Focus by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

Most people I know desire Focus. Do you? … It’s why people spend billions of dollars a year on eye exams, glasses, and contact lenses. It’s why there are focusing rings on binoculars, telescopes, and cameras.

If you’re like most people, having blurred vision can lead to headaches and even dangerous situations. For instance, when you drive without your glasses you can’t see oncoming traffic very well; things are blurry, including other cars.

Generally speaking, focus is positive. In fact, this article is titled – “Focus.” And I’m going to suggest that world-class leadership requires focus more than ever in this digital age where we live in a 24×7 environment of texts, emails, Facebook updates, and tweets.
The world-class leader recognizes there are many distractions in his environment and yet still maintains focus. There are times to multi-task and times to focus. If you’re smart, you’ll practice and hone your ability to focus. Which I believe is a diminishing skill.

Yet in a way, this article is equally about bokeh as it is focus. Huh? What the heck is bokeh and what does it have to do with focus? Thanks for asking! If you’re a photographer, you know what bokeh is and probably enjoy “playing” with it. When used properly, it can be a real asset to a shot.

Bokeh is simply a phenomena based on the physics of light, lens aperture, etc. that causes the foreground and/or background of the picture to be out-of-focus. Now, if you’re a serious photographer or physicist, you can, perhaps, provide a much more detailed explanation in the comment section. But for the average person, bokeh simply means a blurring of the picture’s background as in the photograph above.

Now, there is “good” bokeh and “bad” bokeh. It depends on what effect you’re trying to accomplish. Take the photograph of the dandelion above. Yes, I tried to render the seeds in-focus while causing the background to be out-of-focus. Why? Again, glad you asked! I wanted the viewer’s eye to be drawn to the seeds of the dandelion and not get distracted by the background. I purposely blurred the background using a wide aperture setting on the camera. If I had inadvertently blurred the subject, that would be “bad” bokeh.

Now, some of you may prefer to have the entire picture in-focus. Obviously it’s personal a preference. You’re wrong of course, but you are entitled to a wrong opinion. Joking. … The point is this, I purposely worked to create a picture with the subject in focus and blur the rest of the picture, including the background. Most photography apps and software allow you to do this without playing with the camera settings. You can now do it easily after the fact.

World-class leadership, as already noted, requires an ability to “blur” distractions, things that aren’t critically important. As a business executive, mother, husband, teacher, policeman, sales rep, or whatever your role (or multiple roles), you have many competing priorities. You have many tasks. You have many “customers” or “stakeholders.” You have a lot of things coming at you daily, even hourly. To be effective, there are times when you must multitask. When many things need to be in-focus. Yet there are also times when a person, a task, a conversation, a project, or a prayer needs to be in-focus. When you need to blur everything else, all the distractions. The foreground, the background, the sideground (ok, I made that up). When everything but the object of your concentration needs to be out-of-focus so that you can concentrate on the main thing, the critical thing, the thing that needs to be in-focus.

With the right camera/lens or the right software, you can create/use bokeh to soften the distracting surroundings and cause the subject to “pop” out. In our real lives, it can be a bit harder. Maybe tremendously harder. Having skills to help you focus are critically important so that you don’t get overwhelmed. So that you can weather the storm. So that you can heal a wound. So that you can encourage a friend, family member, or colleague. So that you can address the top priorities first, before moving onto the mundane.

Don’t allow the minutia or what I call “administrivia” to distract you. Focus. Focus on the main task. The main person. The main action. Then, IF there’s time, roll up your sleeves, grab a cup of Joe or a Diet Coke and deal with the rest, but only after you’ve focused on, and successfully dealt with, the main subject, the main priorities.

What tips or suggestions do you have for helping acquire and maintain focus in a sea of competing distractions? How do you blur the background? What has worked for you? Or failed?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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