Inspiring Insight

Posts tagged ‘focus’

13 Habits to do Every Single Day* (3/13) Featured

  1. Prepare for the Day
  2. Take a Walk

3. Do the Deep Work

*from Ryan Holiday’s blog, “Thought Catalog”

Deep work is when you focus without distraction on a cognitively challenging task.

Cal Newport

Doing deep work leads to true fulfillment. How many times have you been “busy” multi-tasking only to find yourself fatigued and dissatisfied?

We say “busy as a bee,” but just be sure your ‘busy’ is focused and worthwhile.


Maya says, “Don’t get discouraged!”

You gain a follower. You are so happy! And then you lose one. Or two.

You play in a tennis tournament and make several unforced errors that cost you the match. 

You stutter and stammer during the most important business meeting of the year. You’re sure you didn’t clinch this deal. 

The feeling of disappointment is hard for you to shake. 

Recently, a couple was found guilty of stealing from $1.2 million! Was Jeff Bezos was up late at night, worrying about it? Was he fixated on this one event, wondering why? No. He’s got the holiday shopping season, Whole Foods and new centers to build and maintain. He’s got “people” (lawyers) to handle the problems. He stays on-task. 

This pertains to work and relationships: focus on progress (which leads to the ultimate goal). The subscriber count, the meeting and the competition are just one metric in each sphere of work. 

Keep on keeping on!


The Big 5

glenn-carstens-peters-190592 (1).jpg

A simple tool I learned from Tim Ferriss which has kept my day in alignment to my (true) goals:

Write the 5 most important tasks on an index card each morning.  At the end of the day, discard the card and the next morning, begin again.

In this day and age of highly distractible events, it helps me stay focused on the most important tasks I want to accomplish.







It was a pitted day

where little was fit or fulfilled,

peace and calm rose as sunset

but not too rightly willed

a desire to escape (!)

from noise, doubt and sorrow

I began the screen event

with little thought to morrow

but conscience tugged at my brain

here sat the binder full of work

you promised me  – the voice said –

this endeavor you would not shirk



Endless Energy


We have the capacity to feel energetic all the time. You don’t need chemicals or a special diet. We are naturally full of energy. The reason we lack energy is because we create blocks which stem from our ego.*

For example, let’s say you wake up in a great mood. You go to work, full of energy. You want to make this an outstanding day! You plan on getting a lot done. A client calls you, berates you and demands some of his money back. Now you feel indignant against this person. You take what he says personally and call him names (after you hang up the phone). How dare he demand things outside of the contract? How dare he accuse you of trying to pull a fast one?

You run your fingers through your hair. You don’t feel like moving forward because you’ve lost the energy to get a lot done today. You just want to fume and you walk to your boss’ office to complain and have someone agree with you.

There goes a day of productivity.

If you want to maintain your energy, you need to clear the blockages. Don’t take things personally, don’t feed your ego’s desire to vent and draw attention to itself. Let the drama go. You can choose to go with the problems, ego and power drain, or choose to remain energetic.


*Michael Singer, The Surrender Experiment

The Mesa Arts Center


Our daughters’ MYS concerts are held quarterly downtown in the Mesa Arts Center in the Piper Theater. This place astounds us each time with the vibrancy and creativity of local artists. Here are a few pianos that were out a couple months ago.


Art inspires creativity in the viewer/listener,

it sparks dialogue,

and requires dedication,

focus and faith

To all artists everywhere: keep creating!






To Behold

My heart is singing for joy this morning! A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil’s mind, and behold, all things are changed!

Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller’s Teacher)


Until I was in third grade, I was invisible. I was only one of two Korean-American kids in our school (my sister was the other one), so I should have “stuck out.” But I was quiet, shy and bookish. My parents dismissed me early on as an underachiever to my more outgoing, dynamic younger sister. As most introverts do, I quietly accepted this reality.

It changed one day.

During a parent/teacher conference, my mother asked haltingly in her strong accent, “Is she OK?”  I braced myself for comments about the need for improvement…in focus or math…but Ms. Meretta looked me straight in the eye and said, “Oh yes, better than OK! Caroline is my hardest worker.”

I felt an electric charge throughout my body that caused my eyes to well.

My identity underwent a dramatic transformation: I wasn’t lazy or dumb (as I had overheard). I was a hard worker. I held promise.

