The quotes for this book need curating

We’d love for you to do it. If you’re not yet registered as a curator, you’ll first need to do so.

What does curating involve?   |   Benefits    |    Register

About the book

Bestselling author Daniel Goleman returns with a groundbreaking look at today’s scarcest resource and the secret to high performance and fulfillment: attention

For more than two decades, psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman has been scouting the leading edge of the human sciences for what’s new, surprising, and important. In Focus, he delves into the science of attention in all its varieties, presenting a long overdue discussion of this little-noticed and under-rated mental asset that matters enormously for how we navigate life. Attention works much like a muscle: use it poorly and it can wither; work it well and it grows. In an era of unstoppable distractions, Goleman persuasively argues that now more than ever we must learn to sharpen focus if we are to contend with, let alone thrive, in a complex world.

Goleman boils down attention research into a threesome: inner, other, and outer focus. A well-lived life demands we be nimble at each. Goleman shows why high-achievers need all three kinds of focus, as demonstrated by rich case studies from fields as diverse as competitive sports, education, the arts, and business. Those who excel rely on what he calls Smart Practices such as mindfulness meditation, focused preparation and recovery, positive emotions and connections, and mental “prosthetics” that help them improve habits, add new skills, and sustain excellence. Combining cutting-edge research with practical findings, Focus reveals what distinguishes experts from amateurs and stars from average performers. Ultimately, Focus calls upon readers not only to pay attention to what matters most to them personally, but also to turn their attention to the pressing problems of the wider world, to the powerless and the poor, and to the future, not just to the seductively simple demands of here-and-now.

Buy book: Amazon

Year published:  2013


Quotes from the book

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence (Daniel Goleman)

  • Daydreaming incubates creative discovery.
  • Directing attention toward where it needs to go is a primal task of leadership.
  • But amid the din and distraction of work life, poor listening has become epidemic.
  • I don’t think focus is in itself ever a bad thing. But focus of the wrong kind, or managed poorly, can be.
  • One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us.
  • The sweet spot for smart decisions, then, comes not just from being a domain expert, but also from having high self-awareness.
  • Mindfulness helps especially for those of us for whom every setback, hurt or dissapointment creates endless cascades of rumination
  • We learn best with focused attention. As we focus on what we’re learning, the brain maps that information on what we already know making new neural connections.
  • Rapport demands joint attention—mutual focus. Our need to make an effort to have such human moments has never been greater, given the ocean of distractions we all navigate daily.
  • “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.”  Albert Einstein once said.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
  • A Persian fairy tale tells of the Three Princes of Serendip, who  were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.  Creativity in the wild operates much like that.
  • In any interaction the more high-power person tends to focus his or her gaze on the other person less than others, and is more likely to interrupt and to monopolize the conversation—all signifying a lack of attention.
  • In a complex world where almost everyone has access to the same information, new value arises from the original synthesis, from putting ideas together in novel ways, and from smart questions that open up untapped potential.
  • No birthday, concert, hangout session, or party can be enjoyed without taking the time to distance yourself from what you are doing  to make sure that those in your digital world know instantly how much fun you are having.
  • In a complex world where almost everyone has access to the same information, new value arises from the original synthesis, from putting ideas together in novel ways, and from smart questions that open up untapped potential.
  • Brain studies of mental workouts in which you sustain a single, chosen focus show that the more you detach from what’s distracting you and refocus on what you should be paying attention to, the stronger this brain circuitry becomes.
  • The antidote for mind wandering is meta-awareness, attention to attention itself, as in the ability to notice that you are not noticing what you should, and correcting your focus. Mindfulness makes this crucial attention muscle stronger.
  • Emotional resilience comes down to how quickly we recover from upsets. People who are highly resilient—who bounce back right away—can have as much as thirty times more activation in the left prefrontal area than those who are less resilient.
  • In fact, people who are extremely adept at mental tasks that demand cognitive control and a roaring working memory—like solving complex math problems—can struggle with creative insights if they have trouble switching off their fully concentrated focus.5
  • Martin Luther King Jr. observed that those who failed to offer their aid asked themselves the question: If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me? But the Good Samaritan reversed the question: If I do not stop to help this man what will happen to him?
  • Whenever you notice your mind wandering,  a fundamental instruction in meditation advises,  bring your mind back to its point of focus.  The operative phrase here is whenever you notice. As our mind drifts off, we almost never notice the moment it launches into some other orbit on its own.
  • The inability to resist checking email or Facebook rather than focus on the person talking to us leads to what the sociologist Erving Goffman, a masterly observer of social interaction, called an  away,  a gesture that tells another person  I’m not interested  in what’s going on here and now.
  • It’s not the chatter of people around us that is the most powerful distractor, but rather the chatter of our own minds. Utter concentration demands these inner voices be stilled. Start to subtract sevens successively from 100 and, if you keep your focus on the task, your chatter zone goes quiet.
  • Tightly focused attention gets fatigued—much like an overworked muscle—when we push to the point of cognitive exhaustion. The signs of mental fatigue, such as a drop in effectiveness and a rise in distractedness and irritability, signify that the mental effort needed to sustain focus has depleted the glucose that feeds neural energy.
  • You see it in jazz musicians, who never rehearse exactly what they do, but just seem to know when to take center stage, when to fade into the background. When jazz artists were compared with classical musicians in brain function, they showed more neural indicators of self-awareness.15 As one jazz artist put it, In jazz you have to tune in to how your body is feeling so you know when to riff.
  • For leaders to get results they need all three kinds of focus. Inner focus attunes us to our intuitions, guiding values, and better decisions. Other focus smooths our connections to the people in our lives. And outer focus lets us navigate in the larger world. A leader tuned out of his internal world will be rudderless; one blind to the world of others will be clueless; those indifferent to the larger systems within which they operate will be blindsided.
  • If you are a duffer at golf, say, and make the same mistakes every time you try a certain swing or putt, 10,000 hours of practicing that error will not improve your game. You’ll still be a duffer, albeit an older one. No less an expert than Anders Ericsson, the Florida State University psychologist whose research on expertise spawned the 10,000-hour rule of thumb, told me,  You don’t get benefits from mechanical repetition, but by adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal. 2
  • The longer someone ignores an email before finally responding, the more relative social power that person has. Map these response times across an entire organization and you get a remarkably accurate chart of the actual social standing. The boss leaves emails unanswered for hours or days; those lower down respond within minutes. There’s an algorithm for this, a data mining method called  automated social hierarchy detection,  developed at Columbia University.8 When applied to the archive of email traffic at Enron Corporation before it folded, the method correctly identified the roles of top-level managers and their subordinates just by how long it took them to answer a given person’s emails. Intelligence agencies have been applying the same metric to suspected terrorist gangs, piecing together the chain of influence to spot the central figures.