OK… so, first thing to dis­cuss with focus is … well.. what is it exactly…

We can­not get into a ton of depth here or it will be a REALLY long post… so I will do my best to be con­cise and pre­cise. I am going to use the words Focus and Con­cen­tra­tion inter­change­ably: To focus or to con­cen­trate, for the pur­pose of our dis­cus­sion here, is the same.

Now, let me first start with say­ing that how most peo­ple define con­cen­tra­tion and focus is wrong…

Most peo­ple asso­ciate con­cen­tra­tion to how it is por­trayed in TV and movies. My favorite exam­ple is the char­ac­ter below, Hiro Naka­mu­ra. In the show, this guy can mas­ter space and time by con­cen­trat­ing. For the enter­tain­ment pur­pose of TV and movies,  his con­cen­tra­tion looks like this…

Can you see it…. mas­sive con­cen­tra­tion and BOOM! time stops…..

I always felt this was odd… to me it looks like he is try­ing to go to the toi­let hahahahha

So let us get this out of the way ear­ly: con­cen­trat­ing is the act of get­ting a bunch of things (in our case men­tal waves) and bring­ing them togeth­er to a unique point. An inter­est­ing anal­o­gy can be made with com­put­ers: to con­cen­trate is to gath­er all resources so that one app can have the max­i­mum performance.

In human per­for­mance terms, we can approach con­cen­tra­tion in one of two ways. One of the sim­plest ways to describe them: Repress or Manage.

This approach is fun­da­men­tal. Which one you chose is going to influ­ence every­thing. I have a pref­er­ence which I will share after I explained the approach­es in a bit more detail…

In order for this to make more sense let us use an exam­ple which should be famil­iar to all. You are in a race. You are in the lead, but sec­ond place is putting you under pres­sure and com­ing out of turn 8 you make try to push a lit­tle too hard and, WHAM!, you spin.


So how would each approach work?

One way is to REPRESS the feeling/input. “Damn, I made a mis­take… ok, pre­tend it did not happen/ignore it/ push it away and car­ry on.” For most cul­tures and the major­i­ty of human cul­ture this is the approach. This approach is deeply ingrained as the default behav­ior: “I feel no fear”, “Cold is psy­cho­log­i­cal”, “push the pain away”… As you can also see from the image above, the cin­e­mato­graph­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tion is a strug­gle to “con­cen­trate”, an effort to push every­thing away and repress every­thing, if you do it hard enough you concentrate…

Anoth­er way is to MANAGE. In oth­er words, instead of ignor­ing or pre­tend­ing or push­ing it away, your response is: “ok, I made a mis­take, I am human. What can I learn from it? Ok les­son learnt, move on.” This is rar­er, but it can be even more effec­tive. You feel the frus­tra­tion, you feel the anger and you man­age these feel­ings direc­tion their ener­gy to serve pur­pose for you.

It is a REALLY sub­tle dif­fer­ence but which can have a mas­sive impact on performance.

First­ly, when you pre­tend some­thing is not there, it may rear its ugly head again and again… espe­cial­ly as you ded­i­cate more resources to some­thing else, that ener­gy required to repress may waiv­er and BOOM! there returns the feelings.

Sec­ond­ly, If you MANAGE the feel­ing, you do not want it to go away, instead, you want to use that ener­gy… as long as you can use the ener­gy you will expe­ri­ence a boost in per­for­mance (as a joke lets call it a push to pass type of energy!).

What I teach, and what I have adopt­ed in my life, is to MANAGE.

I pre­fer to deal with things rather than repress them. When I take this atti­tude I man­age the emo­tions rather than sup­press them. After a short while there are no emo­tions that may arise which desta­bi­lize me and instead I can har­ness that ener­gy to increase my per­for­mance. As a result, my per­for­mance stays high­er and more con­sis­tent in the long run.

One of my stu­dents says that when he made rac­ing mis­takes he would get a “red mist” and no mat­ter how much he tried to push it away, it would stay with him and result in more mis­takes, wast­ed laps and often times wast­ed races. We dis­cussed the MANAGE approach and he now cred­its this new approach with much bet­ter per­for­mance on track and even in his own business.


So what does this MANAGE approach entail?

Well, first it is a non-agreesive approach, in oth­er words… you can­not con­cen­trate like the guy in the above image. Con­cen­tra­tion is about want­i­ng to ded­i­cate more resources to what you are doing rather than push­ing every­thing away. For exam­ple, I want to con­cen­trate on how I apply the pow­er out of a cor­ner… ok, so I iden­ti­fy my mark­ers, I watch a replay of how I am doing and how I can improve it and I then try it for real. I use my desire to do this even more effec­tive­ly to fuel my performance.

Real life case. Some times ago I was doing some laps in the sim­u­la­tor at Mote­gi track with WCS (World Cham­pi­onship Series) dri­vers and I was way off pace. So I got the Motec file and noticed that my brak­ing was wrong. I spoke with my friend dri­vers and they said I was being too aggres­sive, try­ing to brake too late and releas­ing with­out enough sen­si­tiv­i­ty… The next week the track was Giles Vil­leneuve…. I was total­ly focused on find­ing bet­ter brak­ing mark­ers and dupli­cat­ing the brak­ing curve that WCS dri­vers man­aged… I focused for a ses­sion on that and BAM! when I saw the brak­ing curves on teleme­try they were both, the same mark­ers as the guys and the same shape curve!

But I was still slow­er… while my focus was on that, my mid cor­ner speed was not as good, I was not using (or feel­ing) the aero and as a result I was clos­er but not as competitive…

If I had the REPRESS approach, I would have been annoyed at Mote­gi and no mat­ter how much I told myself I did not feel any­thing it would have car­ried over to Cana­da and I would prob­a­bly rage quit that ses­sion and fail to sleep that night… In my per­son­al expe­ri­ence pre­tend­ing some­thing is not there all just cause its bit to be even worse…

By the way… rage quit = emo­tions took over your actions and you had a behav­ior you would not have want­ed… When emo­tions take over your behav­ior they are clear­ly not managed….


Quick technique for you to do

WOAH! way too long a post already… OK! let me just wrap this up with a quick exer­cise of how you could train your con­cen­tra­tion and allow you to become aware of how you deal with your frustration.

Sit down in a com­fort­able posi­tion. Close your eyes so you can have few­er dis­trac­tions. Breathe a few times just as I described in the pre­vi­ous article.

Now… imag­ine that on your right side is the num­ber 1. Imag­ine a plain font, imag­ine its sim­ple image. Now allow this num­ber to increase: 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6… all the way to the num­ber 100.

Reset the num­ber back to 1.

On your left side imag­ine the num­ber 100. Imag­ine a plain font, imag­ine its sim­ple image. Now allow this num­ber to decrease: 100, 99, 98, 97… all the way to the num­ber 1.

Reset this num­ber back to 100.

Now lets do both togeth­er: 1–100, 2–99, 3–98,4–97… The goal is to get the num­ber on the right to be 100 and the one on the left to be 1….

When­ev­er you lose count, reset.

Do this for a cou­ple of min­utes. Take note of the high­est and low­est num­bers and share them here.

Take note of how you feel, how you man­age the frus­tra­tion you are like­ly to feel… do you get bet­ter or worse?

Share your expe­ri­ence below!