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Concentrate on Concentrating

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When I finished revising and updating Winning Through Intimidation, I felt pretty confident that there were no glaring errors in the new edition.  After all, I had done about twenty-five drafts of the rewrite.

Image Credit: CHRIS DRUMM CC by 2.0

Nevertheless, I thought to myself, “Hmm … seems I’ve been here before.”  Meaning, every time I’ve finished a book, I felt certain that my editor and I had caught every mistake.  Such a naive belief stems from not remembering the lessons of history.

Experience has convinced me that there probably has never been a printed book that didn’t have one or more typos, missing words, or other kinds of mistakes in it.  And, to my chagrin, Winning Through Intimidation was no exception.

I don’t read my books after they’ve been printed, so these “catches” have to come from others.  In this case, it was a friend who called my attention to a place in the book that stated:  “Victor ate little kids for breakfast and didn’t bother to spit out the bones.  He rooted for the Pacific Ocean in Titanic.”

Brilliant … funny … well written.  I couldn’t stop mentally patting myself on the back when I came up with those clever words.  And, as I did with the entire book, I went over them draft … after draft … after draft.

Only one problem:  As my friend pointed out, the Titanic didn’t sink in the Pacific Ocean; it sank in the Atlantic!  (Will Leonardo DiCaprio ever forgive me?)

Getting hold of myself, I quickly checked to make sure that my socks matched.  Both black … good sign … it means that I’m back on my game.  It really irritates me that Homer Simpson is so much more famous than I am.  After all, I say “Doh!” more often than he does.  I’m telling you, it’s an unfair world.

Yes, my mistake was corrected in subsequent printings, but the question remains:  How does a perfectionist like me make such a dumb blunder?  The answer, I believe, is a lack of concentration.  But there’s a bit more to it than that.  Let me explain.

Some time ago, when I was lamenting about my carelessness, my own son said to me, “You know what I do to cut down on mistakes?  I concentrate on concentrating.”  Simplistic brilliance!  It had never occurred to me that in order to concentrate, you have to concentrate on concentrating.

Thinking about this life-changing insight prompted me to hearken back to the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to go through an entire season undefeated and untied.  I vividly recall the legendary coach of the Dolphins, Don Shula, explaining why a “no name” team like his was able to go through seventeen games without a loss.  Shula said that even though his team wasn’t that much better than most of the other teams in the league, they excelled at one thing:  concentration.

Specifically, Shula said that his players didn’t make dumb mistakes at crucial moments.  They concentrated on not jumping offside or getting called for unnecessary roughness.  The Dolphins running backs concentrated on hanging onto the football when getting tackled, and the receivers concentrated on looking the pass into their hands before looking up field.

Concentrating on concentrating penetrates down to the simplest aspects of our lives:

  • Have you ever bumped your hip on the corner of a table and ended up with a three-month bruise?
  • Or accidentally sent an e-mail to the wrong person?
  • Or not heard a word of something your spouse just told you?
  • Or checked two or three times to see if a door was locked?
  • Or reread a paragraph more than once because you had no idea what you had just read?

In each example, the problem was that you weren’t concentrating.  I don’t know any other way to reduce the number of such mental lapses but to make a conscious effort to concentrate.

Through the years, I’ve repeatedly stated that the difference between success and failure is much smaller than most people might suspect.  As with any other aspect of success, concentrating on concentrating, of and by itself, doesn’t guarantee positive results.  But I find it amazing how much of an edge it gives me when I consciously focus on this fascinating mental skill.

If you make a serious commitment to concentrate on concentrating, I think you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about.  At the very least, you’re sure to notice a significant decrease in Titanic-type mistakes in your life.

Gotta cut it short here … have to check the front door again.  I’m pretty sure I locked it, but …

This is a guest post by Robert Ringer an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

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