When I was in infantry officer candidate school at Ft. Benning, Georgia, a part of the training was learning to become a sharpshooter with a rifle. A sharpshooter designation is the highest level of marksmanship a soldier could attain; the sharpshooter badge qualified me for sniper school had I had an interest.
My success on the rifle range came from odd advice from the sergeant in charge. “The rifle is not the big player in this activity,” he told me, “It is just you and the target; the rifle works for you both. Be so at one with your target that it pulls the bullet from your rifle barrel. Be so focused on precision that it seems as if the rifle fired itself, leaving you surprised.” Olympic gold medal shooters say championship shooting is an intuitive process, not a mechanical one. His counsel on absolute focus has stayed with me to serve in many contexts.
True focus is not about attention; it is about immersion. It includes listening to someone as if that person was about to reveal an insight you desperately need. It encompasses noticing the details like they were newborn, not simply scanning the big picture. And, it requires an investment of yourself with a willingness to momentarily give up concern for clock, requests, or competing attractions. Focus is quieting the brain so it ignores the noise and static to be completely present. It is the courage to “be all…there.”
Overnighting with grandparents was always a really big deal in my family. It was extra special because my granddaddy was a compelling storyteller. My brother, sister and I were supposed to be in bed by 9 p.m. But on many a night in front my grandparents’ fireplace or on their back porch on a clear summer night, we were so caught up in one of his stories, none of us noticed the time. What I remember was that my grandparents seemed also oblivious to the bedtime curfew. It became our secret. I have often thought of how all-absorbing the granddaddy stories were to all of us.
Focus is the feature of service that customers long to receive, given their fatigue with drive-by, superficial interest. It is the dimension of employee engagement that signals being valued, not just used or employed. And, it is the tool for turning information into insight and understanding into compassion. Discover the hidden treasure of full and unshaken focus and watch how it opens doors to a richer experience for all you encounter.