Hellmuth has won so many championship bracelets that he’s been inducted into the poker hall of fame. Over twenty million in earnings in his prolific career. And yet, what’s most inspiring about his work as a gambler is his focus. After a recent victory at a major tournament, he made the following comment. You just keep your head down the whole time and try to stay divorced from the result. Don’t focus on how great you played in the past, just keep your head down until it’s over. Only then do you look up and celebrate. Phil’s ability to suppress the competing stimuli, block out distracting noise and stay present with what matters most, that’s the stuff champions are made of. It has nothing to do with poker and everything to do with professionalism.
DOWNHEADING — Using the placebo power of a focus filter in the face of distractions to get your work done
We see this same habit pattern with everyone from artists to athletes to entertainers to street performers. Nothing else matters except making the most profitable decision every time it is their moment to act. They dedicate the majority of their psychic power and resources to figuring out which opportunities they can exploit in the service of their goal. The good news is, we don’t have to be standing on stage or performing onscreen to embody this habit. Any of us can wield that same attentional power in our own work. Because the real challenge of focus is that most of the working world does the opposite. They stick their heads up. Like desert meerkats standing on their hind legs, they find endless ways to distract themselves, and then have the nerve to complain about being distracted.
Every one of my jobs had at least two people in the office who whine incessantly about their inability to concentrate. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. And my response was always, go ahead, do your worst. Throw everything you’ve got at me. Noisy coworkers, buzzing smartphones, unwanted interruptions, incoming emails, chat messages, endless meetings, office visitors, client expectations, you can hurl any or all of these distractions at me, and it’s still not going to derail my focus. Not because of some super human ability to filter out noise, but because years ago, I made the decision to be a constitutionally undestractable person. I chose to build my internal locus of control, rather than relying on external motivation. I chose to not even hear the interruptions in the first place, rather than accepting slavery to our idiotic notification culture. I chose to keep my head down instead, rather than flying into the light like a moth and getting zapped.
If you find yourself complaining about distractions in your workplace, it’s not because people around you are talking too loudly, it’s because of your own lack of focus. What if you set the intention that nothing could distract you?
Become a constitutionally indestractible person
Chose to not even hear the interruptions in the first place
Suppress the competing stimuli, block out distracting noise and stay present with what matters most
Dedicate the majority of your resources to figuring out which opportunities they can exploit in the service of their goal.