My theme words for this season of life are simplify and focus. I even jotted these words on a note and hung it on my wall next to my computer at work. Every day in every way, I think: simplify and focus.
As Richard Koch demonstrates in his book about the 80/20 principle, complex is ugly, but simple is beautiful. Additionally, the Heath brothers show the value of simplicity in Made to Stick, which I’m re-listening to on drives to work.
Simplicity is about getting to the core. It’s about cutting away fluff. This fluff can include great ideas and brilliant insights. The fluff might involve worthy goals and activities. However, if it sidetracks from the core message, it detracts.
One of my problems has been the pursuit of general knowledge at the expense of specialized knowledge. I have always enjoyed taking in and assimilating a large amount of facts and knowledge. However, this can easily detract from focus. It can sidetrack from a major, definite life purpose.
Without focus we are like ships tossed upon waves with no motor, rudder, or sails. With focus we can be like a ship channeling the natural energy of the wind in its sails to move swiftly toward a specific objective.
Focus is about knowing and planning for what I want, even emphasizing this definite desire at the expense of many other good and worthy things.
Recently I was browsing courses on a training website, and I took samples from various courses, some of which directly pertained to my major objectives during this season of life. Other portions of the content represented “general knowledge,” things that were nice to know but not specifically useful for current application.
As I reflected on my mixture of general and specific knowledge, I determined that my focused work time would be best devoted nearly exclusively to specific knowledge. For example, I am steadily focusing on building my website. I need to learn WordPress inside and out, as well as related web skills.
I can spend some “mental downtime” relaxing and pursuing general knowledge for my own enjoyment, amusement, and future creative use. For example, I could watch an introductory lecture about something I won’t likely use in the near future, such as 3-D printing. Knowing a little about 3-D printing could help me stay abreast of recent technological developments, and it’s relatively interesting. However, I should not let this detract from pursuing the core of my specialized knowledge regarding web development and career development.
Focus and simplify. Simplify and focus. How much more productive we would be if we consistently decided what we wanted, wrote down goals, made a definite decision to focus, and then took action. That is the way to achieve mastery in any area of life.