Posts Tagged ‘focus’

“Beware of dissipating your powers; strive constantly to concentrate them.”

~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832, German poet, dramatist, novelist)

A Japanese proverb has it that if you chase two rabbits, you lose them both. This is a good description of the problem of distracted pursuit. Do you know people who do this? Have you experienced it yourself?

The worst thing is not when the rabbits get away, but when you actually pursue and catch one that turns out to be the one that you did not want. Meanwhile your real dream has slipped away. If you are in the wrong job or career, you know exactly what this feels like.

The problem actually lies deeper, in the mind which pursues goals in the first place. Truly successful people concentrate and attract the rabbits to them.

“When you fully focus your mind, you make others attracted to you.”

~ Toba Beta, Betelgeuse Incident

Another Japanese proverb has it that perseverance prevails (Ishi no ue ni mo san nen, literally “it takes 3 years to warm up a rock”). Despite the traditional wisdom that it takes time and concentration to achieve something worthwhile, technology seems to be rushing us in the opposite direction.

Baroness Susan Greenfield, a prominent Neuroscientist at Oxford warned that the Internet and Social Media may be rewiring our brains toward hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder (ADD).  Three years on a rock has been super compressed to the 3-second rule on the Internet, the time it takes web surfers to make a decision whether to stay or click away. The question to ask is, are we grounding or floundering when we scatter our attention in this way?

The 10,000 hour rule

Research from both Cambridge and Harvard supports the idea that expertise in any field depends more on years of deliberate practice than on inborn talent. The 10,000 hour rule suggests that it takes about 4 hours a day of deep concentrated practice with skilled coaching over a 10 year period to achieve a level of world class expertise or performance.

This fits the traditional view of discipline in the Japanese arts, where 10 years is actually considered a relatively short time to have practiced a traditional martial or performing art. By that standard, the average person today could scarcely qualify as a curious passerby.

Is Attention Deficit a disorder or a myth?

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), hyperactivity combined with lack of ability to concentrate, is officially ordained as a psychological disorder. That diagnosis has led to the prescription of the drug Ritalin to now over a million children in the United States. Dr. David Keisey, professor of behavioral sciences at the University of California at Fullerton, and author of the bestselling book on Temperament Please Understand Me, wrote an article exposing this widespread practice, The Evil Practice of Narcotherapy for Attention Deficit. This article seriously raises the question that the phenomenon of ADD may be a grossly misconstrued myth, which has led to the untenable practice of drugging hyperactive children into submission, despite serious long-term side effects that could wound an entire generation.

And yet predisposition to ADD behavior may actually be built into our media and lifestyle, where technology and lifestyle choices encourage us to concentrate very briefly on many things at once. Checking e-mail during a meeting, watching TV while eating dinner, or listening to music while falling asleep may seem like perfectly normal behavior. But increasingly this habit of dividing attention between several things at once is leading to dangerous behavior like distracted driving, that is eating, drinking, reading, texting, talking on a cell phone, or even putting on make up while driving. It comes in 3 forms visual distraction: taking your eyes off of the road, manual distraction: taking your hands off the wheel, and mental distraction: taking your mind off of the task of driving. Even though it is inadvisable, and sometimes illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving, it is not uncommon to see.

What to focus on?

A good rule of thumb is to take your To Do List, all of the musts and shoulds and coulds in your mind, and squeeze it for all it is worth. That is, reduce it to size with the 80/20 Rule, by concentrating on the 20% of activities, ideas, and people that yield 80% of the benefits and results in your life. This is easier said than done. Can you really say no to the 80% of the things and people who compete for your time and attention? Can you attend to the 20% that matter most?

One thing that can help you decide and act appropriately is to shift your attention from What you should do, and focus on Why?, as recommended by Peter M. Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline.  It is said that if you met Steve Jobs in the elevator at Apple, your answer to his simple question, “Why are you working at Apple?,” determined whether or not you kept your job.

Bringing peace to the monkey mind

According to Wikipedia, the definition of the Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable.” It is an ancient concept, suggesting that it is a fundamental part of the human experience. How we deal with this restless inner state is the key to our happiness and productivity. The scatter brain can never sit still long enough to appreciate deeply or perform at a high level.

