Screenshot from Interstellar (2014) Trailer

Screenshot from Interstellar (2014) Trailer

How to achieve laser like focus

The following might start off sounding a little silly, but bear with me, there is a point to this post.

Lately I've been feeling a bit bogged down and generally indiffernt with life. As a result, focus is a luxury that has been hard to come by. I haven't really been able to pinpoint the cause of this general malaise, that was, until I watched Interstellar (Christopher Nolan's latest Sci-fi epic). 

My Epiphany in Interstellar (2014)

There was a specific scene which led me arrive at an epiphany of sorts, in regards to my malaise and I am thankful that it did. I guess I could think of worst places and situations to have a meaningful epiphany. 

I enjoyed the movie, and would recommend it to you, but to be clear; this is not that type of post.

In a storyline-nutshell, Matthew McConaughey's character (Cooper) basically has to save the human race from the dying Earth by venturing out into the unknown Universe in the (slim) hopes of finding a new home / planet for the human race.

The scene which led me to my epiphany was an especially powerful scene where Cooper has to leave his friends, family (crying daughter) and all that he knows on the slim hope that he will be able to save the human race. He leaves willingly, knowing that the likelihood of mission success is close to zero, and the possibility of returning, even less.

The grand narrative of this film and it's protagonist could literally not be more epic, and I am fully aware that it is just a film. Even so, this helped me realise through contrast, all the insignificant noise that had silently crept into my life; thing's that I could care less about.

I don't know how these thing's made their way into my life, slowly building to a critical mass and I guess the point of any epiphany is that it all doesn't matter. It is all just noise, meaningless distractions keeping me from what truly matters.

Cut the noise

I think the reason why I’ve been feeling so bogged down lately, is because I am surrounded by so many things I don’t care about. It is a toxic situation to be in because it has left me feeling paralysed with indifference.

This scene helped me reach an epiphany, because it helped me reflect on what actually matters in my life and how I let my life be filled with so much noise that was distracting me. It put into perspective the grand battle which we all face: our race against time and mortality in the hopes of making a difference before we expire.

Noise, to me, are the things that bother and occupy my time and thoughts yet mean nothing to me in the greater scheme of things. Issues like being surrounded by toxic people, working at a job that I could care less about, constantly looking for the exits in the room because I don't want to be there and having no real purpose to wake up in the mornings.

It could also be things that are not necessarily harmful or negative in my life. If it isn't bringing value or helping me get that one step closer to things I care about, then it is a distraction. I think the reason why I've been feeling so bogged down lately, is because I am surrounded by so many things that I don't care about. It is a toxic situation to be in because it has left me feeling paralysed with indifference.

When you truly think about it at a deeper level, you'll know that you can cut out so many trivial things in your life that don't matter to you. Our limited capacity for true focus and the finite time we have to spare means that we'll only be able to achieve so much in our short lives.

Stop participating in meaningless gossip and politics. Stop hanging around people that bring no value to your life and are only around to bring you down. Stop those unhealthy habits that are slowly chipping away at your life. Stop everything, it's all just noise.

Refocus on what matters

Once you reevaluate all the noise in your life and cut it all out, you'll be left only with what genuinely matters. Then all that's left to do is to redirect your energy and prioritise your efforts into purely focusing on those things. That is how you can achieve laser sharp focus.

To illustrate this point, a great anecdote comes to mind in regards to unwavering focus. I read an article on Forbes where Steve Jobs of Apple displayed his legendary inexorable focus. The article tells a story of a doctor who once went to Steve with a great idea, one that would revolutionise medicine. The doctor had come up with a relatively sophisticated program (at the time) to help diagnose heart disease. He flew to Steve's office for a meeting in order to try and convince Steve to help distribute the program to doctors through their Macintosh computers.

Steve's answer? "I can't be distracted".

He said he was very impressed with what I had done, and that he agreed about the potential for the future, but ‘frankly I’m not interested in working with you on this.’ I asked why. He said: ‘You have to understand. This is something that nobody in the world yet understands. I can’t be distracted. I’m trying to make the best hammer I can make, the best hammer in the world. You can use my hammer to tear something down, or you can use it to build something up. I really don’t care what you do with my hammer. I just want to make the best possible hammer. And what you are doing is a wonderful bit of construction, but to me it’s a distraction.’

So that was pretty much the end of our conversation. There was no where else to go after that so I thanked him very much for his time and flew back to LA.

This is the type of focus that I aspire to achieve. It seems that Steve Jobs had figured out what mattered to him and eliminated the possibility of everything else.

Focus requires constant Reevaluation

I must warn you, this will be a life-long battle. Like the time all that noise stealthily crept into your life before, it will do so again. And so it is imperative that you regularly reevaluate the noise in your life and at the same time, reflect on what actually matters to you at that point in time. The definition of noise, as well as what matters to you will change over time, so you must be flexible and vigilant.

YOU can choose what you want to spend your energy and focus on. Above all, be merciless in cutting all the noise from your life. Good luck!



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