Focus for Success

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Avianca Flight 52 was a regularly scheduled flight from Bogotá to New York. On January 25, 1990, it crashed into the village of Cove Neck, Long Island, New York after running out of fuel. 8 of the 9 crew members and 65 of the 149 passengers on board were killed.

The recovery efforts for Flight 52 proved to be difficult since the aircraft had crashed into the hilly, sparsely populated North Shore, making it difficult for emergency crews to reach. This was compounded by the narrow, winding roads that lead into the village.

Rescue squads from all over Long Island responded to the crash. The weather conditions and the darkness made the search crews’ task even more challenging. The first ambulances to arrive performed triage, selecting the most critically injured passengers for transport to area hospitals. But so many other ambulances had arrived that a traffic jam developed, and some were unable to leave the site immediately. Passengers who could, simply walked to other ambulances and arrived at hospitals sooner than critically injured ones.

A New York emergency room doctor lived very near the crash site and as one of the first medical professionals on site, he was credited with saving the lives of many of the survivors.

In the days following the crash the NTSB began interviewing the various groups of people involved in the crash and subsequent rescue efforts. The ER doctor was interviewed as part of this process and his responses to the questions shocked even the most seasoned investigators. The doctor stated that one of his first and lasting impressions was the “almost complete silence” at the crash site.

The investigators were surprised by that answer because the actual crash site had been anything but silent. It was near total chaos, sirens blaring, people yelling, helicopters overhead. Most people said they couldn’t hear themselves much less anything else. Yet this doctor maintained he heard none of it.

The doctor it turns out was so focused on saving lives that his focus blocked out every other distraction. His focus allowed him to concentrate on only what was important to the task at hand. His focus allowed him to use his skills and training to the best of his abilities. His focus saved many lives that fateful night.

Few of us will ever find ourselves in the kind of situation where that level of focus is required but the outcome of his efforts do demonstrate the awesome power of focus.

In a world where “multi-tasking” is rewarded it is really a nearly single minded focus that wins the day. If you truly want to accomplish something then focus on it to the exclusion of everything else. Focus!

There is an old quote or proverb from somewhere that says something like “he who chases two rabbits catches none.” It makes a lot of sense. If you want one thing you wouldn’t pursue something else, would you?
Now, I know in the world we live in that focus gets harder everyday. The temptation to multi-task is powerful and on the surface seems to work. But it doesn’t. Every task in a “multi-task” actually takes longer than when done as a stand alone task and worse than that, it is rarely done as well.

In his life-changing book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” Dale Carnegie says that we should live in “day-tight” compartments. He meant we should never let tomorrow’s worries negatively impact today’s efforts.

I have a similar recommendation for the busy world we live in today, live in “task-tight” compartments. Do multiple tasks but do them one at a time; if you must move on to a second task before you complete your first one then really move on. Get the first task out of site and out of mind. Clear your desk or work area of anything that would distract you from the task at hand. When you return to the first task then return to it and nothing else. Focus!

Focus wins, it’s as simply as that. Focus as if your success depends on it because it does!

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