Maintaining a front sight focus is built upon the foundation of purpose. It then requires that we simplify our “battlefield” by getting very clear about what we really need, jettisoning the things we don’t need, and learning to outsource or delegate everything else. We can’t grow from complexity. We must build simplicity into our “life system” so we can accelerate our learning and growth. We begin this process by asking an important question:
“What two or three things do I love to do and that I am really good at?”
For example, Personally, I know that I’m good at writing, coaching, and envisioning the future—I’m always about two years ahead of my organization—but am I good at executing day-to-day operations? Nope, I suck at that part. Am I good at web development? Marketing? E-commerce? No, no, and no. It’s probably a bad idea for me to expend my time and energy on those activities. I and someone else—someone who is as good at those aspects as I am at writing, coaching, and envisioning—doing them instead. At home, do I love to fix the dishwasher and paint the walls? Nope. I hire folks to do also. I feel good that I am helping those individuals make a living. I recall fun discussions with my Father about this aspect of my personality. He does everything around the house – and we grew up in a big house – which meant that my brothers and I were his slave labor. I decided early that this plan wouldn’t work for me, so I would support the plumbers, fixers and painters of the world. As a result my life is simpler and I have more time for the things I am good at. The unexpected benefit of this plan is that it allows me to make more money by a large factor than I would have ever saved by doing that work myself.
The key is to focus on only two to three core competencies. What are you really good at? Figure out and focus on what you’re really good at, and then narrow that down to two to three core activities. In my life the three core competencies I zero in on translate into creating new products, synthesizing ideas, and communicating them in speeches, coaching sessions, books, videos, etc.
Focusing on your strengths doesn’t mean you don’t also shore up your weaknesses. In fact, you must shore up your weakness if they are critical nodes in your life that could develop into to a failure point. Sometimes in a team environment, nobody else but you can fill a particular role. If your responsibility is related to a weakness, you need to improve in that area and not of ignore it. Getting clear on what you should be doing and shedding what you should not be doing can lead to some tough choices. The warrior’s path is full of hard choices.
Whether it’s leaving a team that’s taking you too far off track, dropping a friend whose negativity keeps you down, or ceasing an activity you used to enjoy but is keeping you from pursuing your core interest…you will inevitably face hard choices. Some folks come to this point early in their lives but don’t do anything. Usually this is because they don’t understand the importance of alignment, or they simply lack the courage to make a change. Twenty years later, they’re still stuck in that job or relationship where they are unaligned, their passion squashed and the life force dripping out of them. They’ve become experts in something they don’t care about and are living that life of quiet desperation.
When I chose to leave Wall Street and join the Navy I called my folks to tell them the news. My mother burst into tears then my father accused me of trying to kill her. The process was an emotional roller coaster. However, I was clear in my mind that I needed to take this drastic turn, and start living aligned with my passion and purpose. There’s no effort more worthwhile than aligning passion and purpose into a career. If that means we have to reorganize priorities, then embrace the suck and do it.
My Mom felt I was turning my back on the family. The alternative would’ve been to continue down a path that would have led to that quiet desperation I was already glimpsing as a CPA on Wall Street. Often people have great intentions about starting new efforts, but get derailed by others or by their own belief systems. They become timid and afraid to say no to obligations, or allow themselves to get talked out of things. We must have compassion but also learn to lean into our purpose with confidence and clarity. My family got over it and came around to support me. I remember how proud my parents were as I accepted the Honor Man award from SEAL training. Accept that the choices we make can have emotional fallout and that this is the natural result of reorganizing the structures in our lives. Time heals all wounds and when aligned the right people align with us.
Simplifying the battlefield is SEAL-speak for eliminating distractions. You must learn to do this for both external and internal environments. When you’re not bogged down with excess clutter you literally and metaphorically have more room for the things you need. If you jettison, outsource, and delegate obligations, beliefs, even relationships that no longer suit you, you’ll have more resources to devote to your remaining priorities. When you keep things simple, you put your resources into a concentrated effort.