50 college-aged men all stomped their right foot together on the cloth surfaced risers.
Clap. Clap. Stomp. Clap. Clap. Stomp.
And again. And again. The end of Didn't my Lord Deliver Daniel was hurtling toward us—only a minute left of my favorite song. (Enjoy Westminster Chorus’ version of it here)
After a day of meeting a local college's singing group, we stood on the stage of a church in Florida, rows of seats fanning out away from us. The audience was full of Purdue fans and the other collegiate singers. We almost never performed for other collegiate groups, and the opportunity to do so raised the stakes for us, whether we acknowledged it or not.
The last minute of the song is like a high-wire tightrope act. It's powerful when pulled off smoothly, but just a minor slip-up and you crash and burn. You're on a collision course headed for catastrophe or beauty—no where in between.
We all stared laser-focused on our director's hands, following his signals to lead us into the ending smoothly. What resulted was one of the most electric feelings I've ever had at a performance. One where you're physically tired but can't help but grin ear-to-ear because of how much fun you're having on-stage with your best friends.
When everyone in the group concentrated 100% of their attention on the director, magic happened. It was a step change from 99% to 100% focus. But instead of a 1% improvement in quality, it became our best performance of the year. It's like trying to connect an electrical circuit. Make it 99% of the way there, and nothing happens. But once you make contact, BOOM, you transmit a whole new level of energy. Productivity, effectiveness and the power of a performance all become leaps and bounds better.
In a world of endless, instant distraction, being able to pull away and focus enables leaps in improvement to be made. But how do you focus?
You have to want it.
Desire drives focus1. Which in turn, drives quality of outcomes.
The question then becomes, how do I cultivate the desires that will help me lead a great life? To start, write down what you really want. Be specific. Then build a practice cultivating desire around those things.
That day in Florida, everyone on stage wanted to give everything they had to each other. What resulted was a performance I'll never forget.
Tim Gallwey discusses this at length and with great clarity in his book, "The Inner Game of Work" from pages 43-77.