Have Laser Sharp Focus by Coming Back from the Brink

My mother used to tell me, “If what you are doing is worth doing, then do it with your best effort.” And how are you supposed to bring out your best effort? By having a laser sharp focus, concentrating all your energies into executing the plan until it bores fruit.

When I was in college, the students I knew who are inspiring and have a larger than life persona are focused. They are very committed in the cause they are doing. But you may argued, “Lu, I don’t know what I want to do yet, I don’t have a focus in life. So, why should I spend so much energy on something that might not provide and returns?”

It doesn’t matter. What is important is that you are convicted to do something and you spend time and energy to nurture it. Such commitment begot success, and such achievements in return will bore out opportunities. As long as your focus is apparent, it is fine because everyone wants to side with a winner.

It is a everyday script, imbedded within you. You like to be with the winner, and you want to be a winner too. But, to become a winner in the first place, you have to have focus.

This piece about Bob Parson, the founder of GoDaddy, was precisely about having that focus.

He had sold a previous company for $60 million, and had spent his wealth building GoDaddy. His wealth fell to $25 million, then $15 million. With just $6 million left, he decided to take a retreat and consider whether he should give in.

He took a trip by himself to Hawaii and decided to quit while he still had money. He worked out how he would divide what was left: pay off creditors, give employees bonuses, and squirrel away a little for himself.

After checking out, about to head home, waiting outside his hotel for his car, he noticed one of the valets. He was about Parsons’ age. He was smiling and joking. He seemed to love his work.

This valet changed Parsons’ perspective and thereby his life. Parson thought, “If GoDaddy fails, I’ll just park cars.” It didn’t seem that bad a life after all.

He threw out his plans and calculations and decided to go for it.

He went ahead to the do or die simulation. This allows him to focus his thoughts, not on whether would this work out, to a how can I overcome this obstacle. There is a change in mentality to a must win mindset. You see, people have an inherent fear of failure. The greatest stumbling block to humanity’s achievement was the initial fear itself to start something for fear of failing. Here, Bob Parson accessed his worse case scenario, where he would just start all over again. He could live with that.

Then I thought coldly, honestly, clinically about failure. I realized it would not be as bad as I feared and that there were a few simple things I could do to reduce the downside risk.

Then I decided to go all in.

He did that, and that’s what makes all the difference. This mentality influence was noted a long time ago, only that the worst case scenario is harsher. In the Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote about war strategy and tactics. One of them involves burning down the boats. Now, this is a real do or die scenario.

Essentially, he suggested to remove any return routes (boats) to help push the army forward. This does not mean keeping some boats afloat, just in case. This actually means to burn down all boats and the reasons to back out with them, and put all your energy and focus towards moving forward – together. I can imagine the conversation between the soldiers go like this:

Soldier A: I’d just burnt off all our boats.

Soldier B: But why? We don’t have any escape route if the enemy push us back.

Soldier A: Well, since we are going to die anyway. Won’t it be better to fight forward and win to live another day.

What do you think the mentality of Soldier B will be like after this. It is corny but human behavior is the same over the millennia. You can achieve the best result only if you have focus. With the boats burned, the little voice that was speaking in the back of the head “what if you fail” suddenly turns to “I can’t fail”. Which side do you think won the war on that day?