashable first hand for years (no disrespect to either company). Instead, YOU tell me what I need to know.
  • Stop saying “later.” You WON’T do it later. Do it or decide not to do it.
  • Stop settling. Jacq and I talk about this all the time. Don’t settle. If you don’t want to wait 40 minutes for dinner at a restaurant, don’t. If you’re unhappy at work, find new work. Don’t settle.
  • Stop operating without a plan. Winging it worked for a while. You need/deserve more.
  • Stop watching TV, surfing mindlessly, and all the other time-sucks. Give yourself 1 hour TOTAL of that a day.
  • Stop saying yes. Find very polite ways to say no. Faster.
  • Stop answering that you’re busy. We’re all busy. (I’m learning how to stop this one.) People who aren’t busy are busy wishing they were busy.
  • Stop thinking you’ll reply to those emails later. Delete them and start over. You’ve already missed the moment.
  • Stop spending time writing hateful, angry, snarky thoughts. Who does it help? What value does it bring?

Do More Of the Following

  • Sleep. Staying up all night to stay on top puts you at the bottom. Sleep is sexy.
  • Move. We are screen-beings, but fitness helps us focus, boosts our mood, and keeps this meat spacesuit alive.
  • Fuel yourself. Drink much more water. Eat the best food you can afford. Never settle for food. Celebrate it. (Sometimes, greasy beach pizza is the celebration.)
  • Find patience. We only have now. Learning patience is a huge part of learning focus.
  • Forgive. Do you know how many people wander around holding a grudge about ancient things that only mattered for a moment, but have left us damaged and tangled up for years? Gazillions. Do your part. Forgive.
  • Untangle. Other people’s disappointments in your are their problem. To focus, work on being the best you that YOU want to be, and never try to fit into someone else’s picture frame.
  • Prepare. Do. Measure. Improve. It’s astounding how astray from this I’ve been. The moment I remember to do these four simple things, the better my world becomes. (Improvement is kind of the opposite of what I’m learning in Buddhism, as we’re supposed to accept ourselves, flaws and all, but hey.)
  • Think narrow to hit big. The way to crack a massive stone is to find the single point of weakness. The same is true with most things. Don’t worry about a million things. Work on the one that cracks the big stone open.
  • Be Brave. My conversion to Shambhala Buddhism with Jacq was at a retreat that was titled “Being Brave.” Since that rainy week in August, I’ve thought of how many times “being brave” has improved my life. How? In the simplest of ways, being brave is an ingredient we all need more of, and when we create that ingredient, life opens up.

Focus is About Less

At its root, focus is about less. There can’t be two #1 priorities. In rebuilding Human Business Works with Rob Hatch (more on that tomorrow), I rebuilt my entire professional focus for 2012 around supporting a concept I’ve named the Human Business Way. If I can’t fit what I want to do into the Way, I don’t do it. It’s simple. It’s about less. (Want a hint about less? Check out The Power of Less.)

Focus isn’t easy. In fact, very little that’s worth anything is easy. Focus is so hard it makes you ache all over. But I will tell you this from the very bottom of my heart: my life gets better with every sweep of the broom and with every discarding of bad thoughts, excessive ideas, useless and painful emotions, and every random impulse that I used to follow blindly. The people in my life have commented positively on the changes my effort to focus have brought about, and I am bringing as much value to you as I can in 2012 (and beyond) based on how well I learn to focus.

You’ll see the results more and more here. I just thought I’d share a peek into how that came to be. As for you, I’m curious whether this resonated with you at all. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Matt Tanguay

    Hey Chris,

    There’s a quote I can’t quite remember precisely, but it went along the lines of “The key to mastery is not adding more, but removing things”.

    In essence, sometimes less is more. And as an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get carried away and spread yourself too thin on too many projects. It’s hard and necessary to focus on what really matters, and what has the highest leverage for you and your business.

    Props on your soul searching! :)


  • Deborah A. Sullivan

    ♥ Good advice my friend …~Debbie:)

  • Brenda

    I found this article to be very inspiring and insightful. Thank you.

  • Julie Larson

    Excellent article! Thank you for reminding me that Focus is about Less!

  • Eric Skiff

    Good for you, Chris! So glad you’re taking time to focus and to enjoy things. Looking good, btw :) 

  • Pat Zalewski

    Just read this post and glad that I did. You have an uncanny knack of picking topics that resonate because you are channeling changing energy. People are painfully aware of life that isn’t working, financially, socially, and holistically. You have captured the essence of what would have to happen to change it all. Focus and be prepared to let go. Let go of a “good enough” life and adopt an extraordinary one instead.

  • Darlene Hull

    I love this post, Chris.  I so resonate with it.  I struggle with ADD in all it’s beastly forms, but like you, I’m learning to focus.  I have lists and alarms that keep me on task (and drive my family nuts, bless them) but I also live with the grace to ignore them if something more important comes up.  

    These are such important points.  Thanks for being open in your sharing of them.

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  • Tanya McTavish

    Chris, my biggest discovery of the year was zen habits blog which kind of resonates with your reflections on here, except Leo is not big on setting goals and measuring things. For a mad high achiever myself your post made for a great read

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    Great……. really its very nice post. I learn to focus….. thanks.

  • colleen ann rugg

    Thank you Chris – this was excellent.  I just read this on a Sunday night when I am usually the most stressed, thinking about the week ahead.
    I looked at my journal last night and found a list of 100 things I want to do in my lifetime.  I started it in 2007 and got the inspiration from a NYTimes article.  I went back and noticed there were a few things I could check off, that I had completed.  I also remembered how the words from Ekhart Tolle’s book, “A New Earth” were running through my thoughts during that time and how it is very important to bring ourselves back to a book, a person, a place that has inspired us and to remember why…and to be in touch with ourselves and try the best we can to be “present.”  I look forward to your journey in 2012 and to see what inspires you, and what you learn.  Best, @ColleenRugg:twitter

  • Nawatsie

    Thanks, I needed your information so much as I declutter my life and my mind. A very special lady (Mary) intro-ed me to your insightful blog and I will forever be grateful to her.

  • Nawatsie

    Thanks, I needed your information so much as I declutter my life and my mind. A very special lady (Mary) intro-ed me to your insightful blog and I will forever be grateful to her.

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    Wow! It’s like you’ve been hanging out in my head and found the solution to all the craziness going on there. I read the 2012 blog first and loved you shared your plans but even more you shared “WHY” you are! Both of these posts resonated with me more than anything I’ve read in months. Thank you for sharing, you’ve inspired I’m sure 1000s like me to take the time to figure out what we are taking into 2012 and what we are leaving behind and more importantly “WHY”

  • Tim Somers

    Really need to plug into this asap – feel like I am always chasing something and never focused on moving forward. 

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  • Rachal Tarquin

    Not many people would be willing to say something so unconventional and encourage others to do the same, but I’m glad you did! I applaud you Mr. Brogan.

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    Very interesting article. There’s some great information…..

  • Shelia

    Terrific post, big changes and focus for me right now and it feels good.. It feels right. Thank you Chris.

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