While it’s easy to look at someone as successful as Warren Buffett and say that they have had opportunities or luck that no one else can reciprocate, the truth is actually much simpler than that. Success starts with first figuring out what you want, and then driving relentlessly towards that goal. Warren Buffett seems to have perfected this, and the result is a resounding success.
Writer and biographer Alice Schroeder captured this best in her biography of Warren Buffett. She writes, “[Buffett] ruled out paying attention to almost anything but business—art, literature, science, travel, architecture—so that he could focus on his passion.” This tunnel-like focus has allowed Buffett to leap to the head of the investing game.
And, as with most things Buffett, it really just boils down to a few simple steps.
The Power of Focus
If there’s one thing that most people are lacking, it is focus. While currently popular opinion states that multitasking is the best way to be productive, studies have shown over and over that focusing on more that one thing at a time only has one possible result: everything is done slower, and with a lower quality than if we had actually spent time focusing on only one thing at a time.
So how do you do this in today’s frantic-paced world? At any given moment, there are a million things clamoring for our attention from our family to work, electronics, friends, advertisements… any number of things. How do you get Buffett’s clear head and perfect focus in order to achieve goals?
Well, according James Clear’s story about Buffett and his pilot, there are only three steps you need to complete:
Step 1: Make a list of what you want
List out all of your goals—as many as you can think of. The original text suggests 25, but if you have more or less than that, that’s fine. Make sure you have at least 10 goals. Do you want a promotion? To buy a new house? Start up a business? Marry your sweetheart? Have a child? Clean your garage? Whatever it might be, write it down.
Step 2: Circle your top 5 items
Now, circle the top five goals that are the most important to you. These should be the things you wouldn’t be able to forgive yourself if you didn’t accomplish, or things that you want more than the others. Don’t worry about ranking them; just choose the top five.
Step 3: Scrap the rest of the list
Rid yourself of the thought that you can get it all done by focusing a lot on the big things and a little on the small. Multitasking is not your friend. If you work on it all at once, you’ll never accomplish anything. Those non-circled items are just a distraction from your real goals. Stop letting yourself get distracted by lesser things and focus entirely on your top five goals. The rest can wait.
It’s hard to look at those items you care about and let them go, but if you want to be able to focus, you have to eliminate all distractions in your life. This can be the hardest step, but oftentimes the only way to really excel is to make sacrifices and to get your priorities in order.
As Buffet says, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”