Read an Excerpt
Focus! Focus! Focus!
Midway through the 2008–9 NBA season, the world champion Boston Celtics came to Orlando to play the Magic. The Celts and the Magic had nearly identical records, and it was a nationally televised game, so the pressure was intense.
I went to the locker room before the game to talk to Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett. I wanted to give Kevin a signed copy of my most recent book, and I wanted him to autograph his picture on the new Wheaties box so we could auction the box for charity. I had often heard of Kevin's intensity as a player, but until I saw him in the locker room that night, I had no idea how intensely focused he was.
He sat staring straight ahead while one of the Celtics trainers taped his ankles. It was at least an hour and a half before tip-off, but he already had his game face on. I could see the intensity in his eyesin fact, I could feel it in the room like static electricity. He was in a 'zone' all his own. His gaze was so intimidating I was tempted to take my book and my Wheaties box and quietly tiptoe out of the room.
But I gathered up my courage, cleared my throat, and said, 'Kevin, I have a book for you and a Wheaties box I'd like you to sign'
Kevin looked up as if noticing me for the first time. 'Mr. Williams,' he said, 'I don't sign anything, I don't look at anything, I don't do anything before a game.'
Then he put his right hand up before his face as if it were an ax with the blade pointing straight out in front of him, and he made a chopping motion. 'Focus! Focus! Focus!' he said. 'I don't want any distractions. After the game, I'll sign the box, but right now I'm focused on the game.'
Then his face again became a mask of intense focus.
That's why Kevin Garnett is a champion: Focus! Focus! Focus!
How would your life change if you lived your life in an intensely focused way, like Kevin Garnett? What would your family relationships be like if you became a husband, a wife, or a parent who practiced extreme focus in your family life? What dreams could you achieve in your career if you maintained an intense focus on your most important dreams and goals?
From 'Zoned Out' to 'In the Zone'
In 1998, Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to their sixth championship of the decade with a pulse-pounding victory over Utah in the NBA Finals. Like all sports fans at that time, I was riding an emotional roller coaster. I felt the excitement of watching Michael play at the top of his game, mingled with the sadness of knowing that he was probably going to leave the Bulls at the end of that seasonwhich, of course, he did. I had been a witness to an era of pure athletic genius, and it was coming to an end.
During that time, I had a busy speaking schedule, and I started giving talks on Michael Jordan's character traits and the leadership and success lessons we could learn from him. Out of this ten-point talk, which I delivered at corporate conventions and basketball camps, came the idea for a book that I called How to Be Like Mike. As soon as my friends at Health Communications agreed to publish the book, I got right to work and began researching the life of Michael Jordan. I was determined to interview everyone I could find who knew Michael in a personal or professional way. I didn't want to miss a single insight that might hold the key to Michael's greatness.
Around that time, the Magic picked up one of Jordan's former teammates from Chicago, B. J. Armstrong. He was a veteran guard who had played with Michael during the era of those first three Bulls championships, 1990 through 1992. On one occasion, I accompanied the team to New York, and I sat on the bus with B. J. After explaining the book project to B. J., I said, 'Take a look at my outline for the book. I've tried to list all the traits that have made Michael so successful. What do you think? Have I captured the man?'
B. J. looked at my ten-point outline and said, 'Yeah, it looks good. It looks like you captured it all, except' he paused, 'except you've forgotten the most important thing that makes Michael who he is.'
I almost choked. 'B. J.,' I said, 'I am all ears.'
'Focus,' he said. 'That's what sets Michael apart. He has an almost superhuman ability to focus on this moment, this task, this goal. His head is totally in the gameno distractions. When the game is on, he's not thinking about last night's game or tomorrow night's game. He is totally in the moment, and nothing interferes with his focus. That's what sets him apart.'
Focus! That's the key to Michael Jordan's greatness, and that's the key to Kevin Garnett's greatness. Total, concentrated focus.
Now, you might be thinking, 'But I'm not a basketball player. I'm not an athlete. I'm an artist,' or, 'I'm a lawyer,' or, 'I'm a politician,' or, 'I'm an entrepreneur.' You may be asking, 'What can the power of extreme focus do for me?' Answer: It doesn't matter what your career path might be. It doesn't matter what your dreams might be. Whether you dream of success in business, science, the arts, or any other field of endeavor, the power of extreme focus is the life-changing power to achieve your dreams.
Stanford business professor Michael L. Ray, author of Creativity in Business, expressed the importance of extreme focus in the world of entrepreneurship and business leadership: 'If you pay attention at every moment, you form a new relationship to time. In some magical way, by slowing down, you become more efficient, productive, and energetic, focusing without distraction directly on the task in front of you. Not only do you become immersed in the moment, you become that moment.'1
Let's face it: Most of us live highly unfocused lives. Our daily routines are governed by habits that have become chronic and purposeless. We are constantly in motionbut we are moving on a treadmill, not a journey to a destination. We get up in the morning, move aimlessly through the workday, come home, settle back in front of that high-definition flat-screen time-wasterand that is our life, day after day, night after night, until it's time to collect Social Security. We reach a certain age and look back, wondering, 'Where did my life go? What happened to all the dreams and ambitions I once had? Was I 'zoned out' throughout my whole life? What do I have to show for my life?'
My friend, I don't want you to live like that. More important, you don't want to live like that. You want more out of life than a 'zoned out' existence. You want to 'zone in' on the challenging, meaningful dreams and goals in your life.
This book will give you the practical tools to transform every aspect of your life, from the outermost reaches of your career to the innermost chambers of your soul and spirit. You will be able to build these principles into your own lifethen teach them to your children, so that you can give your kids a foundation for a successful, satisfying, high-achieving life.
It's time to stop 'zoning out.' It's time to get 'in the zone' and start living by the power of extreme focus. It's time to turn your dreams into reality.
So turn the page with me. Let me show you how you can harness the life-changing power of extreme focus to achieve your dreams.
Turning Dreams into Reality
I'll never forget where I was and what I saw the night of April 8, 1974. I was living in Atlanta, working as the general manager of the Hawks. It was the night of the Atlanta Braves' home opener against the Dodgers, and the legendary Henry 'Hank' Aaron was chasing Babe Ruth's career home-run record, which had stood unchallenged for nearly four decades.
The Braves had begun the season with a three-game road trip. Aaron had played in two of those games, tying Ruth's 714-homer record. So that night I was in the stands at the Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, along with 53,774 other cheering fans. It was humid and overcast when the game began, but nobody gave a thought to the weather. We were all thinking about being witnesses to history.