Are you worried that your student lacks the concentration and organizational skills to be successful when they leave for college?
It’s been awhile since I left for college and my mom founded Aiming Higher Consultants. I was 19 when I went away and I’ll soon turn 32. My mom was pretty anxious about how I’d do when I left home, though she hid it well. She had reason to be. I fit what I now know to be a pretty common pattern – I was a smart, cocky kid who excelled at certain things but was very disorganized and tended to ignore anything I didn’t want to do.
Now, on one level, you could say that my mom was just being too worried for no reason. I never failed a class or forgot to pay rent on time. Everything that really needed to get done, got done. I made it through college with honors, a few rough spots aside, and my career as a whole has gone ok. Truthfully, most cocky young guys do ok. However, we are still a lot more likely to crash and burn than other temperaments – I’ve known a lot of us that have.
But, success has a wide range. I’m decently successful, but could have been a lot more so if I’d started off knowing what I know now.
Just because you can get away with being sloppy doesn’t mean you will prosper.
I got away without really being that organized for most of my life, but it did cost me. In time, in headaches, in money, and, worst of all, in opportunity. My unwillingness to deal with things I didn’t like was something I got away with, but it made my life a lot harder earlier in my career and kept me from progressing as fast as I should have. Looking back, if I would have known a few techniques for pushing through unwanted work more efficiently, I would have been a lot more successful.
Now, I’m not here to talk about organization, or doing what needs to be done even when it isn’t interesting. Both of these are important, but they’re not the point. At the end of the day, what really matters is focus.
Focus is arguably the most important skill across almost all disciplines.
Focus is arguably the most important skill across almost all disciplines. Those who have excellent focus almost always succeed to some level, even if they’re not the most talented. Those who lack focus usually stumble, even if they ARE the most talented. Focus is closely related to organization and is the critical quality that allows you to keep doing the necessary work even when you don’t want to.
More importantly, focus can be improved, often radically.
If you can combine elite-level focus with high ability, you’re virtually unstoppable in high school, college, or career.
I didn’t always think of it this way. I thought that focus was more or less innate, and couldn’t be changed that much. Further, I didn’t think it was that important. I figured as long as you could sort of focus and worked decently hard, that intelligence was what made the difference. In other words, I thought that being smart excused certain sloppy habits of mind otherwise.
I was wrong on all counts.
Now that I’m in my thirties looking back over my twenties, there is nothing I regret more than that belief. Not even close.
I’m living proof that you can improve focus, and from what I’ve seen among many friends, classmates, and coworkers, focus is THE critical ingredient to success. It completely blows through most differences in native ability and even number of hours worked. The ability to work with complete focus for just half an hour at a time is a superpower, especially these days, when most young people are having their brainpower drained off by distractions such as phones and social media.
If you take two people of about the same intelligence who put in about the same number of hours, but one of them spends most of those hours completely focused and the other, like most people, only sort of focuses, the difference in output will be immense. Further, as it compounds (think compound interest) over 3 years, 5 years, a decade, a career, the difference just keeps growing more rapidly.
Focus does lots of interesting things. For one thing, it makes you a lot better at the things you’re interested in. In practice, getting better focus is often almost indistinguishable from getting smarter. It also makes you better at everything else, even those things you don’t like to do.
A lot of the reason people like me avoid doing things we don’t like is because we’re not efficient at them. For example, my sister doesn’t like filling out insurance paperwork either, but she does it without thinking twice and moves on. Up until recently, my mediocre focus combined with worse-than-mediocre administrative faculties meant that I would sit down, try to do it, get stuck or distracted, and spend longer than my sister would spend, while still not getting it done.
Do that a few times and you learn to absolutely dread the process. Which means you put it off, and eventually it comes back to bite you, or eventually you do it but incur all kinds of headaches. It takes longer, and your odds of making a mistake are higher.
When you really understand focus, like I learned to, you know that the key to highly effective focus is to always know what to do next. When you upgrade your focus, you get more organized almost instantly.
…when you upgrade your focus, you get more organized almost instantly.
Focus is not just the absence of distraction, in much the same way that true health is not just the absence of disease. Focus is a faculty, like musical ability or problem solving. Most standard productivity advice never goes beyond removing distractions. This certainly helps, but it’s never going to make you elite.
I had some key insights over the past few years that allowed me to understand what focus really is and how to cultivate it. The results have been dramatic.
It’s hard to say exactly, but I would subjectively estimate that I’m 3X to 6X more productive than I was when I finished grad school and started working in 2014. When I compare focus to a superpower, I’m not kidding. Focus can turn underachievers into high achievers and high achievers into superstars.
…3X to 6X more productive…
Helping your teen grasp the secrets of focus can revolutionize their life and set them up for success in all their future endeavors.
Right now you may be worried about that part. If your students are like I was, you’re probably often frustrated that you can’t seem to get through to them. You can’t quite figure out why they can’t apply their obvious gifts more widely. Maybe you’re worried that they won’t make it when they leave home and no longer have you to keep them on track, that they won’t live up to their incredible potential. These worries and frustrations are completely normal. I know I certainly put my mom through them.
The good news is that I’m here to help you and your students through these stubborn roadblocks so they can fulfill their potential. Feel free to browse the helpful articles on my blog. I’d also like to invite you to subscribe to my free weekly emails which will feature some of my best tips and tricks to help you and your loved ones achieve superpower-like focus. I’m also giving you a copy of my report, The Top 5 Focus Killers for free so you can start your journey to radically increased productivity. Don’t worry, I won’t spam you and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Additionally, I’m giving away a limited number of free 30-minute coaching sessions to my subscribers. Mention that you found me through the Aiming Higher newsletter and I will do my best to give you (or your student or spouse) priority for one of the limited number of free sessions.
This offer is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so don’t wait – act NOW!
I can’t wait to hear from you!
William Austin Webb
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