by Justin Standfield
A simple formula that I learned two decades ago from author and public speaker Tony Robbins has been stuck in my head all week. It’s this one:
I x F = R
- I is the information we pay attention to
- F is the amount of focus we give it
- R is reality, as we perceive it
The formula tells us that ‘information’ multiplied by ‘focus’ equals our ‘reality’. In other words, we experience as real whatever we focus on. Right now, as I begin to get to grips with the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m looking at multiple sources of information (government websites, health bulletins, newspapers, TV news reports and social media posts). At times, I am giving these things a lot of my attention and focus, and at other times I am parking them to the back of my mind as I carry on with my day-to-day business. Robbins’ formula is true for me, because I know that if I am not selective about the information sources I consume (e.g. I only read shocking headlines in tabloid papers, or I rely solely on what Karen on Facebook says about her cousin’s neighbour’s hairdresser who might have detected the early signs of coronavirus in her cat) – and I give this type of information my full focus for most of the day…. well, my personal reality is going to be pretty terrifying isn’t it?
Robbins uses his I x F = R formula to remind us that:
“Focus is not true reality, because it’s only one view; it’s only one perception of the way things are.”
In one of his books – ‘Awaken The Giant Within’ – he uses the metaphor of a camera lens for this idea of ‘focus’, i.e. the camera lens shows only the picture and angle of what you’re choosing to focus on. So, let’s explore Robbins’ analogy for a moment.
Just imagine that you’ve come on a training course with Incendo and you have your mobile phone with you. Each time we split the group into smaller sub-groups for practical exercises, you somehow end up with a bunch of people who are arguing and constantly jostling for position as to who’s the cleverest in the room. How would the training course be represented in any photos that you take while you’re in this sub-group? It would probably look like an unpleasant, frustrating event where nobody had a good time and everyone was fighting.
However, imagine you’re placed into a different sub-group for the whole day – one where people have left their egos at the door, are relaxed, listening to each other and sharing some humour. The photos you take of this gang would tell a very different story! They’d show the training to be really positive, with everyone getting on well and enjoying things.
Whether you look at this idea from the perspective of an individual or an organisation, I think it’s worth remembering that if we’re going to grow in any area, the willingness to learn is utterly vital. It’s not only important to learn, but also to find ways to apply that learning, and be willing to be focused and persistent in that application. Right now, it seems that this could serve us well as we navigate the new territory we’re faced with as a result of COVID-19.
In a TV interview with Charlie Rose, the actor Will Smith told a story of how one summer when he was 12 his dad tore down a brick wall in front of their family business and then told Will and his 9 year old brother to rebuild it. They told their dad that it was impossible, but regardless he just told them to get with it. Apparently, it took them 18 months but they did it, and when they’d finished Will’s dad said to his sons “Don’t you ever tell me there’s something that you can’t do”. In the interview, Will said the following words:
“You don’t try to build a wall. You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t start there. You say: I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day – and soon you have a wall.”
You can watch an extract from the interview with Will Smith here.
The current pandemic is already showing me that I’m going to need a lot of patience in the weeks ahead and I’ll need to tap into my willingness to learn new ways of living and working. I also have to make sure that whatever I learn along the way – about health, my own adaptability, changes in Incendo’s customers’ worlds – is applied on a consistent basis every single day. If I do this with focus and persistence, and continue to be mindful about the information I consume, I hope to start achieving the progress I want and to support others who are doing the same.
Stay well. If I can help in any way, let me know.