LESSON 20Hone Three Different Kinds of Focus

One of the most obvious talents I’ve detected among the best entrepreneurs—those who’ve created billion-dollar companies from scratch, and then done it again—is their ability to focus, which can be monomaniacal in almost a scary kind of way. “Obsessive business focus” was the term used by the authors of a 2015 UBS/PwC report on billionaires: “After they have identified [a new business] opportunity, they switch to an extremely focused modus operandi in execution that some observers could call ‘tunnel vision.’”1

I’ve created a number of businesses and have certainly experienced periods of intense focus in my life. Others appear to sustain that focus for far longer, sometimes decades, and achieve success of another order of magnitude. Nonstop, obsessive focus? I suspect I only experienced that between the ages of 25 and 30 when I was developing Harborside, which provided the greatest relative increase of wealth in my career, mainly because I started with almost zero net worth. (Note: This is not a complaint because, admittedly, I had many advantages that others do not in education and background and potential support if I ran into trouble.)

Oddly enough, there is a great paradox, which perhaps reflects the unique nature of entrepreneurs. On the one hand, entrepreneurs frequently have endless energy and suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADD) that keeps them going in so many directions, often at once or in rapid-fire succession. ...

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