Concentrate on Concentrating

Posted on May 19, 2017 by Robert Ringer


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.

31 responses to “Concentrate on Concentrating”

  1. Charlie Brackett says:

    Great advice! Thanks!

  2. Allen Gorin says:

    Hello Robert,

    I agree with you, but would express a little differently. I believe the source of being mistake-prone is not living in the present. Or, stated another way, living in the past or future. Or, stated still another way, living in our head (caught up in endless mind-stuff) rather than living in reality. For those with a spiritual bent, living in the present brings a presence–a higher intelligence–into the equation of life and the endless choices we make.

    For me, the best messenger and book on this subject has been Eckart Tolle and "The Power of Now." The beauty of Tolle's take on the human condition–that we're habitually caught up in thought-forms through which we escape the present moment–is that we can (with this realization) catch ourselves doing such and begin to break the habit. The more we realize that we're lost lost in thought and therefore not in the present, the more we actually become grounded in the present.

    Finally–and this is a long-overdue compliment–thank you for the influence you've had in my life. I remember reading "Winning Through Intimidation" as a struggling building contractor back in 1984, being a jerk of all trades at the time. Through your insights, I successfully began to focus on what I really wanted to do:
    transitioning to the world of full-time real estate investment and development.

    Best wishes,

  3. Scott theczech says:

    Your humor and perspective is so helpful to folks like me. True this particular proof miss must have vexed you big time, but I wonder how many of us actually caught it when we first read it?

  4. larajf says:

    Yes! I do think this has to do with people thinking they can multitask. We need to FOCUS (follow one course until successful). I'm still working on it SQUIRREL!

  5. Sean says:

    I think a funnier line would be "In Titanic he rooted for the Ice Berg."
    Also to further study the "Power of Now" check out Andy Shaw's "A Bug Free Mind". It's is changing my life.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Andy Shaw's BFM is indeed a GREAT work – still on the 2nd book and of course, will reread the first as well. I read Eckhart Tolle's PON over a decade ago, as well as his "The New Earth", so his work does help me focus, but I think the bigger problem that Robert pointed out, is that we just get caught up with all the distractions (ever-increasing in this electronic-obsessed age), and we have to make the process or act of concentrating the paramount one, even when we are in a hurry. I have read that there are a couple of ancient languages that do not even have a past tense or future tense (and NO negative words, either), so perhaps the truth has been known for eons.

  6. Gary Waltrip says:

    Thanks Robert, for another useful mental success tool.

  7. TheLookOut says:

    Thanks Robert, I feel better about my own Pacific Oceans.

  8. ivan says:

    A very expensive typo here on the Lincoln memorial.

  9. Rick G says:

    It's vintage Robert Ringer back again with more great advice to improve my life. Great stuff! I love it! If only I will take it and apply it to my life and really make it work for me! Problem is, I read it and momentarily think about it, and then want to set it aside in my mind as another great masterpiece of wisdom from my favorite author and philosopher.

    A lot of times I find concentration really, really difficult, because I have a multitudes of many things constantly rolling around in my mind when I am busy doing things. Especially if I am about ready to leave the house and go out to take care of a lot of important business is one good example. It usually hits me once I get into the car to go before I stick the key into the ignition. Wait, I forgot my wallet. It has my driver's license which I must carry in case I get stopped or need to show as identification at the bank to transact business. Oops! I need to bring along a couple of credit cards; nothing is free at Lowe's Home Improvement and Walmart. Shucks! I needed to bring my Discover card along. They are offering 5% cash back for purchases at home improvement stores (Lowes) this month. I guess I'll have to use my Citibank card instead. Forgot about that! My wallet also has my AAA card in case I get a flat or some nutcase plows into me up there on the highway. And my smartphone too to call the cops to report the accident too! Dag gone! I forgot those sunglasses again, the sun is so bright outside today and I squint a lot. I hate having to drive like that. Not again, I need to go back into the house and get my water bottle, shower towel and/or locker lock before I go to the gym…………and on and on and on. I hate my life! LOLS!!!

