I had the good fortune (or misfortune depending on your climate perspective) of living in Minnesota for ten years. The Summers were beautiful, Fall was spectacular with the changing colors of the leaves on trees and winter was…well, damn cold.
My neighbor, Harold was a nice old guy who had retired many years ago who hibernated all winter but loved to garden during the summer. The only time I saw Harold come out of his house was to put some bird food in the feeder he’d setup on his tree in the front yard.
Every year, as winter began to set in, I would see squirrels all around our front lawns gathering food. They’d scurry around digging and prodding hoping to ill their jowls with some food and return to their hole.
One day I saw Harold putting some metal sheets around the base of his tree where he kept his bird feeder. I didn’t understand why until another neighbor explained to me that Harold was trying to keep the squirrels from eating the bird food. By putting the metal sheets around the base Harold thought the squirrels wouldn’t be able to climb up the tree. The next morning, the food was gone.
Later that week I saw him wrap a jagged funnel around the base of the tree. It looked like those funnels dog’s wear around their neck so it won’t bite or lick its wounds. Well imagine one of those wrapped around the tree with the wide part pointing down with jagged edged. It looked like something out of a Frankenstein lick. Yet, the next day, the food was gone.
The following week Harold figured he’d put the bird feeder on a string and hang it from the tip of one of the branches. I believe his thinking was that the squirrel couldn’t go out to the edge of the branch because the branch wouldn’t support the weight thereby not allowing the squirrel to get to the feeder. Next day, you got it, the food was gone.
This battle between Harold and the squirrel went on for at least the 10 years I was his neighbor. I wanted to tell Harold that his attempts were futile and that he would never win this ‘War of the Feeder’; but I didn’t say anything. I just watched. It was cheap entertainment.
As this was happening, I started thinking about how unfair the match up was between a man and a squirrel. I didn’t feel sorry for the squirrel…I felt sorry for Harold. Although Harold was stronger and smarter than the squirrel, he lacked the one quality that would guarantee him victory, focus.
You see Harold thinks about ways of preventing the squirrel from getting the food on occasion, when he has time. The squirrel on the other hand has its mind on getting that food 24 hours a day. The squirrel’s very survival depends on it. Survival brings about, not just focus but an intense focus on solving a problem by removing an obstacle. Unless Harold shows that same level of 24 hour commitment and intensity, I have my money on the squirrel every time.
Success is not about who is stronger. Success is not about who has more money. Success is not about who has a better GPA. Success is about who is more focused and committed to achieving their objectives. You, the reader, can compete with any person no matter who they may be. The only thing you have to do is commit yourself to focusing in on the very subject that interests you. When you focus in on one thing, like the squirrel, all of your mind’s resources are directed at attaining your objective and obtaining your rewards. With focus, you begin to take in more information quickly because you’re interested in learning, you want know everything. You are consumed by your focus to succeed!
Harold was not an expert in stopping squirrels; it was a task that needed to be done and he attended to it when he had time. The squirrel on the other hand became an expert at bypassing obstacles and solving problems because he focused all its attention on obtaining the end goal, food.
In today’s market, too many people want to be generalist (i.e., good at a lot of things or jack of all trades but master of none). But the market DOES NOT REWARD generalists, they REWARD experts. The market wants people who are good at doing a particular task; an expert. You want job security? Become an expert in your field of expertise. How do you become an expert? Like the squirrel, you focus.
Harold was 92 and died the year we moved from Minnesota. I don’t know how long Harold fought the ‘War of the Feeder’ but as I drove of on the last day I looked back and saw a squirrel scurrying around the front lawn still trying to get to the bird feeder that still hung from the tree. Harold was gone but the squirrel was still around, still strategizing and still focused. The squirrel had won!`