“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things. – Steve Jobs
Start with your point; don’t end with it. Focus is about saying no. Saying yes is a quick road to mediocrity.
For me, I don’t think focus is a discipline issue. I write and read more than most do daily. I used to spend a lot of time reading dense philosophy or on dull charts. I can do many hours of deep work. But I want to do so many things! I want to say so many things (maybe these bugs are rooted in ego or insecurity).
I’m trying to get better at ruthless simplification.
I write a lot, but I tweet so much better. Twitter’s 280 characters is a forcing function to write with focus, purpose, and extreme clarity. I’ve distilled my complex ideas into pithy statements. I only have 123 tweets and have amassed over 2,000 followers without knowing any of them before. It took me a month to do so. I do have Keith Rabois to thank for that. You can read my experience “Turning Bugs into Features.”
I’m taking a break from Twitter, but I’ll be back soon.
My point is with writing, getting rid of irrelevant details makes the essential things stand out and the relationships between them. Extreme focus is an amplifier for work. All my investments or past trades can be summarized in a three-sentence framework.
I’m better at simplifying my thoughts than writing. Again, maybe it’s an ego thing with writing. I write long emails because I think it’s better to be passionate, than apathetic.
However, an extreme amount of focus has paid off with my Twitter. 123 Tweets helped me start building a network in the technology community cold turkey after high school—without any help from anybody. Focus-driven design thinking created Apple.
I’ve been thinking about how to get better at the art of focus, learning to say no, and simplifying.
It starts with writing shorter emails, creating shorter blog posts, and having shorter meetings.
Eliminate the preamble. Start with your point—don’t end with it. And take it from there.