A key question to ask yourself is, Where does the Monkey Mind reside? Is it inside you, or built into the fabric of society? Wherever you find it, what will you do to bring it under control? Fortunately, there is a far better and more natural solution than Ritalin, and it is found right in our own bodies.

Dr. William Bloom is the author of The Endorphin Effect, a book which led to breakthroughs in healthcare and personal development. This book shows how visualization and awareness can release endorphins in your body, which will heal, energize, and revitalize your life.

Dr Bloom outlines five triggers that release endorphins, and all of them are accessible to us in daily life.

  1. Enjoyable thoughts or activity
  2. Inner smile with whole body
  3. Deep and conscious rest
  4. Connection with natural world
  5. Engage in physical exercise

Endorphins is a natural ambrosia that we can produce with our own bodies, that is highly responsive to our emotional and physical awareness, and which can soothe even the beast that bothers us through the Monkey Mind.

Lastly, as a solution to the problem of goal pursuit in which the divided mind chases after two rabbits and loses them both, the calm mind is able to attract the rabbits by being calm and focused.

“For him who has no concentration, there is no tranquility.”

~Bhagavad Gita (c. BC 400-, Sanskrit poem)

Download a CONCENTRATION MANDALA which summarizes the ideas in this article, and serves as a reminder on how to practically apply the principles.

Everything is simple but one has to learn to deal with complexity: that is an apparent paradox that may have struck you as you read this and previous entries in this and other blog series. So where does the truth lie? The answer might be found in a word: Universe.

The first thing to notice is the word itself is universe, not duoverse, or trioverse. The implication with “uni” is the existence of one underlying set of principles, matter, you name it. The second part “verse” comes from the Latin word “versare” meaning to stir or churn. This gets to the diversity on your project, the mix of personalities, technologies, business models, and life in general.

So where does this leave you? How is the craziness of your project addressed so that the goal is reached within the triple constraint? Here is a possible solution:

Imagine your project’s universe is a bazaar with all the different vendors, people, attitudes, etc. Step back and look at it from a distance and ask yourself, “What do I see?” Then ask yourself, “How does the bazaar thrive and stay alive?” Then ask, “How do I weave through all the diversity on my project to achieve the goal with the given constraints?”

This can be daunting with all the different vendors and individuals with whom you have to deal. But let’s turn back to the first part of the word universe, “uni-.” Underneath all the apparent chaos and confusion the bazaar continues. It is this underneath part that holds the key to finding simplicity. People are people, business is business, technology is technology, and the bazaar is the bazaar. If you can put together a team that masters the core principles within those arenas a picture will start unfolding. It will be a clear picture. It will be a fluid picture. The bazaar called, “my project,” will stop being a noisy, chaotic, headache-producing mess and will become a kaleidoscope of all the variability present within the one set of rules underpinning the situation. The motives of others will become clearer along with the capabilities and limits within the technologies and business case. The extent to which a path exists will show itself.

So, how does one see their universe? How does one get to that point, that place where things can be seen as they are along with the reality of whether or not their is a path to success? The answer was given in the last blog. Be still and finish THE sentence…

Flexible Focus #71: The 3rd Mandala Chart Festival 2011

by William Reed on September 29, 2011

A day of dedication

The 3rd Annual MANDALA CHART FESTIVAL was held in Tokyo on Saturday 24 November 2011. With over 100 attendees, participants enjoyed presentations, recognition of contest winners, a experts panel discussion, introduction of new Mandala products, and a party to meet and make new friends. The Festival Keynote was delivered  by the founder of the Mandala Chart method, Matsumura Yasuo, with presentation from one of the directors of the Mandala Chart Association, a presentation on how to study Peter Drucker’s philosophy with the Mandala Chart, as well as celebration of success stories using the Mandala Chart method.

This was the 3rd year for the festival to be held, and it was with some reservations with the mood in the wake of the March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami disaster. However, the Association decided to hold the festival because of the importance of Mandala Chart education and applications to Japanese society, and to support those who are already dedicated to its practice.

