Focus and Effectiveness

Focus and Effectiveness April 29, 2019

A few weeks ago, I was watching a documentary on the 1998 New York Yankees, arguably the greatest team in baseball history. They won an unprecedented 125 games throughout the year and took home the World Series trophy.

One of the things that struck me as I watched the documentary is that 1998 was the same year Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire were in a highly-publicized race to set a new single-season home run record, something many people doubted would ever happen.

While the two sluggers traded home runs and were followed by hoards of reporters, the Yankees just kept winning. They went through a few mild downs, but generally stuck together and fought as a team. The reason the documentary struck me was because of what it suggested about the way we as humans pursue value.



We often talk about wanting to be our best. Wanting to be people of character and make good products and help people. We want to have organizations and relationships with a healthy culture. The measures for this are different throughout the arenas of life, but what we really want is an effective entity. We want our arenas to be maximized, to perform at their best. Whether it is business or marriage or health or personality, we want to be effective. We want to get the purpose done, accomplish the goals and achieve the meaning.

We talk a lot about effectiveness in the world today. It is clearly a value. Another baseball story, Moneyball chronicles the journey the Oakland A’s took to try to be more effective. We want to win at life, just like baseball teams are there to win the championship.


The Focus

But sometimes something comes along that makes us drift from the value of effectiveness. Something steals our focus away.

We heard two stories this week about families who had a chance to develop a child actor into a star. Both families were torn apart in the pursuit of fame and fortune. The parents divorced. The kids were hurt. The families lost sight of the value for effectiveness and started to focus on the shortcuts before them.

I have no idea how McGuire and Sosa’s teams did in 1998, but I know they didn’t win the championship. And both men were eventually disgraced for cheating. The pull toward shortcuts and sexy distractions can seem transcendent. It can seem even more important than the mundane value of effectiveness. They can become an idol that costs us the very things we are trying to preserve.

Our marriages fall apart when we see a chance to have sex with newer and younger partners. Our businesses fall apart (at least morally) when we see the ability to make quick money and a name for ourselves. We ditch relationships when something big and new and exciting comes along. We think it is a shortcut to effectiveness. Really it is the siren’s song. It reorients our focus away from the true mission.



This constant threat of drifting away from our true values has been a plague on Western society for a long time. We’re lost. We left the mission to focus on other things. We told ourselves by focusing on these other things, we could make our family and our character and our business more effective in the long run. But we rarely remember to return our focus to the thing that truly matters once this kind of superficial success manifests.

There are so many celebrities in rehab and going through second-divorces because we have lost the intention and the hard work necessary to be effective. We have believed lies and taken shortcuts and we can no longer find the true way.

We need a deep look at what really matters to us, and take the time to really consider what we mean by a “win”. Until we name effectiveness properly and define its true terms, our focus will continue to drift. And we will continue to be lost.

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