Imagine, for a moment, that you had ten sure years ahead of you – no death, no sickness, and no mishaps.
And you also had a list of ten major things you wanted to achieve – to be good at, to be known for, to be a ‘pro’ at – by the end of the ten years.
How would you go about achieving those ten goals in ten years?
Let me tell you what the average person would do:
The average person would dive in on those ten things, working on achieving all of them all at once, from the get go, every year for the next ten years or until they burn out – whichever comes first.
So, your Uncle Tom has an eight-year old son, your cousin Jack. Uncle Tom has Jack enrolled in everything from piano lessons, to horseback riding, to learning to play the violin, to private math tutoring at home, to being very active at their local church; every year for ten years, with the hope that by age eighteen, your cousin Jack would be a true Jack of all trades. Ready to take on the world, I guess?
Let me tell you what the ‘successful’ person would do:
The success-minded person would take those ten goals and spread them out over the ten years; so that he focuses on achieving just one goal per year.
He also makes sure that he lines up the goals in such a way that achieving the first one would make it easier for him to achieve the next, and on and on like that.
So, your multi-talented friend, Bob wants to develop his natural talents of singing, dancing, writing and acting; all into valuable skills in the next couple of years.
Instead of taking lessons in all of these areas at once, every year for the next couple of years; spreading himself too thin; he decides to focus on developing one talent per year, into a useful skill.
He understands that a hundred percent focus on one thing at a time is always far more effective than fifty percent each on two different things.
He doesn’t stop there. He lines each talent up in such a way that developing one can lead to developing the other, comfortably.
So he starts with dancing. The songs he dances to, stick in his head and he can’t stop singing them. So he moves on to focus on singing for the next year. From there, he thinks he can write his own lyrics to his own songs. So he develops writing the next year; taking writing classes where he then learns to write short stories and plays, for his acting career.
At the end, you have your friend Bob, a ‘decent’ Broadway creator who acts in the plays that he writes, also singing and dancing – to the songs he wrote – like the rest of the cast in his Broadway shows.
Pretty cool, isn’t it? Yes, Bob is cool. He’s cool and decent at doing many different things. He’s not like your cousin Jack, though. He’s a better master of his trades. He can at least bring them all together to serve one purpose, like creating his Broadway shows.
He’s Bob of some trades, master of…? I don’t know: some, all, one? You decide.
Let me tell you what the extraordinarily successful person would do.
If he had ten sure years ahead of him and a list of ten things he wanted to achieve within that time frame…
He would focus on only one thing out of those ten, and keep doing his one thing for the next ten years; seemingly neglecting the rest of his list.
He understands that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
So, if he were your cousin Jack, he would focus on just one ‘trade’ for ten years.
If he were your friend Bob, he would focus on developing just one talent for the next ten years.
He would ask himself: “what is the one thing I can focus on such that by doing it, all the other things will become easier or even unnecessary?”
Instead of focusing on developing each of Bob’s multi-talents for the next successive years, he focuses only on developing his ‘writing’.
By the end of ten years, he becomes a very prolific writer, and that’s what he’s known for. He may write plays, songs and even dance routines, but he doesn’t have to participate in them, just like Bob, because he has sufficient influence in all those fields now –as a professional writer. He can make his impact in a lot of areas without being an active player in any of those areas.
It once seemed like he gave up all his other goals – on his list – in pursuit of his one thing, but all those other things were eventually added unto him just because he sought after the one thing!
So I rephrase the question, asked at the beginning, and direct it back to you:
What is the one thing you can pursue from today such that seeking after it, for the rest of your life, would cause all the other things – on your list – to be added unto you?