Focus: The Secret to High Performance and Fulfillment

Feb 09, 2020

There's two kinds of distractors:

  • Sensory - what we see or hear around us
  • Emotional - thoughts about things, usually that didn't go well, relationship oriented concerns

During learning, the more disrupted the attention is, the harder it is to build the cumulative mental models that amount to mastery in any endeavor.

Three modes of attention

Performance with Stress Hormones, is an inverted U graph.

Utterly absorbed, skills, flexible, adaptable.

Frazzle: Constant Stress, high end of stress

If you're not engaged in what you're doing, your cortisol level is too low.

Mind wandering is the opposite of focus, but it is also extremely valuable.

Mind wandering is essential for creativity. During mind wandering we're able to make connection between remote elements in a novel way. However, when you want to execute on your creative insight,  you need to be in a state of focus.


Requires 3 kinds of focus:

  • Inner focus - somatic markers, the part of our brain that is not words, that we use to make decisions that require calling our entire life experience. This is another type of knowledge, and the ability to tune into this kind of knowledge is extremely valuable. Inner awareness and inner focus is essential.

Study of California Entrepreneurs about how they make decisions: I'm a voracious gatherer of information, I want to see the numbers, but if it doesn't feel right, I won't go ahead with the deal.

  • Other focus - be able to understand other people. 3 kinds of empathy:
    • cognitive: I understand how you think about things
    • emotional: immediate sense of what's going on in the other person
    • empathic concern: if there's something you need, I can help you with that. Cultivates loyalty
  • Outer focus - important in formulating strategy, need to understand the ecosystem within which your organization operates, be able to sense what's going to work, what we'll need to do in the future, systems-view, big picture view.

There are two kinds of strategic thinking:

  • exploitation - take a product that's already working and keep improving it
  • exploration - to see what else is going on, competition etc.

Attention is a mental muscle. It can be trained the same way as physical muscles.

We depend on externals to grab our attention. Our economy is built on the grabbing of attention.

  • Habituation is what the brain does when it see the same old thing day after day. After a while you don't see it, you brain economizes on attention.
  • Orienting is opening up whenever the brain encounters something new, novel and surprising. It excites the brain.
Neuroplasticity: repeated experiences shape the brain. Use it or lose it.

The ability to manage emotions is inextricably linked with the ability to pay attention.

Maturity is lengthening the gap between impulse and action

Cognitive control, the ability the keep your mind here, or back when it wanders, is a better predictor of financial success and health, their either IQ or the social economic status of the family.

Kids learn by modeling behaviour.

Emotinal contagion: Emotions are contagious. We can all devleop and pass positive emotion by paying more attention.

Malnourishment can impede full brain development in childhood.

Book: Mind Whispering

Martin Seligman

Aaron Beck

Good Work

  • What are we good at?
  • What are we passionate about?
  • What do we value?

Epigenetics: It's not the genes you have, its what genes turn on and off


A student of business, self-improvement, human behavior, economics, the financial system, practical digital technology and now digital marketing

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