It’s All about Focus

I’m the kind of person that likes goals, objectives and some amount of regularity to my schedule. There is often a cadence to how my weeks go by. Some people call it a rut—but when they get out of the rut what happens? Plenty of people have dreamed about what to do with all that “free time.” Be careful, you might get your wish.

We are Penn State--We are focused! My daughters and wife show their Penn State pride.
We are Penn State--We are focused! My daughters and wife show their Penn State pride.

Having recently graduated I relished the thought of all the “space” in my schedule. I have been able to do many of the tasks I’d put off and have enjoyed being more active in the lives of my children. There was a trap awaiting me however.

The timing of my graduation just happened to coincide with the restructuring of the business that I have owned for 14 years. The restructuring is meant to allow me to leave in search of employment opportunities more in tune with the combination of my experience and my recently earned degree. As negotiations have been winding up, my schedule is of course focused on achieving new employment.

It’s not what is on my schedule, but what is not on it that concealed the “trap.” Gone was the routine of rising between 4 and 5 am to meet the demands of work. Gone were the obligations of assignments and essays burning the candle deep into the night. Woohoo! Right?! Not quite.

Gone also, at least for a moment, was focus. The danger lies in the mental aspect of such a dramatic paradigm shift. There can be a sense of insecurity, a fear of the unknown, even a sense of free-fall. Think about it just for a second—what if everything you knew to expect in your day disappeared? With my course now significantly altered I admittedly have had a day or two in the last couple weeks were I have floundered a bit. There have been one or two nights were I have hit the pillow wondering if my efforts of the day were at all effective. It became immediately apparent that the lack of predictive ability a regular schedule offers might be confounding.

It has been a valuable lesson that I have learned. Truly a survivalist’s lesson. If you were marooned on an island or lost in the woods the most important thing you can have is a plan. You’ve got to ask yourself what it is that you are after. What are you trying to do? Your goals may have changed—what are they now? You’ve got to make a plan. Not planning just to plan but planning to do. You have to find the activities that will be of greatest use to you in whatever endeavor you seek and prioritize their accomplishment. The failure to organize your thinking can be the Achilles heel of the recent graduate or recently unemployed or if you’re lucky like me—both.

Fortunately this “freedom” came to me on the heels of possibly the busiest time of my life. Being a husband, father, business owner, and student has helped me squeeze the most out of every minute of a day. I know how to plan and plan effectively. It has helped to mitigate the occasional thought of flying blind.

As good as you may be at organizing your time you must be better at using your assets. Of the great leaders I have had the privilege of associating with in my life one characteristic they all exhibit that I have tried to embody is to draw upon the skills and abilities of others. Inevitably there is someone who has the knowledge or a connection that can help you succeed.

Recently I have had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Lynn Atanasoff, the Career Counselor for Penn State World Campus. Dr. Atanasoff is a gold mine of information. After 14 years in the same job my resume needed an overhaul. She has helped me do just that. Should you need it she can also help you prepare for conversations with potential employers as well as reaching out to your network of contacts.

This is a life lesson. Gone are the days when a good resume is all you needed.

  • Plan—the old axiom is trite but true—“if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
  • Network—I believe I mentioned this in a previous post but it is important enough to mention again. In fact I must amend that previous post which also said “99.9% of jobs are advertised somewhere.” Not exactly. I’ll eat crow on this one. The majority of people are in jobs that were never formally advertised. Network, network, network.
  • Remember the mental game. Life will throw you a curve. It is inevitable. The drive that got you through school, which helped you succeed at that last job, is the same drive that will sharpen your focus when you need it most.

“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.”

~Arnold H. Glasgow