Killing time in the Austin airport last month, I found myself in the bookstore looking at the business magazines. I was heading home from the MillennialEYE Live meeting (for those of you who weren’t there, a tremendous event that you should not miss next year) and was going to grab something to read for the trip back to Coeur d’Alene. I noticed that several of the magazines had the same general subject featured on the cover: “15 Secrets of Success,” “Habits of the Top Entrepreneurs,” etc. As I read through the articles, one theme seemed to be present in all of these lists: the idea of focusing on a single idea or goal and devoting all of your energy to that one thing. The idea being that to be truly successful in life, to go beyond average, you must focus on a singular aspect of whatever it is that you do and master it.
When you look at the careers of extraordinarily successful people, this does seem to be a characteristic common to many of them. If you were to ask Eric Clapton why he is considered a great guitarist, he would say that early on he realized that most of the great old blues riffs came from the minor pentatonic blues scale, so as a teenager he did nothing but work on this until he mastered it. Subsequently, his most famous solos are based on that scale. Bill Gates spent all of his youth, to the exclusion of almost everything else, on the ins and outs of computer programming, and we all know how that worked out.
In ophthalmology, there are many doctors who have focused their careers on one specific area and have become extraordinarily successful as a result. In fact, just the decision to be an ophthalmologist as opposed to the many other choices in medicine shows that as a group we are geared toward this type of approach. So, how do you go further with this concept? How do you actually put it into practice?
The real inspiration for this column is a recently published bestseller called The One Thing, by Gary Keller. If the idea of narrowing your focus to a single thing in all of the different areas of your life—be it professional or personal—is attractive to you, then this book can give you the tools you need to think differently about success and how to achieve it. I like the book, and I like the idea. So for me, I plan to spend a lot more time practicing the minor pentatonic blues scale!