Did you know that the average human attention span is only 8 seconds which is supposed to be less than a gold fish? The internet age has decreased our attention span by 25% and increased our information overload by 5 times from pre-internet or social media age. Ask yourself this question, “What do you do when nothing is occupying your mind or when you are waiting for some thing?” Obvious answer is take your smartphone and scroll endlessly. On average, people spend 4-5 hours on their smartphones a day. Individuals check their phones an average of 50 times each day. An average employee checks their mailbox 25 times an hour, an investor checks his or her portfolio every hour refreshing (yes they are long term investors).
Thanks to neuroplasticity (capacity for our brain cells to change in response to our behavior), humans are shifting the way of life completely to a new normal, where there are less human dialogues, more notifications, people only read headlines (nothing below), take decisions to satiate instantly, numerous social influencers, the need for social validations on everything and the list goes on.. No wonder no one has time for anything in this world.
Let me tell you a quick story from the famous Indian Epic Mahabharata. One of the main characters Arjuna was the best student and archer who learnt arts of warfare under their Guru Dronacharya. Dronacharya decided to show his other students why Arjuna is his favorite student? One day, he set up a shooting target in the shape of a bird on a tree and invited his students to shoot at it.
Before his students did so, they had to answer Guru`s question. He asked every student before shooting, “What can you see?”. Most common answers were “I can see the bird, the leaves, the tree..” Dronacharya ordered each one of them to put the bow down and go back without letting them take a shot.
Dronacharya asked Arjuna to come up and take his bow. When Arjuna picked up his bow, set the arrow and drew the string, Guru asked, “What do you see?”
Arjuna said, “The eye of the bird.”
“Can you see the tree?” asked Dronacharya.
“No, only the eye of the bird,” was the answer
Guru ordered Arjuna to shoot and the result was that the arrow straight hit the eye of the bird bringing it down. The Guru then taught his students the power of focus “When you want to achieve something, you must focus on it. Close out all other distractions and concentrate only on your target.”
The legendary investor Charlie Munger has said famously 2 things on this topic. He said “I succeeded because I have a long attention span.”. He also said “Take a simple idea and take it seriously“
Focus helps us to stay in the game to achieve our goals, live a great life and most importantly “Be in the moment”. How do we develop a deep focus in a rapidly shifting world to a new paradigm? Here are few steps I can think of and what I call as “The Art of Saying No”
- Say No and put Strong Filters to external notifications that can divert your attention. This can include steps like turning off phone, mail notifications. Keep the phones away and replace it with deep learning or deep reading time. Carry a book wherever you can and pick the book instead of phone.
- Say No to all things that are not your priority. Prioritize the most important 3 things in your life and stick to that for the rest of the life. I often get asked “why cant you do diverse topics on youtube channel”, “why cant you promote products on Instagram”, “why cant you join investment bank”, “why cant you start a fund” and so on… But for me, that simple idea that I took seriously is to become the best investor, enjoy the process of creating wealth and give it all back in the end.
- Say No and stop trying to please people or society by rejecting offers to join events or jobs or campaigns that is not relevant to you. Many times we accept things like giving a free session, taking classes or sports that has no significance to our interests or priorities. Save that time to focus on the most important things in your life like family, friends and self-time.
Say No to most of the things to increase Focus. This goes a long way even in Investing. As Warren Buffett puts it “Really Successful People Say No To Almost Everything”
When asked what is the single thing they would attribute their success to, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Buffett all gave the same one-word answer: “Focus.”