Participants each received a full color copy of the 41 Mandala Chart Contest entries, from which 13 prizes were awarded for excellence and originality, as well as for effectiveness in applications ranging from business management to personal growth. Each entry was in the form of an A-Chart or a B-Chart, featured on the right hand page opposite an explanation of the Chart on the facing page. The explanation itself was in the format of an A-Chart, with the Theme in the center, surrounded by A) Profile, B) Overview, C) Application, D) Benefits, E) Recommended for, F) Why now?, G) Future Projects, and H) In a Word.

Serving as one of the directors of the Mandala Chart Association, I also made an entry in Japanese, the English translation of which appeared in an earlier article in this series, Flexible Focus #63: SAMURAI WALK.

There were also announcements of new Mandala Chart Products, including the annual 2012 Mandala Business Diary, as well as inserts that are created in the same format, Magic Questions for Coaching by Matsuda Hiromi, Wish List by Takezawa Shingō, and 22 Steps to Tarot by Ōhara Sumika, offering people imaginative ways of further engaging in the process.

 

But the best part of participating in the festival was the opportunity to meet and greet like-minded people, and to discover the wide range of creative and passionate applications which they have developed for the Mandala Chart in their business and personal lives.

Vision for the future

Of course the festival and all of its publications were conducted in Japanese. Part of my role is to take this message outside of Japan to the English-speaking world, both through this column The Art of Flexible Focus, and through upcoming publications and applications in English, to be released within the 2011 calendar year.

The vision for the future is to make the Mandala Chart Method widely available in analog and digital form, so that people may practice and benefit from it wherever they be. It would be impossible to translate the volume of information available in Japanese, although there is much to learn from it in digested form. It is also important to create templates and guides to this marvelous process in English, so that people outside of Japan can begin making their own discoveries and applications.

Perhaps you have seen a juggler in a park juggling 3 to 5 balls without dropping one? It is exceedingly difficult even for a professional juggler to go beyond this number, and yet with the Mandala Chart Method it is possible to juggle dozens, if not hundreds of items in 8 areas of life. Like juggling, there is a knack to this which you can pick up from someone who has mastered it. It requires practice and the inner motivation to engage with it, and with life itself at a deeper level. Peter Drucker described it like a unity of thought and action, in which you can learn from effective action and reflection in an ongoing pursuit of perfection.

The Mandala Chart Festival was enormously stimulating as an opportunity to engage with so many people effectively applying the Mandala Chart in so many walks of life, some for many years. What I found most inspiring was to see how well people have customized their Mandala Business Diaries to their own style of thinking and acting, down to the content, color and style of entries, creating a kind of magic book in which they could reflect on their past and project their future. It was a wonderful reminder of how important it is to fully engage your senses and your body in the process of realizing your dreams, and the added inspiration and assistance you get when you share your dreams with others.

As we approach a New Year in 2012 the world is reeling from uncertainty. With the world in flux we need more than ever to learn the art of flexible focus, and how to achieve balance in the 8 areas of life. The Mandala Chart method is an excellent way to get your bearings, and to develop these very skills. While this column will wind to an end within the 2011 calendar year, it will transform into new products and strategies, soon to be announced. We hope that it will bring you many blessings and abundance.

Leader driven Harmony #39: Do the Crappy Little Jobs FIRST!

by Mack McKinney on September 9, 2011

It is so easy when running a business (or office, branch, etc.) to put off doing the crappy little jobs.  You know the ones:  the monthly payroll report to the state revenue office; the weekly income spreadsheet update; the logging of business expenses into a spreadsheet; in short, any minor task you dread but that can BITE if it is NOT done.  Here are four tips for keeping up with the niggling little tasks that you hate to do.

  1. Do it first thing, right when you think of it.  Don’t put it off for even an hour.  Just do it and be done.  Then reward yourself with a walk outside, or an apple, or anything else you find pleasant and that takes very little time from your day.
  2. Work on it for only an hour and no more.  If it isn’t finished in an hour, set it aside until tomorrow and finish it up.
  3. Get help:  If someone could read a list of figures to you, for example, thereby speeding up the job, ask them to.  If the job will be easier with three people, get two others to help you.
  4. Set a calendar reminder in Outlook, etc. and when it dings, stop and do the task.  Right then.

