“One reason so few of us achieves what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our abilities. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.” –Tony Robbins
Though most people are familiar with his name, only fans are aware that one of the greatest batters in the history of baseball was first an accomplished pitcher. It wasn’t until his fifth Major League season, when he was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Yankees in 1919, that they switched him to be a right fielder. The player I’m referring to is of course George Herman “Babe” Ruth, the “Sultan of Swat.” When this decision was made Tris Speaker, a Hall of Fame player himself commented, “Taking the best left handed pitcher in baseball and converting him into a right fielder is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.” Well Tris, no one thinks so today.
Stay On Target
Similarly, without that kind of focus, we might never have heard of Denver Bronco’s and two-time Super Bowl winner John Elway or Dan Marino of Miami Dolphins fame. Both were selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 1979 Major League Baseball Draft, but focused on football instead.
Focusing on what we do best, even if it means laying aside things we are pretty good at, is often the difference been great achievement and simply doing well. Luciano Pavarotti, who is probably the only operatic tenor whose name you and I are familiar with, once told this story:
“When I was a boy my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song. He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. During this time I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, ‘Should I be a teacher or a singer?’ ‘Luciano,’ my father replied, ‘if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them… for life, you must choose one chair.’ I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera.”
What Ever You Do, Do Your Best
Gen. Colin Powell rose to the top in all his professions. He was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was the U.S. Secretary of State in George W. Bush’s administration. But Powell started from the very bottom and learned a valuable lesson as a young man mopping floors at a local soft drink bottling plant.
His philosophy was, “No matter what you do, someone is always watching.” Powell recalled one of his early working experiences: “I set out to be the best mop wielder there ever was. One day someone left 50 cases of cola that had crashed to the concrete and brown sticky foam cascaded across the floor. It was almost more than I could bear. But I kept mopping, right to left, left to right. At summer’s end, the foreman said, ‘You mop floors pretty good.’ The next summer, he had me filling bottles. The third summer, I was deputy foreman. As I have learned, someone is always watching.”
Though most of us only have a few things we are really outstanding at, focusing on developing those particular skills, while giving equal focus on whatever the task is in front of us, is an unbeatable formula for success. It is a lesson I have heard repeated in countless interviews with CEOs and wildly successful entrepreneurs.
“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” – Tony Robbins