My middle-school softball coach took on the impossible task of teaching a gaggle of twelve-year-old girls how to focus.
He started with a stack of baseball cards: Carlton Fisk, Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, Ken Griffey Jr (SHUT UP it was the 90s). Pictures of players at bat.
Look at these guys, Coach said. What do you notice?
We replied with observations about their form, or how dreamy they were, or whatever it is adolescent girls might say.
Look at their eyes. What are they looking at? Jose Canseco and his big blue eyes were staring directly at the ball as it made contact.
Fastballs can travel at over 100 mph. How do you focus on a ball that’s moving at 100 mph? You begin by focusing on the ball when it’s still in the pitcher’s hand.
To focus on something difficult, direct full attention when it’s easy. Eliminate reactive behavior. If the batter waits until the ball is already in motion, she has no choice but to react to it. If the batter watches the ball from mound to plate, then she is in control of her focal point.
Swinging reactively is a great way to miss. It’s tempting to pull up Gmail or leave the phone on when setting down to work, but that pretty much guarantees that your thought process will be dictated by others. It’s impossible to focus in a reactive environment.
If a baseball player can focus on a hundred-mile-per-hour fastball, my teammates could focus on a slow-moving softball. And Barnacle’s iOS developer can focus on finishing our iPhone app 🙂