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The One Thing I Learned From Jerry McGuire

The One Thing I Learned From Jerry McGuire
Focus- The One Thing I Learned From Jerry McGuire

You had me at ‘Hello’. What a corny movie. But I was thinking about what the character in the movie Jerry McGuire is forced to do, and as a result allows him to succeed.

It was focus.

If you remember in that movie Jerry is a struggling agent for athletes and finds himself losing all his clients bar one, Cuba Gooding Jnr [the only thing holding that movie together]. So what does this force Jerry to do?

Focus all his energy into this one project; his only client. Even though there is a bit of luck involved, Jerry finds the success he was looking for in putting everything he had into one thing, professionally.

The Unstoppable Power of Focus

This reminds me of a post from Brian Kim over a year ago called The Unstoppable Power of Focus. He uses the example of Google focusing on becoming THE search engine and then later finding other avenues to conquer – advertising, email etc.

Because Google excelled on one level, they were able to step up and do something else. Brian suggests this is possibly the only way to move up. Create a solid step by focusing on succeeding at it and then building on that step.

Now let’s say you don’t focus and skip from subject to subject. It’s the same as you building half a step and destroying it. Then building another step halfway and then destroying it.

Looking back at Jerry, he had only one option and that was to make a success out of Cuba Gooding Jnr. When he did that he found clarity and could move on to the other things he felt were important – Renee Zellweger for example – and building his sporting agency.

focus target

Where To Put Your Focus

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The most obvious reason some of us lack this kind of focus is that we are trying to build different things; basically multi-tasking projects. But how do you succeed in one thing if a lot of your time is focused on various others?

The short answer is You Can’t. However, I have a quick formula that can create focus from all the projects and distractions you want to keep in your life.

Focus = Stability + Time + Motivation

Instead of going head first into your chosen task and gutting it out poor and hopeful, you can give yourself a platform to comfortably go after your real goals.

The first step is creating Stability. This is usually financial stability. Why are we talking about money? Because once you have a stable level of income of which you can live off, you can spare time; and time is crucial to focus.

Stability = Money Earned – Money Needed

If this results in a positive number, you’re good.

What I did was create a minimum budget. Admittedly it was a really rough estimate that I’ve kept in the back of my mind, but I established what I really needed to be comfortable financially. Once I know how much I need to make and how much time it takes to make it, I can see how much free time I actually have.

Try Earning a Degree in Financial Stability – [YahooFinance]

Time = 24 Hours – Hours Working

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It’s obvious but look at what time you have left after work. For many people ‘work’ isn’t what they want to focus on. You may have a dream of working on something you love, or creating that masterpiece in your spare time.

Once you have all this spare time to pursue those dreams, you can focus 100% on them for certain periods of the day. e.g: Work 8 hours, 2 hours blogging.

So there we have two very simple equations that, I think, are very important. To me there is no point in working if you can’t pursue the things you really want to do and build something else.

Work out how much you need to work and, if you like, pillage the rest. If you’re saving, budget that in there also. If you like to go out every weekend, budget that. How much must you work to get that number? How much free time are you left with?

Try the 50-30-20 Rule [StevePavlina]

Motivation

That leaves us with the final part of the formula. This is usually the trickiest part but is the real catalyst for getting focused. The question you must ask yourself is: What are you going to get out of it? and also What are you getting out of it?

The first question looks to the future, your goal when it’s finished. The second wants you to think about the immediate pleasures and gains. You should be able to give different answers for both.

For instance your goal may be to create a successful blog. You want to be able to live comfortably from the residual income of your blog. That’s the final goal. However, while building your blog, you could say that your immediate gain is learning more about a topic you love.

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Other immediate motivations may be networking with like-minded people or sharing your knowledge with others.

The thing about motivation is that it requires action. You can have a good idea of what motivates you but still not act on it. This is where you need to factor in another element. Something that will force you to act.

Motivation = Gains x Necessity

You can’t only want something, you have to need it. When you realize why you want to do something and what you are getting and are going to get out of it, you create a necessity.

Take those reasons and immediate gains and multiply them by how much you need them. If I am writing a blog and I enjoy learning more about what I’m writing about, I don’t just want to learn more – I need to learn more. It is imperative to my blog’s success that I learn as much as I can because it builds credibility and makes for better content.

Now that I have the motivation, time and stability, I can focus.

Also check out Lifehack’s motivational posts.

Back To Jerry

A personal twist on the motivational side of things: ‘Show my the money’ isn’t a big deal to me. I’m not motivated a lot by money. Generally, I will earn as much as I need and enjoy my free time.

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But let’s think back to the movie and Jerry’s nemesis: Jay Mohr. What does he do? He gloats and takes Jerry’s clients. Jerry sees him succeed. Does this motivate Jerry? It should.

Seeing someone in your field succeed in the ways you want to is motivational. You can be defeatist, if you must, but what you should really do is think, ‘It can be done!’

I have my own Jay Mohr. It’s Leo Babauta from ZenHabits.net – he’s a machine and I see his posts all over the place, including here at Lifehack. This is a great motivator for me.

Not only do I see competition and inspiration, but I see that you can get a lot of work out into the public and build a name. It’s that ‘just Google me’ kind of mentality. I want Craig Childs followers! Yes, I can be that vain.

Focus

To truly succeed in anything, you need to focus on it. Focus on your goals and what you need to achieve them. What do you need to do so you have time to pursue those goals? What can you do so that you stay motivated?

These are personal questions that can’t really be generalized for everyone; but hopefully thinking about how to free up your time and focus on what you really want will put you in the right direction.

P.S. Sorry to make everyone think of Tom Cruise.

More by this author

Craig Childs

Craig is an editor and web developer who writes about happiness and motivation at Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More About Note-Taking

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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