When you have something that must get done and you procrastinate, by putting off the inevitable you pay a hidden price – – – WORRY.  You are renting that task some space in your head!  This is not healthy.  It pushes other ideas out and can keep you from fully engaging with others.  You won’t be able to live in the moment because deep in your mind is that little nagging reminder about the task remaining to be done.  You won’t be able to fully relax because that THING is stuck in your brain.

Not getting these things done also adds to your total stress level and ANY amount of stress adversely impacts your heart.  So keeping the small tasks caught up is key to staying healthy.  Who knew that not paying bills on time, or failing to order key office supplies on time could tax your heart?

So in summary, do what your parents taught you: Work before play.  Get the annoying little tasks done when they are due!  Then you can focus your attention on getting the BIG things in your life organized and arranged – – – the family issues and the career training and education you need to schedule; get that book started that you’ve intended to write; call that old friend you haven’t seen in years.  Remember, BIG ROCKS FIRST!  But you cannot focus on those big rocks if an irritating piece of gravel stands in the way.  Keep your mind clear and unencumbered by dealing with the crappy little tasks before they cause bigger problems!

Flexible Focus #62: Discipline your Thinking

by William Reed on July 21, 2011

Monkey Mind

One of the most delightful, and most confounding aspects of our mind is that it is undisciplined. The mind is so susceptible to distraction, so easily seduced by its surroundings, that this aspect of the mind is referred to in Zen as the monkey mind. While it is very much a part of our everyday experience, we rarely sit down to confront and discipline this creature of consciousness. Try sitting still for even 10 minutes without any purpose other than to sit, and you may come face to face with the monkey, who will try to distract, persuade, or plead with you to let it run free.

However, this freedom is an illusion, because the monkey is in fact bound and attached to anything and everything that comes along. One purpose of Zazen, or Zen meditation, is to discipline the mind so that you actually realize more by thinking less. This seems counter-intuitive when convention dictates that you have to think more to understand more, and do more to achieve more. However, you can set that concern aside by realizing that much of what we call thinking, is actually mental flotsam and jetsam, unoriginal and unproductive. It is worthwhile to spend some time each day freeing yourself from this by entering a deeper level of mindfulness.

The Roots of Zen

As you engage in the practice of Zen meditation, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of its roots. Many books have been written on the subject, but I particularly recommend starting with Zen Flesh Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki. This is a remarkable book and a perennial classic of Zen writings, including 101 parables of Chinese and Japanese Zen Masters over 5 centuries, the 13th century Gateless Gate collection of Zen Koans, the 12th century commentary on the Ten Ox Pictures depicting stages of awareness on the path to enlightenment, and a 4,000 year old teaching from India on Centering, which may be considered the roots of Zen meditation.

This was the book that got me started on Zen in my teenage years, and I still refer to it today as an ageless resource. On revisiting this book, I found such fresh inspiration in the Ten Ox Pictures that I reviewed the book in a six video series, adding my own commentary. These videos are posted on YouTube at:

Zen Flesh Zen Bones I

Ten Ox Pictures II-a (1~3)

Ten Ox Pictures II-b (4~5)

Ten Ox Pictures III-a (6~8)

Ten Ox Pictures III-b (9~10)

Zen Flesh Zen Bones Summary IV

Zen Flesh Zen Bones is available on Amazon.

The Practice of Zazen

Ultimately however, Zen is about practice. It is a place to be, not just to visit. It won’t do you much good if you dive into it, and then quit because you find it too difficult, or you give in to the monkey. Keep it simple, and practice in such a way that it easily becomes a part of your daily practice. Of course you will face hurdles, as people have over the centuries in reaching deeper levels of mindfulness.

An excellent invitation in how to practice Zazen is through Higanji’s Zazen Application, an iPhone App called Undo (雲堂, meaning Cloud Hall). The App is free and available in the iTunes Store, and explained on the Higan website at: http://budurl.com/adj5

There is also a video in English showing a simple and sustainable way to integrate Zazen practice into your daily life at: http://budurl.com/pr4d

Zen is described as a direct transmission beyond words. It can be experienced, but not adequately described. At the very least, you will find that 20 to 30 minutes of daily practice can be wonderfully refreshing, and will clear your mind of mental cobwebs.

