Brad Feld

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Amazing Powers of Concentration

Aug 03, 2008

Tim O’Reilly tweeted a link to an article titled How To Concentrate which was originally published in 1930.  It is excellent and worth reading slowly (presumably while you are concentrating.)

Amy often tells me that I have "Amazing Powers of Concentration."  If you are a Pink Floyd fan, you will get the subtle reference to a line from Nobody Home.  The line is actually "And Amazing Powers of Observation", but Amy is generously applying it to my actual skill.  Entertainingly (as in circus trick) I have a second amazing power – that of "total recall of the last thing someone said to me while I was concentrating on something else."  I use this very effectively in my marriage.

I’ve never really understood the phrase "I’m thinking."  It’s too abstract for me.  I like to think I think all the time.  So "I’m thinking" doesn’t feel like it applies to anything.  For example, when "I’m running", it’s pretty clear what I’m doing.  "I’m thinking" – not so much so.

However, "I’m concentrating" definitely means something to me.  I have different levels of concentration such as:

  • Extended: I’m working on something that takes many months to do like – say – raising a new venture capital fund or running a marathon in every state in the US.
  • Intense: I’m working on something that takes longer than 15 minutes to do.
  • Deep: I’m working on something that takes a few minutes to complete but requires a lot of mental horsepower to figure out.

As I read through the How To Concentrate article, I realized that many of the things applied to my ability to have amazing powers of concentration.  The article is a short one.  Read it – it should only take a few minutes.  The sections are titled:

  • "Concentration is the Most Important Intellectual Habit of Man."
  • This ONE THING I Do
  • Aids to Concentration
  • Periodical Relaxation
  • Mental Freedom
  • The Proper Environment
  • A Definite Schedule

Consider each section and what you have done to set up your life so you can have amazing powers of concentration.