FocuSuccess and Failing to Focus

During a recent Leadership Conference (jointly sponsored by two Intel Employee Groups – the Intel Latino Network and the Network of Intel African American Employees), a new employee asked a panel of veterans for the secret to their success. He asked “What was the pivotal or key decision you made that put you on the path that allowed your growth and development into a leader at Intel?” I found one of the veteran employee’s responses to be very thought-provoking.

After a few years at Intel, he found himself without a project. The project he had been working on had been cancelled for a variety of reasons. As he looked around at what was available, he couldn’t find anything that fit his skill set or was of interest. He had heard about a start-up project in Oregon that was risky – it was new and bleeding-edge and not quite on the road map. He hunted down the leader of the new project and offered himself up as a temporary resource. He explained to the leader what he was good at and said, “I’ll do whatever you need done to make your project successful.” The leader was happy to accommodate and gave the veteran a one-year temporary assignment on the project. The veteran then remembered that he worked on that project with a laser-focus. He poured everything he had into making it successful – most especially in his area of interest. He honed his skills. He focused. After a year, he asked for a permanent assignment to the project team. He was rewarded with a permanent transfer and key position. His career took off from there. You could say he experienced focusuccess—his focus lead to his success.  

A month or so ago, I met with a woman who had been fired from her last position. She was depressed and angry. She didn’t understand what went wrong. She had been asking questions of her supervisors and trying to learn the new position. As we dove into the details of the job, I realized that what she was describing had nothing to do with her interests, passions or strengths. In fact, the more she discussed the issues, the more convinced I was that she and the job were a total mismatch. I asked her why she took the job in the first place. It really boiled down to economics. She needed a job. They were the first to offer so she took it. I asked her about her technique for sourcing and applying for jobs. I realized that her criteria were very broad and very vague. She had applied to anything and everything she could find that she might be able to do.  It was a recipe for disaster. A large part of what makes you successful is your passion and drive to do a great job. If you get hired for a job that is not even close to your interests and you can’t reconcile how you will be interested and devoted to that role – you will fail. Sometimes you fail quickly – sometimes slowly. Her lack of focus lead to failure.

My advice this month – hone your focus! Focus on what makes you happy, passionate, engaged, interested, intrigued, and excited. Get in touch with your feelings and your strengths. When you apply for those jobs that fit your criteria, you will show up excited and energetic without even trying. The interviewer will sense your excitement. Let them see it. Tell them why it the opportunity resonates with you. You will surprise them. They will want you to work for them. Don’t fake it. If you do, they’ll see through you. If you fake it and land the job – you will eventually fail.

Some of us pursue careers and education for the wrong reasons. Reasons include trying to meet our parents’ expectations, trying to make enough money to survive, or because we fool ourselves into believing the career we’ve chosen will provide us with money and security. After years of mentoring and coaching people, I can tell you – this is a recipe for disaster. Yes, I understand that we have to get insurance, make enough money to eat and pay the bills. However, if you don’t understand yourself enough to plan to get to a job where you will tap into your passions and talents; it will be all for naught. Don’t wait. Don’t get distracted by others. Plan it out. Focus! And go for the career you really want.

What will your focus be? How will you find it? 

6 thoughts on “FocuSuccess and Failing to Focus

  1. Yes, passion is certainly important. However, in our current economic situation a lot of people are operating much lower on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – they’re operating at the “need food, insurance and rent/mortgage money”. You give a nod to this: “Yes, I understand that we have to get insurance, make enough money to eat and pay the bills.”… however I think that you underestimate how important these things can be to people. Often you can’t wait around to find the perfect career match, you have to go for what you’re offered.

    Probably a more important skill to master is how to do a good job in a position you aren’t necessarily passionate about. So you can survive while waiting for a position you are truly passionate about (which can often take a long time to come around; for some it never arrives).

  2. @ Darrin – Thank you! @ Pollock – I don’t underestimate how important it is to have a job in this economy. I have quite a few friends that have struggled over the past few years. Doing a good job in a position where you have little or no passion is definitely a skill worth having, however, I do not believe it’s sustainable for a long period of time. While you are in that job, you might actively seek out assignments or special projects that tap into your passions. Then management and others will see you really shine. When that happens, opportunities will open up. Be Passionate!

    1. It does seem to be quite hard to get jobs. I had a friend come to my country for 1 year and ended up going back to Canada early because he just couldn’t find anything. It’s such a shame.

  3. I think it is partly through. for me, in each job offer there are three important criteria that I look for. Project, people and then industry. sometimes, project concept is awesome but one is in an environment that there is no way to actually make a progress or the overview of the industry is not that positive. focusing helped me when I was leading a group of students at school to build a robot. it was successful. but we knew that it was a temporary thing. I put my heart and soul into that project and it went perfectly. but like every real-world love story, other than heart, mind should be involved in decision making or it will bring disappointment at the end.

  4. Well said. I have had this kind of experience before. My first job I took after undergraduate studies was based on the company brand name and not based on kind of work. After 1.5 years I was frustrated with the work and I made up my mind to study further. I have now realised my interest and I would be starting full time next year in the same field. I think every individual takes some time to realize his/ her interest and based on that it becomes easy to focus and create achievable goals. Self clarity on goals is very important to be successful.

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