The word focus swirled in my head throughout 2020. It was both a cuss word driving me to action and a plea begging me to reconnect with activities that fulfill me. Quite honestly, I was going too many directions most of last year to let the word do anything but swirl.
While lacking focus isn’t ideal, 2020 was a season for which I won’t beat myself up. It’s also a season I’m trying to prevent from playing on repeat!
I love ranching. So much of what we do brings me peace and purpose. For example, in addition to all the office work, kid trailing, and writing, you will generally find me driving truck in silage season, running the combine for corn harvest, and handling the feed wagon from November through May.
That wasn’t the case in 2020 for lots of reasons. I didn’t drive truck at all this silage season. And, though I worked hard to harvest 2019 corn well into 2020, I only ran the combine for two days come fall. Christmas Day was even the first time I fed cattle.
I also love storytelling. It’s what lights my fire and inspires my heart. I’ve even gone so far as to create a business model, develop a website, and dabble in more formal storytelling.
Yet, rather than focus where my heart screams joy—a mix of ranching and storytelling—I found myself scrambling, searching, and adding while clinging to what’s old and familiar. It all ended up being uncomfortable and unproductively stressful.
An acquaintance once shared her philosophy of taking on projects. If her immediate, gut response isn’t an enthusiastic, “hell, yes”; then, it is an immediate, “hell, no”.
I don’t employ her practice well, but I do love it! Saying yes when I really meant no left me disconnected and unfocused. I spent a lot of time doing a lot of things when I could have spent less time while accomplishing far more.
Which brings me right square to a new year.
What is focus, and why does it matter?
The good ole dictionary defines focus as “the center of interest or activity. The state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition.”
Without focus, life and work become a blur, especially when personal and professional lives intertwine like they often do in farming and ranching. Focus brings clarity, and with clarity comes purpose. Focus doesn’t prevent failure. Instead, focus helps give failure purpose.
Makes sense, right? So, am I the only one who finds it more than a little difficult to do?
I could be, but I don’t think so.
As 2021 roars in, I won’t be so bold as to suggest restructuring your entire business model, but I also won’t be so naïve as to think some of us wouldn’t benefit from doing so.
I think more of our businesses—our farms and ranches—could use a healthy dose of focus. I know ours can, and I think it’s rarely too late to give it all a try.
Focus isn’t all or nothing. It isn’t constant. Think of photography.
Sometimes, the best picture for a situation is the one focused on a singular subject closest to the lens. Background and peripheral objects become blurred. Other times, the best pictures focus on the distance, blurring what’s most immediate while bringing clarity to what lies beyond.
The greatest trick lies in recognizing when to focus close and when to look afar.
Bringing focus to our businesses won’t be painless. Focus often requires change, which is scary. Because our brains are wired to protect us from scary situations, even good ones, charging ahead into the change requires courage.
After the year we’ve left, I won’t dare to predict the year we’re entering. Far too much lies outside our control. Maybe that’s all the more reason for 2021 to be the year of focus. Focus on passion, on purpose, on profitability.
I don’t know what that means for you and your business. Quite frankly, my own pastures need too much tending to worry about yours. Maybe that’s another key for all of us. To find our focus from within before looking outside for answers. What ends up working here will likely make you shake your head, and the same can be said in reverse. Remember, that’s okay!
Though I’ve offered far more questions than answers, I hope this finds you entering 2021 with a deep, cleansing breath. The kind that fills your soul and releases the junk many of us store up so well. Although you’re the only one who can determine where you focus, you don’t have to endure the process alone.
I say it frequently, and a new year seems fitting to say it again: Find your people and love them well. The people around you directly determine your ability to focus and succeed.