    I really need to slooooooooow down and think things through very thoughly and carefully before making the first move when things need to be done. I enjoy reading all the tips, advice, and "funnies" in Robert Ringer's articles (and books), but I need to keep reminding myself that entertainment is not the primary focus or reason for his writings. (Or is it? Lols!) I really love the humor in his writings! Looks like my life will run a lot smoother and calmer if I slow down and really THINK, before impulsively going off half-cocked as I have a tendency to do.

    Well, it's Friday now. I'm getting ready to go to the laundermat. I need to be sure I take ALL my clothes, bath towels, and bedding. All means all. Not leave this or that behind! I need to make sure I take at least ten bucks along for the washer and dryer. And don't forget the Arm and Hammer detergent. Buying detergent there is a ripoff. I need to take my wallet along, the house keys, my sunglasses, my smartphone. Ok, that looks like about everything I will need to take along. And oh yes, those new tomato plants I just planted in the backyard need watering before I go. I just need to concentrate on concentrating and focus on focusing! And, hopefully, everything will be OK.

    Let's get out there and water the tomato plants now…….

    • Rick G says:

      Ok Rick. Try doing a better job of proofreading your responses before submitting them. "…..a multitudes"……? Need to work on that too!

  10. Greggsan says:

    I was going to post a pithy comment here, but I forgot what it was.

  11. hugh009 says:

    Thanks for reminding me to proof the four new books I have coming out next month!

  12. Robert rdiamondesq says:

    Good advice as usual from Robert. For me focusing on what I am doing and not thinking about other things helps. But what helps most is either a second set of eyes on something I am working on or waiting a day and coming back to my project with fresh eyes.

  13. wellinet says:

    Mindfulness comes to mind. The best advice I ever got. Looking forward to reading your updated version.

  14. Lana says:

    Thanks! Today I needed to concentrate on concentrating. Trying to go in too many directions at once…..multi-tasking is now what it's cracked up to be.

  15. Lana says:

    I mean "not" what it's cracked up to be………hilarious……an appropriate article.

  16. JOSEPH says:

    Robert, what you're really talking about here, and I agree, is being in the the PRESENT MOMENT. That is a problem all of us have. If we can learn to keep our mind in the present moment we will definitely improve our effectiveness in everything we do. And, if you think about it, ONLY the Present Moment exists. There is no reason to to have our mind somewhere else. As we get older this does get tougher. I strongly urge you and others who may be reading this to read and/or get Ekhart Tolles book, THE POWER OF NOW.

  17. Came across a thought the other day which I think is appropriate here: "The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply."

    • Jim Hallett says:

      VERY TRUE. Stephen Covey used that as one of his principles in all his books and seminars, stated as "Seek first to understand." I'm as guilty as anyone, since I am generally a good conversationalist, so almost every response elicits something relevant in my brain's database, but I KNOW I often miss the real intent of the spoken statement by someone else, since I was busy formulating my own response or added commentary.

  18. Musicman says:

    Beginning this Monday I start my journey into the world of psychological counseling. At age 79 I feel like I have missed out on a lot of what life has to offer. After reading most of the comments here I realize I have been missing out on a lot of insights in my life and has given me a different outlook on my existence. I'm on the computer 8 to16 hrs a day and retain maybe 1 to 5% of what I read. The words Concentrate to Concentrate grabbed me like a hungry lion and sparked a flame that has inspired me to to proceed with my journey. I agree with Richard D'. I am guilty of the same thoughts.

  19. Keith Jefferies says:

    Funny to find a typo in an article about typos. I'm sure you meant "locking" when you wrote "and the receivers concentrated on looking the pass into their hands."

    • Rand says:

      Actually, football coaches do call it "looking the pass into their hands," as one who played and followed football most of my life. However, "locking" does seem to be the more appropriate term.

  20. Christopher Jones says:

    That Titanic line was so funny I almost quoted it to my wife, but there was something funny (as in odd) about it that I couldn't put my finger on it. And now you did! Thanks for pointing it out.

    I'm going into business as a consultant, and this was JUST the info I needed. I really appreciate the work you put into distilling into Ultimate Clarity the problem and your solution.

    I was turned on to the book by Perry Marshall, who recommends the book regularly.

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