3 Ideas in 2 Minutes on Staying Focused
Shiny Penny Syndrome, the Power of Consistency & a Railway Track Thousands of Miles Long
I. Shiny Penny Syndrome
Distractions kill productivity. Also, I really need to finish that new Netflix series. In the meantime, here‘s Guitar teacher Neil Cowmeadow on understanding and curing the Shiny Penny Syndrome:
No matter how happy and successful you are, we can all be sucked into the vortex of new ideas and schemes that look so tempting. Shiny Penny Syndrome is the constant jumping of attention and focus, from one new thing to the next, leading to distraction and loss of direction. […]
Shiny Penny Syndrome Checklist:
Will this new thing (XYZ) help me to progress toward my Definite Major Purpose?
If so, is it a good time to start? If it is not, diarise a review of the situation in 6 months. Review everything every 6 months as a matter of urgency.
How much time will XYZ take away from my core activities?
Will time spent on XYZ produce a better return on investment than anything else you could do?
Can you afford to do XYZ?
Can you afford to NOT do XYZ?
To whom can you outsource XYZ?
Do you really want to do XYZ for the right reasons?
—Neil Cowmeadow, The Tutor Podcast
II. The Power of Consistency
Perhaps the goals we set ourselves are too daunting or we strive for unrealistic perfection. Designer and entrepreneur Jack Butcher has a simple formula for staying focused. It emphasises the power of consistency:
How to get really good at anything:
Do it badly.
III. A Railway Track Thousands of Miles Long
On a more philosophical note, we may invoke the metaphor of A Railway Track Thousands of Miles Long. Here’s Zen teacher Shunryū Suzuki on human nature and avoiding distractions:
The Bodhisattva's way is called “the single-minded way,” or “one railway track thousands of miles long.” The railway track is always the same. If it were to become wider or narrower, it would be disastrous. Wherever you go, the railway track is always the same. That is the Bodhisattva’s way. So even if the sun were to rise from the west, the Bodhisattva has only one way. His way is in each moment to express his nature and his sincerity.
We say railway track, but actually there is no such thing. Sincerity itself is the railway track. The sights we see from the train will change, but we are always running on the same track. And there is no beginning or end to the track: beginningless and endless track. There is no starting point nor goal, nothing to attain. Just to run on the track is our way. This is the nature of our Zen practice.
But when you become curious about the railway track, danger is there. You should not see the railway track. If you look at the track you will become dizzy. Just appreciate the sights you see from the train. That is our way. There is no need for the passengers to be curious about the track. Someone will take care of it; Buddha will take care of it.
But sometimes we try to explain the railway track because we become curious if something is always the same. We wonder, “How is it possible for the Bodhisattva always to be the same? What is his secret?” But there is no secret. Everyone has the same nature as the railway track.
—Shunryū Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Have a great week,