4 Ways to Get Focus in the Age of Distraction

NotASquirrel

I want to look at a goal the way Jefferson looks at a cat. Jefferson is a sturdy, athletic black lab mix, and the clinching chain around his neck is completely ignored as he strains with all his 85 pounds after the feline frenemy. A plane could crash into a nearby house and he wouldn't notice.


How often, though, do we humans  get that kind of focused drive in this age of distraction? According to a recent study, our personal symphonies of attention scattering alerts are a one trillion (yes, with a T) dollar problem.


So, it seems to me that, in today's world, the ability to consciously create focus is a tremendous strategic advantage. If you master that, you are a shark amongst minnows, a crocodile amongst turtles.


So, ignore your beeping phone for a few minutes, and read on, future crocodile-shark, to see how:


1. Meditation


Learning to calm your rational mind and separate from your thoughts is a powerful way to learn to manage your attention and where you direct it. I've seen a lot of definitions for meditation, but to me, they all have the common goal of finding the place of deep inner silence. Practice physically relaxing and mentally clearing your thoughts for at least 20 minutes a day and you will find your ability to put your attention where you want improving . . . in addition to the myriad other benefits to your health and well being meditation offers. Take time to sharpen the saw and you’ll cut the trees faster.


2. Consciously Schedule Time for Being Distracted


While it seems counterintuitive, intentionally planning time to be available to the interruptions from your beeping phone and binging laptop will help you calibrate the difference between being focused and being distracted. Becoming familiar with the difference between these two states means you can more readily adjust yourself to where you want to be. Try scheduling a half hour once or twice a day to respond to all distractions as if they were important. After a while, you might even find this hard to do, as you better learn the value of the state of focusing on one important thing at a time.


3. Work in Time Cycles Between Analytic Work and Creative Absorption


I am far more productive with software development when I take 10 minutes out of every half hour to play guitar. It gives the "left brain" a rest and I return to the work refreshed, often with new ideas that seemed to unconsciously gestate as I took this "creative rest". You may not be a musician, but you can get most of the same benefits by listening to music, doodling, or whatever else triggers your creative feelings. And if you don't have a creative outlet you enjoy, this would be a good time to one that to your life.


4. Analyze Your Personal State of Immersion


I'm sure there have been times in your life when you have been fully absorbed in an activity. I became more familiar with my own state of absorption when I was riding motorcycles: situation awareness can save your life when you are on two wheels in a sea of texting SUV drivers. Weight lifting is another activity in which I have had experiences of deep concentration. Think back through your own personal history and find some specific times where you were deeply absorbed in what you were doing. In your imagination, step back into those times and relive them, one by one. What were the common factors? Did you see what you were focused on in a particular way? How did you talk to yourself, or did you? What feelings accompanied these times? Now, imagine how much more productive you will be by having that state where you want it in the future, seeing things the same way, hearing the same way, and feeling the same way.


These four methods are but a small sampling of all the ways you can build the mental skill of focus and emerge the victor over the endless stream of distractions we live with. How much more can you do with a highly developed skill of concentration that is there when you need it? How much more satisfaction can you gain from being fully aligned with what you intend to do? What is the first thing from this list that you can practice today to affirm to yourself you've made the decision to master awareness?


The 5 Reasons I Started a Mastermind

Sometimes, incremental progress will do the trick. Other times, only a breakthrough will do. 

2015 was a year I needed a breakthrough. I needed to put myself in an environment that I knew from past experience is a fertile ground for making a quantum leap: a mastermind. 

What is a mastermind?

In the seminal book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill called a mastermind "the coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony."

By the time I read Think and Grow Rich, though, I was already well acquainted with the mastermind concept. I had my first experience with the concept working with Ray Waits and Associates in the 1990's. Ray ran an excellent motivation/success/personal development program in Charleston that was taught to small groups. The graduates of these programs were encouraged to segue into mastermind groups that continued ongoing. These masterminds were typically 5-10 motivated, high-energy types who would meet weekly in a "round table" format to support each other's success.

At the time I did Ray's program and joined my first mastermind, I was a young entrepreneur in the fitness industry. The mastermind concept seeded by the program had such an enormous impact for me that I more than doubled the size of my business within a year. 

Over the ensuing years, I participated in several other masterminds. I started and facilitated a group as well as participating in others led by people who had worked with Ray and his system. 

In retrospect, I realized that every time I was in a mastermind, breakthroughs happened. I was able to take my business and personal life past previous ceilings, conceptualize innovative new strategies, and put into practice systems and habits that led to rapid and sustained growth. 

So the timing was right to start such a group this past autumn. As I recently posted on Facebook, "Third anniversary of losing Constance to cancer and also the third anniversary of meeting Meaghan, who became the love of my life. She joined my life in a time of loss and has been there for the last three years during which time I've lost my father, Constance, and 7 other people very close to me. I haven't really had a break from grief the whole time. I hope soon she gets to know me for who I am when I'm not surrounded by loss. It's coming."

