Friday, November 21, 2008

Focus (Part 2)

As a follow up to my previous post "Focus", this post is derived from a book I have recently been reading called The Snowball - Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder.

While having dinner with some very successful people, the story tells how Warren Buffett (Biography) met Bill Gates and described what is meant by "focus", their key to success.

Excerpt from The Snowball:
"Then at dinner, Bill Gates Sr. posed the question to the table: What factor did people feel was the most important in getting to where they'd gotten in life? And I (Warren) said 'Focus'. And Bill (Gates) said the same thing."

It is unclear how many people at the table (Katherine Graham, Tom Foley, Jerry Grinstein) understood "focus" as Buffett lived that word. This kind of innate focus couldn't be emulated. It meant the intensity that is the price of excellence. It meant the discipline and passionate perfectionism that made Thomas Edison the quintessential American investor, Walt Disney the king of family entertainment, and James Brown the Godfather of Soul. It meant the depth of commitment and mental independence that led Jeannette Rankin to stand alone as the only representative in Congress to vote against U.S. entry into both World Wars in the face of widespread ridicule. It meant single-minded obsession with an ideal. "Focus" meant the kind of person who could earn billions by allocation capital (referring to Buffett), yet to be baffled by a sign that said "No TP."
"TP" refers to a note on the door of a bathroom which Buffett had not understood what it meant when he saw it.

It is clear what they mean. Focus is putting all of your efforts mainly into one thing. Something that you are extremely good at, something that you have unlimited motivation for, something that you are or could be the best at in the world. Gates is undoubtedly one of the best businessmen in the world, Buffett is the best capital allocator and they both achieved these heights because of one word - Focus.

Intense focus on something will likely achieve you insurmountable results, and the above two heroes are proof of that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (Book Review)


Here's a brief summary of what a Tipping Point is, as defined by the book, from Wikipedia:
Tipping points are "the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable."[1] Gladwell defines a tipping point as a sociological term: "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point."[2] The book seeks to explain and describe the "mysterious" sociological changes that mark everyday life. As Gladwell states, "Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do."[3] The examples of such changes in his book include the rise in popularity and sales of Hush Puppies shoes in the mid-1990s and the dramatic drop in the New York City crime rate in the late 1990s.
The Tipping Point was a great book. The book examined certain epidemics and events and the impact that they had on entire societies, in many cases.

The most influential story to me involved one of these epidemics that occurred in the New York subway system where crime was out of control. One event changed the crime dramatically when what people thought was a normal, everyday guy shot 3 gang members and killed them. Although tragic, the point is that this specific event changed crime there. Criminals were now scared of getting killed or hurt now by normal everyday people and the crimes dropped off dramatically. It was incredible to me that an event such as this could ring all across the city and change something as bad as crime in the subway system.

I would highly recommend the read and I don't want to spoil the book any further.