The Circle of Ensō

A symbol used to express the process of enlightenment is called the Ensō, or form of a circle. The circle is painted with a brush, is actually the form of a circle rather than a perfect geometrical circle, and is only somewhat connected at the end of the stroke. These elements of imperfection suggest openness and discovery, which is organic rather than idealistic.

The circle represents the universe, and this brings us full circle, for Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle. Try drawing such circles yourself, on various surfaces, and using various materials. Even drawing the form of circle in the air with your finger can give you a sense for all that it includes.

The practice of Zazen is a discipline for mind and body, but one which joins them in a higher degree of freedom. As you develop deeper mindfulness, the monkey mind will become servant rather than master, and you will become the creator rather than the victim of circumstance.

You will not finish reading this post.

Its in the statistics.

You will not make it to the end of this article without being distracted…

The true scarce resource of humanity: Attention

Nicolas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains”, says that it is extremely hard to manage attention.   We will get distracted before the 3 minutes that it will take to read this post.  This problem is growing as distractions multiply exponentially in our always-connected, web 2.0 world.

I look around me now as I travel on the underground train (the “tube”) through London today.  I see the person sitting across from me reading a newspaper, white ipod headphones in her ears and sms-ing on what looks like an Android touch screen phone.  She is receiving stimulus from the world, mainlining stimulus through all senses, maxing out on input.  I look up and around the carriage.  Everybody has a mobile out and sending and receiving electronic updates.  It is so very easy to pass through life in constant reaction to stimulus.

Distractions are Costly

“Distractions are costly: A temporary shift in attention from one task to another – stopping to answer an e-mail or take a phone call, for instance – increases the amount of time necessary to finish the primary task by as much as 25%, a phenomenon known as “switching time”. It’s far more efficient to fully focus for 90 to 120 minutes, take a true break, and then fully focus on the next activity.”  Tony Schwartz, Manage your energy, not your time – Harvard Business Review.

The evidence from psychology is clear.  Interruptions have a major detrimental effect on your productivity.  School does not have classes on focus, on cutting out the email, facebook, twitter, mobile phone calls and concentrating for extended periods on something driven by me, something that is not a reaction to a tweet or a status update or a call.  This is a skill that you need to decide to learn for yourself.

There are times for distractions

There are times when letting the distractions in can be fun and necessary.  Total focus is not a state that you will want to spend all of your time in.  Responding to email, being aware of the action around you, twitter, facebook are part of being connected to the world around you.  However, in order to move beyond a permanent zombified state of reaction to incoming stimuli, you must develop the ability to create windows of focus in your life, where you really dedicate your attention for a specific time to one important task.

The ability to focus is something that great leaders and those that make a positive, lasting difference in this world need.

How do I improve my ability to focus?

Here are 10 ways of improving your ability to focus:

  1. Decide it is important – nobody else can do it for you.  Begin with small steps, your ability to focus will grow with practice.
  2. Cut out Obvious Distractions – Close down email, browser; clear your desk; get a glass of water.  Jim Collins talks about creating non-stimulus time.  He does not allow any electronic device in the same room as him before midday.  Start small. Do just 10 minutes today removing sources of distraction and focussing on one important task.
  3. Write things downReflective writing gives 3 powerful benefits:
    • Mindfulness
    • Improves clear thinking and
    • Allows perspective
  4. Set a timer – use the Pomodoro technique.  Set a timer for 10 minutes and do not let yourself stop working on the one task until the timer finishes.  Attention fitness takes time to grow, do less than you think you are capable of and accept that your capacity to focus will grow with time. Meditating Buddhist monks take 30 years before they are able to calm the flow of noise in their head and reach total focus.  Don’t get frustrated early on.  It will take time to grow your capacity to focus.  Like self discipline, focus grows with use.  Train like athletes preparing for a marathon: add 10% per week.
  5. Divide Actionable from non-Actionable itemsScott Belsky of Behance says that an actionable task starts with an action verb: “call A”, “buy a gift for B”, “follow up contract with C”.
  6. Take proper breaks. When you finish with your focus time, get up from your work area and really take a break.  Stretch, take a short walk, go outside and be with nature.  Opening a browser window and reading news or email is not a real break.
  7. Anticipate your physical needs. Go to the bathroom before you start your focus time.  Get a drink of water and put it on the table.  Make sure your chair is comfortable.
  8. Use Music – Listening to music helps me focus and cut out other distractions.
  9. Reward yourself. Celebrate small successes.  Eat some chocolate when you finish an important task.  Have a coffee only when you finish another 10 minutes of total focus.
  10. Do what Nike says – “Just Do It”.  Don’t let your resistance win.  When I start writing, I will not stop until I have written 500 words.  If I have to, I will write “I will keep writing, I will keep writing” until another idea comes to mind…  but I will not let myself stop.  Repeated practice has reduced the little voices in my head that say “why are you doing this?  Who is going to read this?  Who are you to be writing this stuff?”