 I had lost multiple people, including my girlfriend, father, and quite a few close friends over a short time. And I realized the losses had affected me in numerous ways. I had lost my focus on serving my business' clients at the high standard I usually hold myself and my teammates to. I was taking little business conflicts personally. My passion for music, which had become a big part of life, playing regular shows with my original rock band Air Sculptures, was essentially gone. 

So, I needed a mastermind. And, seemingly by magic, the right people were showing up around me. A I write this, I am five months into and feeling like a new person, with an exciting new business vision and renewed vigor for enjoying life

So, here are the 5 key things a mastermind does for me, the core reasons I started it, and what joining one can do for you, too:

1. Accountability

Self employed professionals and entrepreneurs like myself often lack the accountability of a boss that a traditional employee has, or the board of directors that the leader of a larger business will report to. The mastermind can serve this "board of directors" function and hold the participant accountable to fulfilling commitments to actualize plans. When I have a group of motivated peers reviewing my success in accomplishing the steps towards a goal every week, I'm a lot more likely to follow through.

2. Motivation

We are all affected by our peers. Since it was my intent to create breakthroughs and succeed at a high level, I knew I needed to surround myself with like-minded people in an atmosphere of support. Also, using some goal setting methods similar to what Ray Waits used in his groups and incorporating success strategies I know from NLP, we are utilizing the group dynamic to accelerate personal achievement and make the group a breeding ground for creating a highly motivated state and focusing it on clear, specific goals.

3. Structured Plan Development

A Mastermind, utilizing the group dynamic, can run the gamut from a very unstructured brainstorming group to tightly structured methods of plan development and actualization. This particular group is relatively structured, as I felt that is what I needed.  It's also something I had to offer to the other members, using my experiences in business planning and familiarity with various goal setting and activity tracking strategies. 

4. Multiple Perspectives

I was looking for a diverse group because I have found great value in having people from very different industries and backgrounds look at and give feedback on my plans. Jay Abraham, one of my favorite marketing experts, is an advocate for "importing" success strategies from different types of business into your own. Having a mastermind composed of people from very different backgrounds makes the group a place where this can happen.

5. The Power of Shared Belief

There is an exponential effect to having multiple minds focused with belief on the achievement of a result. Having other people who are successful and credible see your goals as if they are already accomplished cuts right through your mental barriers like a machete through warm Jell-O. In the face of a challenge, this can shift your state to one of intense, motivated focus. 

If you are at a place in your life where you are ready to break through barriers, internal or otherwise, and achieve high results that connect with what you value, consider starting or joining a mastermind group. A mastermind formed with the right people and managed effectively, can be the springboard for achieving at levels that may surprise you.

 


Two Extra Strategies for Marketing from Glass Houses

We are Marketing from Glass Houses

Glasshouse3

Traditional marketing is educating the market about the distinctive benefits of a company's products or services.

In advertising, we can be great entertainers, and share a wonderful and compelling vision of the distinctive benefits we offer. We can create a story full of drama that is vividly colorful and backed by powerful music and fireworks.

And all this will be like a small poster on the side of a glass house. Prospective customers might notice that poster or not... but, they will definitely be looking around it, through the glass walls.

Through those glass walls, they will know something of what it's like to be a customer of your company. They'll see it in the Yelp and Google reviews. They'll hear it in the stories people tell on social media. They'll feel it by stepping in the shoes of the storytellers the Internet has given so much power to.

The days of being able to successfully grow by marketing with advertising alone are over.

It's time to turn our marketing focus inward and through the company. We now need to:

  1. Look at and optimize every prospect and customers touch point. And, we need to
  2. Have a unified team with a clear mission supporting those exquisite touches.

So, at least as much as we are projecting outward with media, we need catalysts to look inwards and create reality tunnels full of ever growing delight that go from the outside in. "Delight is at the end of the tunnel", as Richard Bandler, co-developer of NLP, would say. I would add that delight needs to be on the tunnel entrance and walls as well.  If we want to stand out as the exceptional choice in our niche, we need to emulate Walt Disney designing a theme park ride and consider every point of contact in its sensory detail and effect on the emotions.

 

Stories

 

How well are your touch points defined in terms of the emotions and experience you want to elicit in your customers, clients, and team? How many ways have you experimented with different pathways to satisfying the needs you address?

Also, like an aquarium, where the plants and fish come more fully to life as the temperature becomes perfect, these experience touch points of customer engagement grow best in the environment of a deeply aligned team. Both the people that customers and prospects connect with and those who support those people should come from a place of congruence with a clear mission that speaks to customer empathy and leadership.

So, it's not just about media anymore. When we combine the web media with optimized customer touch points and a deeply aligned team, the magic happens and the positive customer stories that emerge from this environment do much of the marketing work for us.

 

Touch-Map

So, the marketing agency or consultant of the future needs a toolkit that includes not only media generation, but also customer interaction optimization tools like NLP and organizational alignment tools like Systems Thinking. We can't just create beautiful marketing posters to put on glass houses.