My younger son is a swimmer at the local YMCA. To say it didn’t come naturally to him would be an understatement. Let’s just say that whining, crying and bribery were all involved in teaching him how to swim. But once he finally learned the basics he has taken off. His success in the pool now is due to one key factor: focus. Here are three lessons in focus from the pool.
Know your race
If you’ve attended a youth swim meet, you’ve probably seen the kid who started swimming freestyle in the butterfly or stopped after three laps instead of four. They didn’t focus on the event before it started and while they were in the water.
If your event is the 100 butterfly, focus on that. Know what you’re good at and grow in your strengths. The butterfly expert doesn’t spend a lot of time perfecting their breaststroke kick. That’s someone else’s specialty. In business, you need to know what your specialty is, constantly improve in that area and leave the rest to others.
Block out the noise
A swim meet is a cacophony of noise unlike most sporting events. Screaming, whistling, buzzers, laughter and cheering fill the air. The successful swimmer, however, needs to focus on their event and not become distracted by the noise. They must swim the correct stroke the right number of lengths while focusing on form and speed.
In business, it’s easy to become distracted by the noise around you. Should I check my email every 10 minutes? Do I have a new twitter follower? What’s the latest marketing trend in my industry? The successful entrepreneur knows their event and focuses on executing it well. Distractions are inevitable, but focus will allow you to do your best work in the midst of the noise.
Before my son joined the swim team, I had no idea that there are penalties in swimming! The infractions are seemingly small things that you might miss: the wrong type of kick underwater or touching the wall the wrong way. The penalty for the various infractions, however, is severe: disqualification. You’re done. It may seem harsh, but it’s a great lesson for these young people to learn: focus on executing your event flawlessly and you won’t be disqualified.
Entrepreneurship can be like that, but the stakes are higher. Disqualification in business might look like losing your largest client, not making payroll or losing your credentials. Every industry has penalties that can potentially destroy a business. With focus on the variables you can control, however, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of committing one of those infractions. I don’t want you to be running scared or working in constant fear. It’s sufficient for most of us to know the infractions that we must avoid and spend the majority of our time, energy and resources focusing on those things that will make us successful.
So the next time someone brings up swimming, remember the incredible focus those athletes have and see if you can find a new way to focus on your business.
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