You made it here?  3 minutes of attention?  That puts you in the small percentage of people who have found strategies to manage their attention in the overwhelming swarm of distractions that make up a typical life in the modern world.

The Origin of Leaders series

This series of posts has now looked at 6 of the powerful keys to unlocking leadership in your life and in the communities which matter to you:

In the next post I will start to look outside to how you affect those around you and scale and magnify the changes you wish to effect in the world

Flexible Focus #13: Finding focus in the frames

by William Reed on August 5, 2010

Though the original idea was to encourage flexibility and open communication, the cubicle system now common in offices has ended up a symbol for the very opposite. Even Robert Propst, founder of the cubicle’s precursor “Action Office” in 1968, several decades later said that his system had been twisted into something he called monolithic insanity. FORTUNE MAGAZINE dubbed it Cubicles: The great mistake, saying that what was intended to be an open lounge-like office environment, transformed with cost efficiency over time into bright satanic offices. Ironically, the thing it spawned was ultimately disowned by its inventor.

Many people intuitively recognize that their best ideas come to them outside of the office, in cafes, while walking, or in the shower. Office meeting rooms and cubicles are rarely cited as being creative spaces. Be that as it may, employers are not likely to release their staff to spend the day at the local cafe.

When it comes to solving problems and generating ideas, the Mandala Chart offers a fresh approach that helps you find focus in the frames, and might even release you from cubicle consciousness.

Put your ideas into play

The Mandala Chart is like a tennis court for your ideas. Although you must keep the ball within the lines, the volley accelerates and tension mounts as the ball gets closer and closer to the edge, and harder and harder to return. The ace shot is comparable to the definitive idea, and the feeling of excitement is similar when you get the idea right.

The best way to experience this is to actually put your ideas into play by writing them down on the Mandala Chart, and bouncing them around on the mental court. What you see on paper may look simple, but the process triggers an invigorating mental workout that can wake up your brain and give you energy, synergy, and flexible focus.

It starts with getting off your seat and onto your feet. The connection between creativity and walking has been well recognized, both as a way of tapping into the wisdom of the body, and as an enjoyable way to commune with nature or community.

Whenever possible it is best to consider the ergonomics of your thinking environment. Despite the considerable research that has gone into making body and brain-friendly furniture, keyboards, and lighting for offices, when it comes to creativity your favorite cafe wins out over technology hands down.

While many people appreciate the rejuvenating effect of such simple getaways, the opportunity to enhance creativity is often missed, simply by failing to capture your experience and ideas on paper.

8 steps to getting your ideas on paper

Once you understand the value and attraction of working with the Mandala Chart on paper, you can increase your skills and improve your results with practice. Here are 8 steps that can help you get started. In addition to the templates provided in other articles in this series, here you can download a generic 9-frame Mandala A-Chart as a PDF or as a Word template, and a 64-frame Mandala B-Chart as a PDF or as an Excel template. These are files which you can print out, save as, or customize as you like.

