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The Art of the Good Life by Rolf Dobelli

The Art of the Good Life by Rolf Dobelli

Author:Rolf Dobelli
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
Tags: Self-Help / Personal Growth / Happiness
Publisher: Hachette Books
Published: 2017-11-07T05:00:00+00:00


35

THE FOCUS TRAP

How to Manage Your Most Important Resource

You’re sitting in a restaurant, your eyes scanning the menu. The choice is between a set “menu dégustation surprise” or the à la carte selection. You soon see that every individual combination of appetizers and mains comes out more expensive than the tasting menu, which also includes wine—so that’s what you order. “Good choice,” smiles the waiter. “Most people order that.”

One course after the next is dished up—amuse-bouches, four types of foie gras, pickled trout with asparagus, chocolate savarin with strawberries, roebuck, a cheese board with fig mustard, wild-garlic ricotta ravioli, a lemon sorbet to cleanse the palate, then duck breast, aubergine gnocchi and sweetbreads; all sorts of things, in an endless stream. Then the various wines, in an equally random sequence. After about twenty courses, you ask for the bill. You’ve never been so stuffed, never eaten such a melee of different things, and you’ve never felt so sick.

Cut to a dinner that actually took place. More on the traditional side, culinarily speaking, but highly exclusive when it came to the guests—billionaires, every last one, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Gates asked the group what they felt was the most important factor in their success. Buffett said: “Focus.” Gates agreed. Evidently focus is vital, but equally crucial is where you direct it. What’s remarkable, then, is that instead of choosing our objects of focus “à la carte” we stuff our faces morning to night with an “informational tasting menu” that others have selected for us. E-mails, Facebook updates, texts, tweets, alerts, news items from across the world, document hyperlinks, video clips on websites, and screens as far as the eye can see, in airports, train stations and trams—all of them vying for our attention. We’re ceaselessly entertained with sometimes banal, sometimes thrilling stories. We’re flattered, wooed and offered suggestions. And so we feel a little like kings, when in reality we should feel like spoon-fed slaves.

All these offerings are thefts not gifts, losses not wins, debits not credits. An Instagram post, no matter how beautifully designed, is a debit. Breaking news is a debit. An e-mail is (in most cases) a debit. The moment we read it, we pay—in focus, time or even money.

Focus, time and money are our three most important resources. The latter two are most familiar. There’s even a science devoted to time and money—referred to in that context as “work” and “capital.” Focus, however, is little understood, although today it’s the most valuable of these three resources, the most crucial to our success and our wellbeing. Unfortunately, when it comes to focus we tend to commit systematic errors. Here are several key ways you can avoid them.

One: don’t confuse what’s new with what’s relevant. Every novelty—product, opinion, news item—wants an audience. The louder the world, the louder the novelty must shout in order to be heard. Don’t take this noise too seriously. Most of what’s hailed as revolutionary is irrelevant.

Two: avoid content or technology that’s “free.” They’re the definition of focus traps, because they’re financed by advertising.



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