I’m a teacher now, and looking back, I realize Ms. Meretta would not be considered a very good teacher today. She sat at her desk the entire day, giving papers to helpers to pass out for her. She was morbidly obese and rarely moved. She allowed me to get up and read books – a LOT. I rushed through math worksheets in order to read about Ramona or even Archie. She would most likely not embrace technology or move about the room to watch progress. Most likely, she would not attend ISTE and come back with cutting edge techniques to use in the classroom.

Still, she saw me. I consider her to be my most important teacher ever. She knew my personality, my friends, my parents, my interests. She invited my mother to come in and teach my peers about Korean customs, dress and food. My mother, a housewife, was positively giddy for weeks after her presentation. She had knowledge to impart! I realized that my culture was something to be proud of, not an aspect of myself to hide.

I’m not saying that using effective teaching strategies in the classroom lack importance, but in our fast-paced, technology-driven world, we need to stop multi-tasking. We need to slow down, ask real questions (How was your gymnastics meet?) and behold the people in front of us.




Jolly Ranchers Make Everything Better

Meet the Teacher Day.

A small, tow-headed boy walks in. He looks like he’s entering second grade, not fourth. His mother, also dimunitive,  has a tough smoker’s voice “He’s been afraid of you. His last teacher was a yeller.” I look into his large blue eyes. “Nice to meet you Jimmy*.  I don’t yell.”  A smile rises from his mouth, into his cheeks and then his eyes. I give him my Welcome to School note, taped with a watermelon Jolly Rancher.  Mother tousles his hair, “See? Your teacher is nice.” Both seem relieved.

More kids and parents/guardians come in. They scan the desks for name tags. They sign in at the table, grab information packets regarding our schedules, supply list. A squat woman approaches me. Everything about her is short and wide: the hips, the nose, the voice.  She is someone’s grandma.

“Hi. I have to tell you, (her voice lowers) Marcus* has trouble with attention. Marcus!” She calls him to us. He is a little darker than her, but also squat. “Marcus! Say hello to your teacher.”

Marcus speaks in a soft voice, “Nice to meet you.”  I am pleasantly surprised by his respectful demeanor. “Nice to meet you, Marcus.” We shake hands. His body stays, but his eyes roam the room. Grandma whispers, but Marcus and I can hear her. “Marcus is easily distracted and lazy.”  [By the end of the two hours, I will hear this from fifteen adults:  “My child has problems with attention. He/She needs to sit in the front.” Is there some kind of epidemic? Something in the water]?

“Oh, Marcus looks like a very focused, hard working boy to me,” I look at him and he smiles at me.

“No, no, no. He’s not. He’s lazy and unfocused.”

I try to make eye contact with grandma, but her beady eyes are laser focused on Marcus. Stop it. Stop saying that!

“Oh, I see a hard worker, totally focused and ready to learn!” I trump her.

She vigorously shakes her head, no, no, no. “He’s definitely not smart.” Marcus’s shoulders slump, his eyes go slack.

But he is.  Eighteen days of school have passed and Marcus is clearly one of my brightest students. My intuition was correct, he IS a hard worker.  His third grade teacher told me that he will cry and throw a temper tantrum when something goes wrong.  He did, indeed, wail at the top of his lungs when I gave the first assessment, a timed math fact test. “IT’S TOO HARD! I CAN’T DO IT!”  Tears streamed down his face. I calmly responded, “Stop crying.” The class looked at him (it was hard to ignore) but they quickly resumed their work.  I meet every tantrum (sometimes he has two or three in a day) with a calm rebuttal, “Stop that. There is no need for that. Take a deep breath and focus.” He has not had a tantrum now for a week.  The last time he got frustrated over a math problem, I offered to give him an easier one. He shook his head, no. He wiped his tears and regained his composure, all on his own.

We practice yoga poses and deep breathing exercises for stretch time. As I get to know my students, I see that many have personal challenges at home: a sick parent, divorce (a couple are going through not the first, but a second one), unemployment, etc. The stresses our children experience these days are enormous and the kids tell me that their parents tell them to “Go watch TV or play your X-Box.” And they wonder why their kids are distracted and unfocused. When we’ve been working hard at a math lesson, someone will inevitably ask, “Can we take a yoga break?” In just a month, I’ve noticed more focus, better balance and a bit more self-control all around.