Learning the Discipline of Focus from a Juggling Coach


A year and a half ago, three people presented our team with individual business opportunities. The first was to expand geographically. The second, to develop a new line of business. And the third was to target a new customer segment.

Each opportunity, and the person presenting it, seemed like the right bet at the right time, so we went for all three.

Not one has met the original expectations.

What are those expectations? It’s difficult to say exactly. That’s because, while I knew what was possible going into each opportunity, the milestones along the way weren’t well defined. Instead, we have alternated focus across all three based on whichever currently demands the most attention.

In time, I’m hopeful that all three prospects will be successful. I still think each is a great opportunity with excellent people involved doing the right things. But whether they are or not, we will have learned some useful lessons from juggling these different initiatives, and one of them is this:

Get good at one thing at a time.

Insights from Juggling

When I talk about juggling these three opportunities, it’s in the metaphorical sense, but I’ve realized there are some insights we can take away from the literal practice of juggling. Six months ago, my ten-year old sons joined a juggling club. While juggling itself is fun and impressive, it’s the structure of the club that has our entire family hooked. The leader of the club explicitly says that his mission is to build focus and incremental goal-setting ability.

He does this through several methods, and two of these methods have helped me to understand why our team may be trailing expectations on our three opportunities:

Standards

The juggling club is setup by activities and levels. Activities include tossing three to six balls, juggling bowling pins, balancing on a ball while juggling, balancing a pin on your nose and a feather on your chin, and variations on tosses. Each activity has levels, or standards, to demonstrate proficiency. You focus on one activity per day (e.g., juggle three balls), set a goal to achieve a standard (e.g., juggle ten right-hand throws in a row), and then work on a higher standard or different activity.

After the first day of the club, and continuing today, our boys can tell us exactly which standards they’ve met for each activity. They know what is expected, they know where they stand, they know what’s possible, and they are incrementally growing.

Focus

The leader of the juggling club, or one of his experienced youth staff, stand in front of the club members while they attempt to meet standards. They coach for technique, they encourage, and they help the kids see the connection between juggling and life.

I listened in on this process when I recently picked up the boys at club. Standing there in my work attire, I thought, This is good for the boys, but I wasn’t prepared for how it might be good for me.

The leader of the club calmly coached one of my sons during the frustration of not achieving a standard. Exasperated, my son dropped the balls and said, “I’m going to do a different activity.”

“FOCUS stands for follow one course until successful,” said the leader. “Stay focused. Keep doing this one activity until you meet the standard.”

That lesson was for me!

Maybe you’re juggling kids, aging parents, health, managing people, or different projects at work. Are you clearly defining the performance standards that mark successful progress? Are you committed to doing each activity until standards have been met?

In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport explains that we are becoming increasingly scattered and thin in our focus. We have many competing demands for our time and attention. And yet, he explains, research and study of the most successful people indicates deep focus rather than shallow attention is key to success.

Where do you need to follow one course until successful?

For more information on this amazing juggling program visit Jugheads.com.

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