How to Move Mountains

In her book “The Snowball”, the American writer Alice Schroeder talks about the first time Bill Gates and Warren Buffet met, at a dinner hosted by Gates’ mother. She recounts how, during the dinner...

In her book “The Snowball”, the American writer Alice Schroeder talks about the first time Bill Gates and Warren Buffet met, at a dinner hosted by Gates’ mother. She recounts how, during the dinner, Mary Gates asked everyone around the table to identify what they believed to have been the single most important factor in their remarkable success in business. Both Gates and Buffett gave the same one-word answer: “Focus.”

Having worked as a trainer and mentor to some of the world’s leading organisations and to many acclaimed professionals respectively, my own experience has shown me that this simple 5-letter word is, indeed, a significant determining factor between those who are successful and their less successful competitors.

When people set their minds on doing something (i.e. they focus intensely), the odds of achieving it increase tenfold. Simply put, as Dr. Jim Taylor said in his Huffington post titled, “Focus is the Gateway to Business Success”, focus involves the ability to pay attention to things that will help and avoid distractions that will hurt your work efforts.
On the other hand, when people are distracted and lose their focus, they also lose momentum and their talent and potential can be wasted. Without focus, again according to Dr. Taylor, all aspects of your ability to think will suffer. Without focus, you won’t be as effective in your work because if you’re not concentrating on the right things or are distracted, you won’t be capable of getting your work done. 

Focus or Die

The German psychologist Jan Souman sheds some interesting light on focus and ‘losing direction’. As part of a research project, he took participants into the Sahara Desert and instructed them to simply walk in a straight line. Easy? It turned out to be quite complicated! It was a cloudy day when some of them walked, and so they could not use the sun as a reference point. They walked in circles! Others, who walked while the sun was shining and they could see it, managed to walk in an almost straight line. In other words, if we can identify what is essential and keep our eyes fixed on it, we won’t get too far adrift. The same applies to focusing on work or any goal/aspiration we may have.


1. Plan your work and then work your plan

Many years ago, when I was working in the family business and, at the same time, concentrating on becoming a trainer and speaker, I used to spend every weekend preparing seminars that I would deliver on Monday morning to all our staff. I did this for seven consecutive years, never missing a Monday and never ever having a holiday longer than 7 days or on a Monday. It took time but in the end it paid off. Consistency is the backbone of focus. 

2. Be consistent if you want people to take notice of you

One of the people I greatly admire is the writer Seth Godin. To me, he is a modern Socrates or Plato, even though he mainly focuses on marketing and its principles. He has made a point of writing a blog every day for over 19 years and he recently celebrated his 7,000th post! One of the many things I have learnt from him is that it is more important to be consistent in producing work than to wait for the perfect work to be produced. This is why I have persisted in publishing at least one blog post every month for the last ten years and it’s also why I have produced the #AskVirardi show at 2pm (EET) every Monday for the last two and a half years. Whenever someone asks me why Monday and why 2pm, I always give the joking reply, “God knows!” The real answer is that it’s all about consistency and focus, which eventually creates expectations from readers and the online fan base.  For me it is all about being regular and not always brilliant rather than being always brilliant but on a very irregular basis.

3. Take control

We all need to decide what we want to do and then work on doing it. In his book “The Compound Effect”, author Darren Hardy writes: “There’s a story about a man riding a horse, galloping quickly. It appears that he’s going somewhere very important. A man standing along the roadside shouts, ‘Where are you going?’ The rider replies, ‘I don’t know. Ask the horse!’ This is the story of most people’s lives; they’re riding the horse of their habits, with no idea where they’re headed. It’s time to take control of the reins, and move your life in the direction of where you really want to go.”  So, where do you want to go? What are your three top priorities for 2018? Take control by identifying your focus and then work on maintaining it.

Focusing on what is essential is a powerful ability, especially in today’s world, where we are constantly bombarded with distracting ideas, information and opinions. At the same time, for precisely the same reasons, it is not easy. It requires persistence, energy, sacrifices even. But once you can do it, you will go from strength to strength and achieve success. And focus often means keeping things simple.

I began by mentioning Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who believed that focus was absolutely key to their success. I will end with what another business legend, Steve Jobs, had to say about focus and simplicity: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” As his successor, Tim Cook, likes to say: “We're very simple people at Apple. We focus on making the world's best products and enriching people's lives.”

Whichever way you look at it, in the end everything comes down to a matter of focus.

Isn’t it time you were more focused?