  1. Decide what’s on your mind: What would you like to focus on? Where would you like greater clarity or flexibility? Even if you are not sure, committing to a theme will help you bring it into focus.
  2. Select a format for focus: Start with a 9-frame Mandala A-Chart. Do you prefer to focus your thinking with a Mandala template, or to work from a blank Mandala chart? Select your format and print out several pages as worksheets.
  3. Fill in the frames: It is important that you do some thinking and writing away from the computer in an idea-friendly environment. Get your pen moving. Make lists with bullet points or numbers, and add sketches where appropriate.
  4. Look at the whole, the parts, and the connections: Expand your thinking by transferring the themes from the 9-frame Mandala A-Chart to the 64-frame Mandala B-Chart. You do not need to fill in all 64 frames, but try to at least develop 4 sub-themes for each of the eight themes in the original Mandala A-Chart.
  5. Spend time reflecting on what you have written: Although writing down your ideas provides greater focus, real clarity comes from reflection on what you have written. Think of your Mandala notes as a tool for flexible focus and a mirror for meditation.
  6. Store your notes for easy access: As long as you store your notes where you can easily find and refine them, you can keep a file of handwritten Mandala Charts, or you can create a digital archive using the Word and Excel files provided in the download links. Digitally you may wish to organize all of your files using idea mapping software. For example, all of the articles, graphics, and downloads for this Flexible Focus Series are stored in a Webbrain which you can access at http://budurl.com/ah88
  7. Talk about or present your ideas: If you first expand and organize your ideas on paper, you will be far better prepared to talk about and present them to others. The advantage of doing this on a Mandala Chart is that your entire field of thought connected to that theme is in front of you on a single piece of paper. You can also develop your ideas by refining your notes as you talk and listen.
  8. Get traction by taking action: Organizing and talking about your ideas should build up the energy and desire to test them in action. The feedback and results you get will provide further food for thought. The interplay between thought and action gives you the traction you need to keep the wheels turning.

The Mandala Chart is a simple matrix, a set of frames for filling in the blanks. But when you actively write on it, it acts as a window letting in the light of inspiration, and serves as a mirror reflecting the wonderful possibilities that await your discovery.

Look at the image of black squares in rows and columns, and count how many black spots you see. While there appear to be many, in fact there are none. When we focus on the figure, we easily ignore the ground. In this optical illusion, the intersections appear to be sprinkled with black dots, which pop in and out and shift about the image with a dizzying effect, purely as a figment of our imagination.

If you calmly focus on any one of the white dots, you can clearly see that it is white, and that the black and grey dots are an illusion. If you focus on the central white dot, and gradually let your field of peripheral vision expand, you may be able to see an expanded range of dots as they are white, without any flickering dots on the screen. This is a challenging shift in focus, because it requires you to see comprehensively the big picture, the details, and the relationships all at the same time.

Easy to get lost in business

The lack of comprehensive vision causes confusion. This happens to many people who enter the world of business. Whether you are an executive or someone on a career path, if you don’t know where you are and where you are going, you may easily find yourself lost in the cross winds.

The flickering mentality leads to a pursuit of short-term profits without regard for consequences. Large organizations and governments which engage in short-sighted or greedy behavior can wreak havoc on the economy and the environment. The pursuit of the flickering dot mirage creates stress, and over time the process tends to chew people up and spit them out.

Itoh Motoshige, Professor of Economics at the University of Tokyo, says that to understand economies today we need a flexible focus, the ability to shift appropriately from the bird’s eye Macro view, to the insect’s eye Micro view for detail, and to the fish’s eye for changes and interrelationships. This is precisely the power of the Mandala Chart, which enables you to shift perspective and focus with ease.

A world of opportunity

The Mandala Chart can help us regain our bearings by seeing our business comprehensively, and what role we want to play within it. It also helps us refocus on the interfaces and spaces between things and people. Because the majority of people are too busy pursuing the mirage to really recognize reality, this is where the opportunities are.

What is typically presented as a good opportunity in business, is often actually an opportunity to be part of somebody else’s business plan. Most of these so-called opportunities are so easy to duplicate, that they lead right to the red ocean of competition for slight edge advantages and dwindling profit margins. If customers are unable to distinguish between brands or quality, they will naturally gravitate to the lowest cost option.

True opportunities are never obvious, because they exist in the spaces between. They represent the world of possibilities and new combinations, and come to life when an entrepreneur or enterprise recognizes and fully engages their potential. This is why so much innovation happens at the leading edge of technology, through interdisciplinary collaboration at the edges, and through networking and mastermind groups.

An ancient principle

The Principle of Comprehensiveness is the second of eight principles in the Framework of Wisdom for the Mandala Chart. Two concepts which help define it have roots in Buddhism, particularly the branch of Esoteric Buddhism which introduced the Mandala to Japan.

