Warren Buffett and Bill Gates were once asked to describe the secret of their success in one word.

They both replied, “Focus.”

I cannot think of a better one word response. However, the restriction by the interviewer to a single word meant that they were unable to expand on what they meant.

Singular focus is insufficient to drive you towards success in both personal and professional contexts.

If applied incorrectly, focus and drive can make things worse.

“Focus” should be considered and applied in two ways.

  1. Filtering; and
  2. Resource allocation

Filtering – narrowing your focus.

The classic example here is that of a baseball player. Knowing when to swing is the most critical aspect of batting.  

Poker presents a similar analogy. The best players consistently fold more than they play, as they know that they should wait for situations where the odds are in their favour.

In this context, focus is about narrowing your vision and filtering ideas, businesses, opportunities, and yes, even people. Discarding the poor ideas, businesses, opportunities and people is critical to ensuring you are going to be playing in scenarios where the odds in your favour.

Resource allocation – focusing on what matters

Upon selecting the highest value options, the next phase involves focusing your resources on what matters most.

Consultants love talking about the Pareto principle (e.g. the “80/20”) and that’s generally a good place to start.

We all need to make opportunity cost/trade off decisions on where we choose to spend our time and effort. Analysing what the critical activities are in each instance will ensure output can be maximised.

Focus. On the best ideas, opportunities and people. And on how you can make the most meaningful impact.

Choosing your problems.

Choosing your problems.

Thinking about business and value, the Warren Buffett way.