Focus: A success story 10,000 hours in the making

02 Nov 2016

Focus: A success story 10,000 hours in the making

The other day I went to a party where I met a lot of interesting though intimidating people. When asked about what they did, they invariably said at least three things.

 “I am a writer, an actor, a wanderer and a romantic.”

“I am the CEO of a start-up software company. I am also a theatre practitioner. I also run an NGO with my wife.”

“I am part of an experimental learning organization. I am also a yoga teacher. I am also a freelance chef.”

Then my turn came. And I almost invariably had the same response. “I am a coach.” Sometimes, feeling inadequate, I would say things like, “I am a leadership coach” or “I am a coach. I deal in transformation through stories.”

I soon got tired of my posturing.

Of course I am not suggesting one must not define and sell oneself compellingly in social situations. These are, after all, places where one can build leads. But I got tired of needing to augment my core work with other pretty qualifiers. What was wrong with just saying I was a coach? If someone was the CEO of a software start-up then why pad it with NGO work unless asked? Why were people, myself included, bolstering our work descriptions so they sounded chunky and significant? What is wrong with saying and doing just one thing? Does it make us any less valuable in society? I don’t think so. Multi-tasking has gotten glorified. Focus is not as attractive to us anymore. But mastery and security come from focus.

Al Ries, the famous marketing guru, was a big fan of focus when it came to brand building. He was in favour of brands associating themselves with one thing and then doing that one thing really well. He said that was how a brand built its reputation and credibility. This doesn’t mean one fails to adapt to changing market needs. All it means is one does not spread oneself too thin.

You may argue that some people are good at multiple things. I can write code, play music and cook fantastic meals. Why can’t I do them all? By all means, you should! But everyone has one core capability that outweighs all the others and research shows that a minimum of 10,000 hours invested in one’s core skill is what takes to go from good to great.

Leonardo da Vinci was a mathematician, painter, physicist, writer and architect. But in the end, his fame rests on painting. We do not study his theorems in school.

C S Lewis was a writer, lecturer, theologian, speaker and radio show host. But in the end it is for his Narnia books that he is most famous. Those books are the culmination of his core talent – writing fantasy stories that offered graceful consolation for difficult questions. 

In the same way, you too will have one core focus area. Have you identified it yet? If you haven’t, think about seeing a coach who can help you narrow down your multiple interests and identify the one that works for you.

If you know your core focus area, then you know what to do.

1. Invest a minimum of 8 hours in the core focus area every day. That’s 1920 hours a year. If 10,000 is the number of hours it takes to become a master that means you will take around 5 years to become a master, give or take a few years.

2. A master is someone who can execute his talent predictably at a reasonably high level of competence and get paid for it.

3. How many more hours for you to become a master of your focus area?

Forget about everything else. Zero in on the core focus. Put in the hours!

About the Author:

Sandhya Reddy is a leadership & transformation coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.

Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, business coaching, personality development, leadership coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals, get that elusive promotion through a blend of knowledge, action and image-building, enhance influence among the leadership team, be more productive, get more out of one’s team, and be known in the company as an indispensable performer and future leader.


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