• Lars Christensen

Focus by Daniel Goleman~2 minute read.


I finished this book in August 2021. I recommend this book 5/10.

The title fooled me a bit. I dived in thinking it would be all about "How to Focus," instead, I found the book a little disconnected, jumping between topics like Attention, Self-Awareness, Reading others, and The Big Picture of life. You can get the book here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • P22—One key to more flow in life comes when we align what we do with what we enjoy, as is the case with those fortunate folks whose jobs give them great pleasure. High achievers in any field—the lucky ones, anyway—have hit on this combination. Apart from career change, there are several doorways to flow. One may open when we tackle a task that challenges our abilities to the maximum—a "just-manageable" demand on our skills. Another entryway can come via doing what we are passionate about; motivation sometimes drives us into a flow. But either way, the final common pathway is full focus: these are each way to ratchet up attention. No matter how you get there, a keen focus jump-starts flow.

  • P26—Take, for example, star football quarterbacks who have that sports analysts call "great ability to see the field": they can read the other team's defensive formations to sense the opponent's intentions to move, and once the play starts, instantly adjust to those movements, gaining a priceless second or two to pick out an open receiver for a pass. Such "seeing" requires enormous practice so that what at first requires much attention—dodge the rusher—occurs on automatic. From mental computation perspective, spotting a receiver while under pressure of several 250-pound bodies hurtling towards you from various angles is no small feat: the quarterback has to keep in mind the pass routes of several potential receivers at the same time he processes and responds to the moves of all eleven opposing players—a challenge best managed by well-practiced bottom-up circuits (and one what would be overwhelming if he had to consciously think thought each move.)

  • P47—On average, people's moods were generally skewed to the un-pleasant while their minds wandered; even thoughts that had seemingly neutral content were shaded with a negative emotional tone. Mind-wandering itself seemed to be a cause of unhappiness some or much of the time.

  • P54—This openness can be seen in everyday moments when, for instance, you find yourself waiting a turn behind a customer who is taking endless time, and instead of focusing on resentment or on how this will make you late, you simply let yourself enjoy the store's background music.

  • P55—This enriching of attention applies, too, to our interior life—in the open mode, we take in far more of our feelings, sensations, thoughts, and memories than we do when, say, we're focused on marching through our to-do list or rushing to back-to-back meetings.

  • P89—"If you can deal with hot emotions, then you can study for the SAT instead of watching television. And you can save more money for retirement, It's not just about marshmallows."

  • P104—One clever part: as our mirror neurons and other social circuitry re-create in our brain and body what's going on with the other person, our insula summates all that. Empathy entails an act of self-awareness: we read other people by tuning in to ourselves.

  • P115—

  • Try to pay attention to ques.

  • If you feel stressed, notice if the other person also feels it.

  • Detach, and look at the situation from above.

  • P124—The mapping of attention on lines of power shows up in a simple metric: how long does it take a person A to respond to an email from person B? The longer someone ignores an email before finally responding, the more relative social power that person has. Map these response times across an entire organization, and you get a remarkably accurate chart of the actual social standing. The boss leaves emails unanswered for hours or days; those lower down responds within minutes.

  • P238—They realize, for instance, that if someone lacks a given strength today, they can develop it. Such leaders take the time to mentor and advise. In practical terms, all this means:

  • Listening within, to articulate an authentic vision of overall direction that energizes even as it sets clear expectations.

  • Coaching, based on listening to what people want from their life, career, and current job. Paying attention to people's feelings and needs and showing concern.

  • Listening to advice and expertise; being collaborative, and making decisions by consensus when appropriate.

  • Celebrating wins, laughing, knowing that having a good time together is not a waste of time but a way to build emotional capital.

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