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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 January 21, 2020

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

How to Self-Taught Effectively

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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