(), meaning empty as the sky, which in fact is full of stars, galaxies, and infinite possibilities. In Japanese painting, architecture, traditional and martial arts, space is a powerful entity. It is also an essential idea in Buddhism, often mistranslated as emptiness, but more accurately representing the infinite potential of that which is without form. The realization of this potential depends on the second concept, which is how you engage with this potential.

(en), meaning edge or relationship, which can also mean the opportunity which is abundant in the intersections where people and ideas meet. It may also be thought of as the present moment and space, which is where the past transforms into the future. Think of how often things have developed according to the people you met and the decisions you made at the time. Yet this is an ongoing process, not a final verdict.

The Mandala itself has roots in India, Tibet, China, and Japan, where it was introduced in the 9th Century by a Buddhist Priest named 空海 (Kūkai). From the sixty-four frame (8×8) structure of the Diamond World Mandala, a National Treasure from 9th Century Japan, it is easy to see the roots of the Mandala Chart. The imagery used then represented the iconography of Esoteric Buddhism, as a graphical way of looking at the Buddhist universe with flexible focus.

Back to business

How then do you apply this to business? Once you understand the importance of flexible focus, once you learn how to look at things comprehensively, then you need to fix your eight compass points for business, and place them in the framework of the Mandala Chart.

How you determine those points depends a great deal on your type of business, your role in the business, and the field on which you play. To get you started, try downloading the PDF template Refocus Your Business, which gives you eight coordinates likely to apply to any business:

  1. Mission
  2. Current Projects
  3. Profit Plan
  4. Markets & Products
  5. Organization
  6. Human Resources
  7. Meetings & Communication
  8. Management Strategy.

Jot down some key words for each which apply to your business, and spend some time trying to see your business comprehensively, looking for new opportunities in the spaces between, for new ways to connect and integrate each of these elements.

The next time you find yourself getting tired, confused, or stressed by your job or business, look at your Mandala Chart. See if you can take your mind off of the flickering dots illusion, and refocus on the substantial opportunities that exist in the spaces between. Be sure to write your insights down. What you discover will calm your mind and benefit your business.

Tribes do not include everyone… or in other words, not everyone forms a tribe. It is constituted of people who care about a specific topic or interest or looking to bring a specific change. Real change comes from real people – who then influence others – who, in turn influence others.. .and before you know you have a tribe!

Tribe is needed to change the world. And Changing the world is addictive.

Social Media can be overwhelming but it has created a tremendous opportunity for anyone to be a leader. There is no test to pass, no permission needed. Before you needed millions of dollars to get on Television. NOW you need ten dollars to create a video. So, if you care about something, you can get up and lead.

If you are someone who wants to change the world, you will continue reading this post because you still need to understand how to gain advantage using social media and not get simply distraught by its demands. The understanding involves:

  • Understanding transaction: If you have thousands of friends and followers on Facebook and on Twitter and not one of them is helping you to set up a meeting with a prospect, connect you with a decision maker or help you in any way to meet the objectives of your initiative – these friends and followers are worthless. Tribes exist because people care about something and they have the collective power to do impossible things – otherwise how do we explain airplanes and satellite communication – almost unthinkable a while ago.
  • Understanding Meaningful: If you have to sell everything to everybody, then you will either drive yourself crazy or fail in your initiative. You need to sell it to a few who care about what you have to offer. Then they will talk about it to others. So, there is no need to SPAM people. Just find people who care about what you have and talk about you. The election of President Obama is an example of how people found meaning in his message and then brought in more people. And together these people changed the world.
  • Understanding Focus: You cannot possibly be doing everything to change the world. Become focused on what aspect of the world will you change and the specific task that you believe you are good at in this effort. Tweeting, Facebooking, reading blogs, Youtubing – all these activities require a lot of time – if you are good writer – just write, if you are good networker just meet people – don’t do everything.

To change the world you need a Tribe – where people care about the same thing… are skillful in different tasks and… have relationships with people who care about the same change.

This is RAW power needed to change the world. Once you belong to this tribe, when you enroll people – you will discover it is addictive – not because it is COOL to do so. Because you will see the limitless possibilities and positive change that will impact others lives.