What Steve Jobs and a Lion Tamer Can Teach You About Focus
In an era where the majority of the lion tamers died in the ring, there was one who at the height of his career had an act which featured as many as 40 lions and tigers. His name was Clyde Beatty.
Beatty became famous for his “fighting act” in which he would tame fierce wild animals. At one point, Beatty’s act included a segment where he brought lions, tigers, cougars, and hyenas into the circus ring all at once and tamed the entire group.
How did he do it?
Clyde Beatty was one of the first lion tamers to bring a stool into the cage. Here's what happened next...
The stool and the whip
While many focused on the whip, the stool did all the important work. The whip was merely used as a form of entertainment.
When a lion tamer holds a chair in front of the lion’s face, the lion tries to focus on all four legs of the chair at the same time. With its focus divided, the lion becomes confused and is unsure about what to do next. When faced with so many options, the lion chooses to freeze and wait instead of attacking the man holding the chair.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation as the lion?
Where you try to focus on too many different things at the same time and become paralysed because you're unsure what to do next or where to begin?
Try to focus on one thing at a time.
"Focus is about saying no" - Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs understood the power of focusing on one thing at a time and eliminating everything else which was unnecessary. This can be seen throughout his career.
"Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff." - Steve Jobs to CEO of Nike
Steve Jobs didn't just give his advice; he lived it. Jobs was fired from Apple but returned as the company was floundering in 1997. His first order of business? Cut.
By the end of that year, Jobs had killed almost 70 percent of Apple's products. A year later, the company had gone from losses of $1.04 billion to a $309 million profit.
Jobs saw Apple as distracted by opportunities. Opportunities seem innocent, but we often forget the commitments that come with them: energy, time, and money.
I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things - Steve Jobs
Focusing on one thing at a time is seen through Steve Jobs career. Apple (under Jobs) spent its first three years selling only one product: the Apple 1. Only after nailing that first product did the company move on.
At Pixar, under Jobs, they only made one movie at a time.
Even towards the end of his career, Jobs focused on one product at a time which can be seen through the progression of Apple products.
The iPod was the first to come in 2001, which was later followed by the iPhone in 20017 and then finally, the iPad was released in 2010.
Jobs said he actually started work on a tablet first, long before the iPhone.
I'll tell you a kind of a secret, actually started on the tablet first (iPad) but when I saw the rubber band and the Herschel scrolling, I thought oh my god we can build a phone out of this and I put the tablet project on the shelf, the phone was more important - Steve Jobs
Despite the amazing opportunity Jobs had with the iPad long before anyone in the market was considering creating a tablet, Jobs realised the importance of working on one project at a time and doing what was most important.
What can we learn from a lion tamer and Steve Jobs?
Learn to say no.
Don't get tempted by every single opportunity which comes your way but instead focus on the right ones.
Don't try to do too many things at the same time and ending up confused and paralysed.
So... will you follow the advice of one of the greatest entrepreneurs to ever live, or be tamed like another one of Clyde Beatty's lions?
If you chase two rabits, you will not catch either one - Russian proverb