A Matter of Focus

I wonder if we understand the power of focus, the power of deciding to not let the distractions in, with all the distractions we allow ourselves to experience.

The power of knowing what we want . . .

The power of focus on that one goal . . .

We can learn the power of focus on one idea, unfortunately, by watching the most evil man who ever lived.

The Most Evil Man Who Ever Lived

That evil man had been kicked out of technical school as a teen.

Then, he was kicked out of high school after his second year there, when it became known that he used his Certificate of Completion as toilet paper.

This evil man strived to be an artist.

But he was twice rejected by the Academy of Fine Arts.

Then, he was rejected by a school of architecture for lack of a high school diploma.

At age 20, his home address had been a homeless shelter.

In WWI he managed to receive an Iron Cross Second Class award that was very common.

His greatest success had been receiving the “Wound Badge” for getting shot in the groin.

One Idea

This failure of a man, this man who was not able to succeed at anything, took hold of one idea, one idea that formulated into his being.

That one idea was to save Germany by killing the Jews.

This man was so single minded that when offered an opportunity to win the war by bringing supplies from Russia, he refused. Bringing supplies had meant that he would need trains to carry the supplies.

He refused to give even one train that was transporting the Jews to concentration camps.

Hitler, may his name be erased, wanted only one thing – to kill the Jews, even at the expense of losing the war.

The power of one idea…. The power of focus on one goal.

My Story

I met Alex (not the real name) when he was in the 4th grade in the school where I was a teacher. Alex was what most would call wild. After the school day, I saw Alex in the after-school daycare program. I watched him climb the monkey bars in the playground with vigor.

I saw him run around on the pavement of the schoolyard without stopping. His energy was endless.

His mom was very friendly and wanted to talk about her son.

She complained to me that when asked to do his homework, he gave a clear “No!”

Also, she cried, when Alex did not get his own way in a game with either of his brothers or his sister, he lashed out with a fist.

The next time I saw her, Alex’s mom was during an adult education class.

She cried to me that Alex, who was by then 15 years old, had already been expelled from several schools.

She expressed that Alex screamed at the top of his lungs for hours when he did not get his way in the house, and continued with his overpowering loud voice, even when they went someplace.

She told me that just the day before he had punched a hole in the dining room wall before assaulting his mom.

At the time, I was beginning my coaching practice, not yet sure of what my niche will be.

Somehow, when I heard his mom describe Alex, I found myself almost drooling at the prospect of working with this teenager.

I offered to coach him for a very low price, an offer she could not turn down.

Alex and I worked great together. He trusted me and we got to the essence of his issues.

He was complicated and interesting for me and I loved the work with him.

Alex, eventually, did well in school.

He completed high school and college and advanced degrees as well.

Alex also learned to be a friend and to have a friend.

By any criterion, Alex, over the years, became a successful person.

But, really Alex taught me perhaps as much as I taught him.

Alex had a passion for climbing. He loved climbing ropes. He had all kinds of ropes, ropes that were thick and then ropes that were wiry, and then ropes that were more and more challenging to work with.

In his junior year of high school, Alex set up his ropes to climb to the top of the six-story school building.

Of course the school administration was not too happy with him. Despite a few trips and falls, though, he got to the top and then back down.

Alex, soon after, climbed to the top of his friend’s apartment house building, 16 stories high.

The police arrived as he was on the way down and so most of the climb went uninterrupted.

In Alex’s senior year, the students were planning a fundraising event.

They were selling goods, hiring a bouncing box with colorful balls and other entertaining events.

Alex bragged to his classmates about how he can do a tightrope walk.

But no one took him seriously.

After all, it was Alex, and it takes a long time to change people’s perceptions.

They felt they already knew him.

But Alex paid no mind to that.

He set up a system of ropes hung from the nearby water tower to the tall pole in the corner of the field.

No one took him seriously.

The day of the event came and it was time for Alex to climb that rope and walk across it in front of the crowd.

On his way up, all the attention was on Alex.

He was climbing so high up that people feared he would fall and break his body in two or three or four pieces.

Nevertheless, no one stopped him.

Alex got to the top, very high up in the clear sky.

He walked across the thin wire.

The silence was thick.

Alex turned to go back go to where he began.

He slipped.

The audience was tense.

All eyes were on Alex.

Alex fell like a cat, flexible, and unhurt.

He got up and made his way up the ropes again.

He once again went across and just at the point in which he had to turn around, lost his balance and landed again.

The audience, gripped with the journey of this young man was filled with tense anticipation. They kept their eyes focused on Alex.

Alex got up again. He walked the journey from one end of the rope to the other and back again, smoothly and purposefully.

The crowd stood up and cheered.

Alex’s coaching session was the following week.

I wanted to know.

“Alex, everyone is talking about what you did. How did you do that?”

Alex said it was no big deal.

He knew exactly how he did it.

“Do you know what the hardest part of doing that was?” he asked.

I could not imagine.

Was it the height?

The balance on the wire?

I could not imagine what he was going to say.

“What was the hardest part?” I asked.

“It was turning around,” he said.

“What is it about turning around that made that the hardest part?” I asked.

“It is that for a split second,” Alex explained, “that I have to lose focus on where I am going. I have to take my eyes off my goal for that moment and then I have to reorient myself as fast as I can.”

“Alex, do you realize what you are saying? You are saying that when you keep your focus on your goal, on where you want to go, nothing stops you.

It’s only for the moment that you look away that you fall.

With your continued focus on where you want to go, you were able to do what no other person can.”

I learned from Alex in such a real way the power of keeping my focus on what I want. I learned how the distractions take me away from doing my goals.

The power of focus on one goal. . .

Alex learned that from his own rope-walking as well.

What does Alex do now?

Alex graduated at the top of his class in medical school. At the time, he told me that he keeps his eye on the “A” and he gets it.

He said that after he completes his requirements, he plans to travel to Africa to offer his services there.

I imagine he will have lots of trees to climb and ropes to walk there, if he chooses. Alex used his knowledge of focus to reach his other goals as well. He did not take his eyes off his goals and from what I can see, he may have had some falls but got there each time.

The power of wanting one thing ….

The power of focus on where I want to go . . .

The power of wanting something with one’s whole being.

Anyone who focuses on one idea succeeds.