Focus for Success

One of the mentoring topics in our student mentoring program at ShikshaDaan is “Focus”. Krishnan and I realised early on that many of the students that ShikshaDaan gives scholarships to have a huge problem to deal with – DISTRACTIONS. It has to be written in all Caps because distractions derail many of us and particularly young students. They struggle to stay focussed and in the process success is delayed, sometimes denied.

Late Steve Jobs, the iconic CEO of Apple was famous for two things – his laser sharp focus and his ability to discover a need long before his customers could. While the ability to discover the customer’s need before they do may be an inborn talent, his focussed approach to work is easier to emulate

A story from Mahabharata to illustrate the value of focus.

Arjuna’s Focus and the Eye of the Bird

Once, Guru Dronacharya, who was the training both the Kauravas and Pandavas at Hastinapur overheard Duryodhana (the eldest Kaurava) accusing him of favoring Arjuna and ignoring the rest. Arjuna was considered the greatest archer of his times. Guru Dronacharya wanted to Duryodhana to know that he didn’t favour Arjuna, but that Arjuna’s ability with the bow and arrow was extraordinary.

Guru Dronacharya decided to test the young Kauravas and Pandavas. He hung a wooden bird on the branch of a tree, gathered all his pupils and announced the test. Every student had to strike the eye of the wooden bird.

The first to try the test was Yudhisthir, and he failed. Guru Dronacharya asked him, what he saw. Yudhisthira replied – “I saw the wooden bird, hanging from the branch and the green leaves moving with the slight breeze.” Then Duryodhana came up for the test and he too failed. Again, Guru Dronacharya asked him, what he saw. Duryodhana replied – “I saw the wooden bird, and the blue sky behind the tree.” One after the other, the Kauravas and Pandavas kept coming to take the test and every one of them failed.

The last person Guru Dronacharya called was Arjuna. He was the only one to pass the test !! He hit the eye of the wooden bird. When Guru Dronacharya asked him “what did you see?”, Arjuna replied “The eye of the bird”.

The leaves, the branch, the blue sky everything else except the eye of the bird was a distraction. Arjuna passed the test because he was focussed. He removed all the distractions and his focus was laser sharp – he could only see the eye of the bird.

Pic taken from the internet.

Do you have that kind of focus ?

I struggle with it too. Sometimes I am able to have that focus and the work done is outstanding. Then sometimes I get distracted and nothing gets done.

One of the hacks to bring that kind of focus is learning to prioritise. Krishnan and I use Stephen Covey’s method of prioritisation – putting in the big rocks before filling the pitcher of water with gravel and sand. The big rocks are the most important things that you want to do in a given day. Get those done before doing anything else.

Once your priorities for the day are done, you can always answer emails, watch social media or just loaf around.

Steve Jobs spoke about prioritisation and focus when he addressed hundreds of employees at Yahoo – The 1 Brutal Question Every Leader Should Be Able to Answer, According to Steve Jobs

Am reposting it here as a pdf –

Do learn to prioritise and to focus on those priorities. You will get a lot more done.

Multitasking is one of the most terrible concepts to have entered the corporate lingo because one really can’t multitask. You can only delegate effectively and appear to be multitasking !!

Success comes from Focusing on priorities.


5 thoughts on “Focus for Success”

  1. I have to focus on “Be here now”, including being with the distractions. Just now, I was trying to plug in an electric blanket, because seasons are changing, and I get cold at night. But my sister’s cat let himself in the screen door and wanted to play with the cords. I had to negotiate around the cat, while running the risk of getting clawed in Oliver’s excitement. I then had to find the plug on the blanket and on the wall and to set everything up so I could find the control in the dark but not allow it to fall on the floor. All this with Oliver’s help. Now he’s sleeping on the blanket, and I still haven’t made dinner. It’s 9 pm edt here on October 19, 2023.

    Now to focus on my hunger . . .

  2. It’s me again, feeding my focus. It’s now 9:30 pm edt on Friday, October 27. Oliver is sleeping in my lap, and I just listened to an interview with Vandana Shiva by Karl Grossman on sustainable agriculture. She tells about how multi-national corporations have taken over governments with the food industry, among other things.

    She gives a little of her history, from back in the 1980s, when women from her mountain district in India went out and hugged trees to protect them from being cut. She says that’s when she started saving seeds and starting community seed-saving banks, to protect biodiversity in the face of GMO crops and herbicides/pesticides. I like what she says and have listened to her a lot on YouTube. Would be interested in your opinion.

      • OK. I’m willing to wait. I learned this morning that PM Modi has taken some stands for India regarding Canada and its PM, Justin Trudeau. You and Vandana Shiva both seem to like Modi. Therefore, from my distant perspective, I like him, too.

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