Concentrate on Concentrating

Posted on February 5, 2014 by Robert Ringer Comments (19)


When I finished revising and updating Winning Through Intimidation, I felt pretty confident that there were no glaring errors in the new edition.  After all, I had done about twenty-five drafts of the rewrite.

Nevertheless, I thought to myself, “Hmm … seems I’ve been here before.”  Meaning, every time I’ve finished a book, I felt certain that my editor and I had caught every mistake.  Such a naive belief stems from not remembering the lessons of history.

Experience has convinced me that there probably has never been a printed book that didn’t have one or more typos, missing words, or other kinds of mistakes in it.  And, to my chagrin, Winning Through Intimidation was no exception.

I don’t read my books after they’ve been printed, so these “catches” have to come from others.  In this case, it was a friend who called my attention to a place in the book that stated:  “Victor ate little kids for breakfast and didn’t bother to spit out the bones.  He rooted for the Pacific Ocean in Titanic.”

Brilliant … funny … well written.  I couldn’t stop mentally patting myself on the back when I came up with those clever words.  And, as I did with the entire book, I went over them draft … after draft … after draft.

Only one problem:  As my friend pointed out, the Titanic didn’t sink in the Pacific Ocean; it sank in the Atlantic!  (Will Leonardo DiCaprio ever forgive me?)

Getting hold of myself, I quickly checked to make sure that my socks matched.  Both black … good sign … it means that I’m back on my game.  It really irritates me that Homer Simpson is so much more famous than I am.  After all, I say “Doh!” more often than he does.  I’m telling you, it’s an unfair world.

Yes, my mistake was corrected in subsequent printings, but the question remains:  How does a perfectionist like me make such a dumb blunder?  The answer, I believe, is a lack of concentration.  But there’s a bit more to it than that.  Let me explain.

Some time ago, when I was lamenting about my carelessness, my own son said to me, “You know what I do to cut down on mistakes?  I concentrate on concentrating.”  Simplistic brilliance!  It had never occurred to me that in order to concentrate, you have to concentrate on concentrating.

Thinking about this life-changing insight prompted me to hearken back to the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to go through an entire season undefeated and untied.  I vividly recall the legendary coach of the Dolphins, Don Shula, explaining why a “no name” team like his was able to go through seventeen games without a loss.  Shula said that even though his team wasn’t that much better than most of the other teams in the league, they excelled at one thing:  concentration.

Specifically, Shula said that his players didn’t make dumb mistakes at crucial moments.  They concentrated on not jumping offside or getting called for unnecessary roughness.  The Dolphins running backs concentrated on hanging onto the football when getting tackled, and the receivers concentrated on looking the pass into their hands before looking up field.

Concentrating on concentrating penetrates down to the simplest aspects of our lives:

  • Have you ever bumped your hip on the corner of a table and ended up with a three-month bruise?
  • Or accidentally sent an e-mail to the wrong person?
  • Or not heard a word of something your spouse just told you?
  • Or checked two or three times to see if a door was locked?
  • Or reread a paragraph more than once because you had no idea what you had just read?

In each example, the problem was that you weren’t concentrating.  I don’t know any other way to reduce the number of such mental lapses but to make a conscious effort to concentrate.

Through the years, I’ve repeatedly stated that the difference between success and failure is much smaller than most people might suspect.  As with any other aspect of success, concentrating on concentrating, of and by itself, doesn’t guarantee positive results.  But I find it amazing how much of an edge it gives me when I consciously focus on this fascinating mental skill.

If you make a serious commitment to concentrate on concentrating, I think you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about.  At the very least, you’re sure to notice a significant decrease in Titanic-type mistakes in your life.

Gotta cut it short here … have to check the front door again.  I’m pretty sure I locked it, but …

Robert Ringer

+Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

19 responses to “Concentrate on Concentrating”

  1. Scott theczech says:

    I hope you know that I am laughing with you, not at you.

  2. Helen Spingola says:

    Love this one (even after I checked a non-water-running-faucet 3 times!!)

  3. BLH557 says:

    Quoting someone whose name escapes me I must say, "I have gazed into the eyes of the guilty party and found… myself."

  4. commonsensebrent says:

    Thanks Robert,

    Just a note on one of Roberts bullet points. the one that says:

    "Or reread a paragraph more than once because you had no idea what you had just read?"

    For those of us who communicate with the (our) public via email, take a close look at Mr. Ringers construction here in his letter to us.

    It's one or two sentences followed by a space. By utilizing this simple step he's helping us concentrate on his message.

    Yes, many copywriters do dismiss too much white space as wasted sales opportunity, but give your clients and customers every chance to 'absorb' your message.

    A space between thoughts is a simple and effective way to do just that.

    My 2 cents…

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      I have been preaching this for years. If I see a huge block of text in one paragraph, I tend to move on. Looks like too much work.

    • Wayne Wasserman says:

      Amen to that! When reading anything I have to remember, short paragraphs are way easier for me to focus on and remember.

      I have always had to read things over MANY times in order to remember key points in any non-fiction books if the paragraphs are too long.

  5. Silverback says:

    A really smart man taught me how to prepare tax returns. He demanded, under threat of some really unpleasant consequences, that I check my numbers by "running a tape" backwards – start with the refund or tax due and enter the numbers with plus and minus reversed. It's truly amazing, how many "simple" mistakes creep in.

    A similar technique works with copy. Review each sentence from the bottom up. That way, your focus is not on what you are hoping to say, but on how you say it.

  6. words2influence says:

    Concentrate on concentrating on the worthwhile- outside of which there could be a loss of 'spontainety'.

  7. laleydelexito says:

    Thank you Robert!!

    You are very funny and instructional at the same time

    God bless you!! =)

  8. HML says:

    Before the days of "spell check" a printer told me that one fool-proof method of proofing final copy was to read it backward ..start from the end or the bottom up….as stated above. This printer used that idea for all his work. It really works.

  9. Darren says:

    Good, solid advice. Multitasking is such a lie. Do several things halfassed and mistake riddled, or do one thing at a time really well.

  10. Muthuswamy N says:

    Like an automobile is a system of two opposites, brake and accelerator, our system is also a system of two opposites, body and soul. The third element in an automobile is a driver, who drives the system of two opposites. In our case, the third element is the mind.
    What if the driver of an automobile just is lifted twenty feet above his seat, can any automobile ensure safety? But that is exactly what happens to all of us today- the body-soul system is doing something and the driver no where near the body-soul. Fortunately the driver can be tuned: as our mind is a habit-forming system, we can form a habit of the mind being in the body-soul when we do anything! One of the methods to make the mind form this habit being with the body-soul is meditation of any kind. That is why every religion provides for some form of meditation on a daily basis to form and keep up the habit. I call meditation as the art of keeping the driver ( the mind) in his seat! (the body-soul system).

    I discuss this in detail in my e-book " Success through Opposites"
    Muthuswamy N;
    Quest Systems Pvt. Ltd. – simplifying complexities to improve effectiveness by re-engineeering thinking processes, the Quest Way..
    Author of “Success through Opposites” an e-book at and in Indiia.

  11. Ken Stewart says:

    I am a magician and have learned that when doing a card trick and having a card selected I always have the spectator show the card to others. This is for two reasons:sometimes people mess with me and say the card I found,if I found it, wasn't their's,but more often my willing helper forgets the card that they picked a few moments ago. It's funny when the audience has to remind them,I seem to get more credit.

  12. coloradotravelingducks says:

    Great post. Thanks!

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