Even smart men have trouble focusing sometimes. So instead of getting embarassed, get focused. And if you’re struggling to focus today, start here.

struggling to focus

Feeling a bit shaky?

When I was 11, my parents divorced. And they needed to park me somewhere while they sorted out the sordid details of their separation. So they sent me to camp. In July 1971, I arrived at Camp Orkila on Orcas Island. I was there for two sessions. And it was pretty cool. But I was shaken up, distracted by what I imagined my parents were doing back in Seattle.

When you’re struggling to focus, first listen.

And I felt pretty alone. In fact, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. So, for the first time in my life, I got quiet. And it’s amazing what happens when you shut up for a minute — even under duress. Because when you get quiet, sounds find their way into your head through your ears. Sounds that you never heard before. Sounds like small waves lapping on the beach. But also the sounds of another person’s pain. Because when you get quiet enough and listen for a minute, you might start to hear the pain of the people around you. And suddenly, you don’t feel quite as alone.

Then take aim.

At least, that’s what happened to me. When I got quiet, I started hearing the pain of another camper named Alex. Alex’s parents were divorcing, too. And amazingly enough, his trouble seemed a little deeper than my own. And so Alex and I began to hang out together. And Alex was into shooting. There at camp, you could shoot stuff. And yes, there was supervision. But it was shooting all the same. Shooting rifles and bows. So every day, for both sessions of camp, Alex and I could be found all day at the shooting ranges.

And then, breathe.

That summer, I got pretty good at shooting a rifle, but even better at shooting a bow. And here’s what I learned. If you want to hit your target where you want to hit it, you’ve got to breathe. Because the temptation is — when you’re pulling back that bow string — the temptation is to hold your breath. But that’s just the opposite of what you need to do. And there was this one counselor there at the shooting range every day, whose name was Brad. 

Remember to breathe.

And Brad noticed that I was there every day, so he took an interest in me and taught me to shoot better. He even loaned me his personal hunting bow, which felt super cool to me at age 11. And he’d say, “Hey, Buddy, remember to breathe.” And while I didn’t really like being called Buddy, he was right. Breathing is the key to accurate focus.

Now, please do this.

So if you need to focus right now, shut up and breathe. And you can learn more about those two disciplines on this website. In fact, the next article is about breathing. And if you’d like more help with either of these two disciplines, or with anything about struggling to focus, please write to me at mark@marknewtonpdx.com. And I’ll be in touch with you with more suggestions on how to focus and get moving again.