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Don’t Focus on the Rock in the Road

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If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle, or even a bicycle, you know that hitting debris in the road can cause a serious accident. Veteran motorcyclists warn that if you see a rock or other debris in the road, whatever you do, don’t focus on it, because you’ll hit whatever you keep your eyes on.

A Powerful Principle

You hit whatever you focus on. That’s the powerful principle here and it’s not only true when riding a two-wheeler, it’s also true in business and in life. This principle has both its good and bad sides. Let’s get the bad side out of the way first.

The Bad Side of Focus

Focusing on the “rocks” in our life and business inevitably causes us to crash. For instance, when we’re all-consumed with our own faults or those of someone else, that’s all we see; that’s all we expect. In business too, focusing exclusively on a problem or obstacle gives it a life of its own that soon overwhelms us.

  • When we focus on problems, weaknesses, excuses, and obstacles that’s what consumes our thoughts.
  • Negative thinking gets us nowhere fast!
  • Fixating on problems makes them loom larger in our minds and does nothing to fix them.
  • Dwelling on the obstacles gives them power and our worst nightmare becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • What we dread most becomes our experience and we hear ourselves saying things like, “I knew this would happen!” Of course you did! You inadvertently brought it on yourself!

But ironically, the very principle that can derail us and get us into so much trouble also has a very powerful good side to it.

The Good Side of Focus

Here are some tips for focusing on the right things—things that will keep us upright, move us forward, and get us past those obstacles and problems in life:

  • Focus on solutions, a way out, or a lofty goal. This takes real discipline. Back to the motorcycle analogy, instead of keeping your eyes on the rock in the road, you have to focus on a clear path next to the rock. It’s hard not to focus on the rock, but you must, because wherever you focus that’s where your wheels will take you. This doesn’t mean you ignore the problem. You have to take note of it. But you don’t let it dominate your thoughts. Instead, you focus on the way around the problem. You focus on solutions and your goals.
  • Magnify the good and positive. No one and nothing is perfect. In your relationships, for instance, there’s no doubt that people around you have idiosyncrasies and faults that bug you. You also surely have faults that you wish you didn’t have. But instead of focusing on these, focus on the positive. What is it about the other person (or yourself) that you admire or appreciate? Focus on that, encourage that, and expect that.
  • Take your cue from overcomers. Look to others who have overcome obstacles and problems far greater than your own. Let their stories motivate and inspire you. Here’s a short list of successful individuals who refused to focus on the “rocks” in their lives when things got really rough.
  1. Before becoming president, Abraham Lincoln’s failures – his “rocks in the road” – are legendary there were so many!
  2. Henry Ford’s first attempt at building cars ended in complete failure and bankruptcy.
  3. Walt Disney was cheated out of his first big business deal in New York, but that didn’t stop him!
  4. Milton Hershey, founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company had no formal education and failed repeatedly in his business attempts before finally hitting the right “recipe.”
  5. Dr. Martin Luther King overcame an attempted suicide and battled with an addiction to smoking to become a powerful spiritual leader and spokesman.
  6. Sir Ernest Shackleton, after three failed attempts to rescue his men stranded in the Antarctic, finally succeeded in doing so with a borrowed ship from a foreign country.
  7. When Amy Purdy turned 19, she was rushed to the hospital in septic shock. The violent illness took her spleen, both kidneys, and both her legs below the knees. She was given less than 2% chance of survival and placed in an induced coma.With a kidney transplant and prosthetic legs, Amy not only survived, but went on to compete as a world-class snowboarder. Amy also became a successful fashion model and motivational speaker. She has appeared on Oprah, Dancing with the Stars, The Amazing Race, and gave a TED talk that set the standard for future speakers.

Focusing on stories like Amy’s and others has the profound impact in our lives of turning our “rocks in the road” into insignificant pebbles. Take a good look at what you’re focusing on, because it greatly determines the course of your life and business.


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