I have been spending quite a bit of time talking to recent and soon-to-be college graduates about what makes people successful. It got me thinking.

While there seem to be a variety of factors such as intelligence, people skills and ambition, to me there’s one characteristic that stands out amongst all of them.


Warren Buffett became the most successful investor of all times, because of his intense focus towards such. The same holds true for Bill Gates and his focus towards creating great software. Last but not least, my good friend Richard Thalheimer’s relentless focus on creating fun and useful gadgets resulted into him building a legendary company such as The Sharper Image.

My own track record of successes varies wildy solely depending on whether not I was truly focused on the task at hand. Unfortunately, I get distracted rather easily and when my focus swithces, I begin to fail. Because we all have limited bandwidth and you can’t be focused on a dozen things at once.

So if you really want to find a job, stop worrying about your fantasy baseball team. If you want to run a marathon, stop playing golf. If you want to be a world-class marketer, don’t read fiction, read marketing blogs.

If you have to sacrifice your passions in order to focus, then you’re focusing on the wrong thing.

Passion for what you do allows you to focus, once you do, success can’t be stopped.


  1. Anonymous April 5, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Hey Mario, looking forward to seeing you on the cruise!

    I liked this post. Focus is one of the 21 indispensible qualities of a leader that John Maxell talks about and I agree with you and think focus is a very important part of becoming successfull. However, I would say that you can’t become a successfull person through one attribute alone. I think it takes a person who either through natural character or personal development finds a way to develop all the traits of a leader. For some people it seems that they will identifiy maybe one or two attributes in their own personality that they felt were responislbe for becoming succcesful but if you looked deeper you would see the rest.

    Focus may be the trait you work hardest on developing but that’s because many of the other traits of leadership might come more natural for you, like charisma. The ability to get people to follow you and buy in on your ideas is central, in my opinion, of being a great marketer, for example, and I would say that comes much more natural for you than focus.

    anyways, hope all is well in L.A., maybe some day I’ll get a chance to move back down there….later Mario.

  2. Anonymous April 6, 2009 at 5:04 am

    Rogan, you’re definitely right about the point that there are many things that come easier to me than focus. It is so hard for me to stay focused, but I certainly recognize the need. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I am ready for the cruise, and can’t wait to see everybody. How is Wyoming?

  3. Anonymous April 9, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    You say if you want to be a world-class-marketer, start reading marketing blogs. What blog or blogs would you suggest as a starting point for students preparing to graduate in the next year?

  4. Anonymous April 14, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Hi Mario,

    When I first landed on this page and saw the title of the post I thought that you will be discussing magic and circus related stuff 🙂

    Anyway, as I mentioned earlier you sound very convincing. However, I would argue with you on this topic. I think one should be very careful when “focusing.”

    I agree that one should find a passion in life and focus all their energy on that thing. I also believe that as long as one is aware of his/her strengths and weaknesses, able to define their priorities and ready to commit he/she can be successful while doing a variety of things.

    Time goes by and people’s preferences and needs change. I am not positive on the numbers, and Nathan Myhrvold might be one rare (and crazy) exception, but still people say that an average person changes their careers 5-7 during their lifetime. So it seems important to be open to some flexibility.

  5. Anonymous April 15, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Aigerim, thank you for your comment.

    I don’t disagree with you. I am constantly juggling 3-27 different projects which is probably how I’ve learned that focus is of utmost importance.

    Also, it’s ok to switch careers 5-7 times but you should try to be the best (and focus on it) at whatever you’re doing at the moment. Otherwise, you’ll switch career 5-7 times but never reach your full potential.

    Back to my original point, if you want to be the best at something you better focus on it.

    LeBron James is the world’s best basketball player. That’s what he does and that’s what he focuses on. I bet you I could beat him in ping pong. 🙂

    Bill Gates was a software genius, which is what he put all his focus and attention to. You didn’t see Bill Gates starting dry cleaning businesses on the side. Now mind you, he has switched careers now and is running the world’s largest non-for-profit organization but I can promise you that such is what he places all his focus on.

    Warren Buffet, Seth Godin…

    Me, you don’t hear me talking about best practices in accounting.

    The list goes on. If you want to be great, focus and succeed. It’s easy to be mediocre at a bunch of different things.

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