Thirteen Days of Focus

I don’t think focus gets enough attention. It’s the single thing that separates the products and services I care about from those I yawn about.

A few years ago, Kevin Costner made two lower-budget, indie-style movies that were better than any of the big budget movies he’s ever touched. One of them was Open Range; arguably one of the best “guy” movies ever made. The other was Thirteen Days, the story of the Cuban missile crisis from inside the White House. Actually, it’s the story of total focus and attention on a singular problem (in this case, an end-of-the-world-type problem).

Forget the politics and nitpicking for a second. There’s so much about this movie for a productivity nerd to love; from the President’s GTD method, to the meetings of historical heavyweights locked in a room and duking it out over solutions to Armadgeddon-level issues. Plus, it takes place in a time and location where high quality materials and minimalism ruled over even the most common of daily tasks (imagine entire sets designed by the Field Notes crew).

But what really matters about the movie - why I put it in the DVD player before I take on a major project - is the focus. If anyone put as much energy and focus into their projects as these characters did, there’s no limit to what could be accomplished. There’s no limit to the money or impact that could be made. There’s no competition that could possibly touch what’s produced.

It should encourage you, that of all your possible competitors, few are executing, but much fewer (if any) are bringing an intense focus to what they execute. It’s an opportunity.