Written by:

Updated on:

July 21, 2015
Published on Dec 6, 2013

In Focus, Psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman, author of the #1 international bestseller Emotional Intelligence, offers a groundbreaking look at today’s scarcest resource and the secret to high performance and fulfillment: attention.

Combining cutting-edge research with practical findings, Focus delves into the science of attention in all its varieties, presenting a long overdue discussion of this little-noticed and under-rated mental asset. In an era of unstoppable distractions, Goleman persuasively argues that now more than ever we must learn to sharpen focus if we are to survive in a complex world.

Goleman boils down attention research into a threesome: inner, other, and outer focus. Drawing on rich case studies from fields as diverse as competitive sports, education, the arts, and business, he shows why high-achievers need all three kinds of focus, and explains how those who rely on Smart Practices—mindfulness meditation, focused preparation and recovery, positive emotions and connections, and mental “prosthetics” that help them improve habits, add new skills, and sustain greatness—excel while others do not.


My dear friend, Daniel Goleman, is one of the world’s most recognized experts on topics relating to emotion intelligence. He is also an amazing author. He has written more than ten books, and his book “Emotion Intelligence,” that one book alone, sold more than 5 Million copies. He has received many awards, and he has been nominated twice for the ___ prize.

On the personal level, Dan is also the person most responsible for me becoming an author. So, back in 2007, Dan and I ___ a bunch of distinguished ___, such as Inside Yourself, which became a very popular curriculum in Google and ___. And I remember in 2009, Dan and I were taking a walk right there. I remember that exact place and exact time. We were talking a walk. I was trying to convince him to write a book on such as Inside Yourself. And then he told me, he said, I’d love to do it. I just don’t have the time. And then he looked at me. He pointed his finger at me, and say, “Ming, why don’t you write a book?” I was like, “Me? I’m an engineer, not a doctor.” Damage him. Eventually, because of Dan’s support and his confidence on me, I did end up writing up a book.

I’m really excited about Dan’s new book, “Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.” Skillfulness over attention is the foundation of all higher cognitive and emotional abilities. Attention creates the condition for personal excellence. Attention is so important, that as such inside yourself. It is the first thing we train. The first thing we train is attention. Yet, I think the subject of attention itself is not getting enough attention, ironically. And I cannot think of anybody better to write a book on important topic as Dan.

So, my dear friends, my dear friend, Danny, I’m delighted that you wrote this book, and I’m delighted that you didn’t ask me to write the book. My friends, please welcome my friend, and Google’s friend, Dan Goleman.

Thank you. I’m always happy to come to Google.

2007- that reminded me of something. In 2007, there was a short ___ in Time Magazine, and it said, there’s a new word in the English language. The word is “pissled”—it’s a combination of puzzled and pissed off, and it describes how you feel when the person you’re with takes out their Blackberry and starts talking to someone else. Think about that. Both things have died—that word and Blackberry. Two. Things change quickly. That says something. I remember when I went around to publishers and said, I’d like to write a book about attention. One of them said, that’s great! Keep it short.

Because I think attention is a capacity, a vital capacity as Ming was hinting. That’s really ___ today. I’m most worried about our kids ___, but I think we all are kind of victims. Here’s something rather provocative, Herbert Simon, Nobel prize winner said, “What information consumes is the attention of its recipients, hints a wealth of information, creates a poverty of attention.” To the extent that you understand that there are two (2) kinds of attention—there’s the attention that we voluntarily direct, and there’s the attention that seduces us. There are actually different systems in the brain—one is the top-down system, from the pre-frontal area, this is when we decide to concentrate on our work. We’re applying that kind of attention. But then there are the little seductions, the endless seductions, and there are more, and more, and more of them. I get, you know, I’m writing away on my book, I get a little popup—you got an email! That’s a seduction. That’s an intrusion on sustained focus. And because of the excellence of our technology and the cleverness of people who design technology. Some of ___ in this room might just realize, our attention needs to be paid more attention to if we’re going to maintain or even increase our capacity for it. This also, the fact that attention is threatened along with the fact that, in the last two or three years, there’s been explosion of neuroscience finding about the ___ circuitry, which has vast implications for us. This is really, since I’m a Science journalist, enticed me to write the book that Ming refused to write. Perhaps, luckily, ___.

And as I got into it, I had to rethink emotion intelligence. You didn’t mention that Harvard Business review? Yeah, the next issue of the Harvard Business review, which will be out next week has a cover article by me on the leader’s focus. The kind of focus, attentional capacities that anyone who’s a leader needs, and we’re actually all leaders. I think of leaders as anyone with a sphere of influence, not people on the chart necessarily.

But to the extent of we all need to get more control over attention and yet it makes good at the things that matter in performance these days. It’s, let me de-revise emotion intelligence, what I’m thinking about, I’ll share that with you. There’s an effect called, in statistics, many of you are probably familiar of the floor effect. It occurs in a place like Google, it occurs in Ivy League College, it occurs anywhere for example that there’s a premium put for admission on IQ. And it’s an interesting phenomena, because it’s rather paradoxical. What it means is that IQ, which is a fantastic predictor of the level of cognitive complexity that you can manage, and that you can understand, and therefore sorts people into jobs, roles, and so on abilities. Once you get selected for IQ, then excellence becomes defined largely by things other than IQ, and it’s because of the floor effect. Are you all familiar with the floor effect?

So, a little statistic—so if you were to plot, say, IQ and Emotional Intelligence, do a scatter plot, you get a fairly random distribution, because those are largely independent aspects of ability and they partake a different part of the brain largely.

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About the author 

Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]