I’m a voracious reader, and am currently enjoying The Snowball by Alice Schroeder. It’s densely packed 800+ pages recount the life of Warren Buffet, the second richest man in the world and a billionaire many times over. I have just reached the part where he meets Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, and they surprise themselves by getting along so well.
In one very telling line, Gates’ father asks the pair what they would attribute their success to. Both answer simply: “focus”.
As advice it has been echoed many times by many people, but coming from arguably the two most successful men of our time it is worth noting. Despite having a strong link with Microsoft I know relatively little about the life of Bill Gates, apart from what I read in Malcolm Gladwell’s insightful and entertaining book Outliers. Buffett, however, is portrayed in some detail by Schoeder, and he clearly has the ability to focus intensely for long periods of time.
Of course, the simple statement “focus” leaves out as much as it includes. Buffett is famous for his razor sharp mind and making dispassionate decisions only after careful analysis. However, both Gates and Buffett started early in their lives on their chosen paths and have never wavered in the pursuit of their goals – they both have the ability to focus for the long term.
Focusing on the task in hand can be done, with a little effort, by young or old, rich or poor, educated or uneducated. You don’t need training or a book to teach you how to do it. It’s very simple, really. But it does need determination and a willingness to forgo other things. Buffett has a computer in his office, but it’s not on his desk. When flying he buries himself in reading, rather than chatting to his travel companions. To Buffett these may seem obviously good uses of time, but they make blunt lessons for the rest of us.