In a world constantly bombarded with information, options, and distractions of all kinds, it can be difficult to remain attentive to one thing for five minutes, let alone long enough to see a goal through to the end. Perhaps this is why we are so impressed and attracted to people who know what they are about, what they are doing, how to do it, and how their contribution fits into the whole. Regardless of the reason, the calm energy of single-minded focus not only helps us achieve our goals but also draws people to us.
What is focus?
Focus is the ability to aim at one outcome – zero in on one goal – without allowing yourself to be pulled off course by distractions or disappointments.
Imagine you are at a crowded gathering, speaking to an influential person. As you chat, that person never takes her eyes off of you; she asks interesting questions and acts as though you are the most important person in the room. That’s focus in the moment, and it’s a key skill of successful public leaders and entertainers.
Now, imagine you are setting up a performance schedule. Instead of taking every gig that’s offered (a common problem for classical musicians struggling to make a living) you are selective – choosing only those gigs that serve your higher goal. That’s long-term focus.
Of course, it’s possible to focus on the wrong thing. If you’re focusing on technical perfection during a performance, focusing only on the dots on the page instead of communicating with your audience, your performance will come across as flat and you as performer – boring. However, if you are focused on delivering a particular experience to your audience from the moment they hit the parking lot until the moment they leave it is impossible to give a boring performance.
How to achieve focus
1. Eliminate distractions
We generally think of distractions as time wasters like spending too much time on social media or staring out the window. However, the most dangerous distractions are often just our second best goals.
Warren Buffet, the billionaire, was coaching Mike Flint, his personal pilot of ten years. Buffet asked Flint to write down his top 25 career goals on a piece of paper. Then he asked him to look at that list, and write the five most important goals on another piece of paper. When he’d finished this, Flint agreed that he should begin working on the first item of the short list immediately. Buffet asked him what he planned to do with the things on the second list, and Flint said since they were important, he would fit them in where he could.
“You’ve got it all wrong, Mike,” said Buffet. “The things on that second list are the Avoid-at-All-Cost items. Those are the things that will most easily distract you and lead you away from your most important goals. Don’t even look at that list until you’ve achieved the things on the short list.” It is impossible to do everything at once. Decide what you are going to focus on for now, and cross everything else off the list.
2. Learn to say no in service of a higher yes
Stop running around taking every gig offered. Decide on your desired outcome and only pursue and accept jobs that serve that purpose. This can be really challenging. It requires you to make a decision (at least for the short term) about what kind of performer you’re going to be. That’s ok. Eliminating options actually makes success easier and more likely – your energy isn’t diluted, it’s directed.
3. Set your intention before every performance
Before you even arrive at a venue to perform, decide what outcome you want for your audience. What do you want them to feel? How are you going to facilitate that? Remember, your job as a performer is to communicate. Music happens to be the language that you’re using to do that, but WHAT you are communicating is more important than how you’re doing it. Decide ahead of time what your desired message is and focus on delivering that from the first moment until the last.
If you are ready to take charge of your performing career, avoid the feast-or-famine cycle, and achieve your goals, pop over to Concert University and find out how we can help!