focus

Deep work & distractions

To be a champion is easy. The best of champions make it appear easy, that is. That perhaps is part of the problem.

Becoming a champion takes hard work. That is common knowledge. Cognitivitely well understood and digested. To become one, is a different ask. Check with people who have been enticed enough, have started out well only to realise soon that it isnt something for them. There are quite a few of us who have been down that road. Taken by the glamour of the winning moment and the happiness of the winning moment.

Champion stuff that one sees in the public is prepped by boring stuff that goes in preparation. The internet chronicles the practice regimen of champions. Kobe Bryant, Djokovic and several others share a stellar reputation.

Deliberate practice has been much written about. Read my piece here 

There are several things that can come in the way of becoming a champion. One of course, is not having enough inside. Be it talent, perseverance and the ability to scale challenges. But the other and perhaps a more vexing problem is that of distractions.

Modern day living has a few ubiquitous challenges. For one, interests and distractions are aplenty. Have you noticed how intrusions that had work hard to have our attention are having it easy? The tiny flicker of the LED light on your mobile phone. A beep announcing the arrival of a new whatsapp message. A new mail. Whatever! Our lives have been permanently etched with notifications. That sad story for another time.

On another plane, have you checked out the latest hobby possibilities? From collector or old documentaries to wood carving to Electronics to gaming. The list is long! The trouble is, something or the other seems even more enticing than the one at hand. Each nudges you to try it out. And as interest paves way for trial the scaling of one more hobby hill is attempted. All this is good, except that these can be distractions.

Distractions that can keep perfections and depth in a few fields at bay.  It is a challenge of the modern age. The finite element that is available to us is that of time. Discipline in deploying that time with wisdom and care makes much of a difference.

Omar Bradely, the famous Five Star Joint Chief of Staff of the USA has several prescient comments to his credit. The best in my opinion, is this.

It is time that we steered by the stars, not by the lights of each passing ship.1 (1)

 

It is in our ability to say ‘No’ to the interesting and stay focused on the essentials that we can achieve greater depth & perfection. It isn’t easy. The ‘interesting’ often holds allure far beyond the dull drudgery of immediate work. At least, it seems so. Champion stuff is also about sacrifice. Personal sacrifice. Sacrifice of the interesting and the immediate to honour the important and the long-term.

To stay away from the cake that’s on the plate, so that the marathon that is coming six months later, could probably be run better, is a tall ask. And that is exactly the stuff champions are made of.  They have it in them to stay blind to the lights of the passing ships and stay trained on the North Star.

There is a book out there by the name of Deep Work. Go read.