Focus - Broad and Soft vs Narrow and Hard

When I was learning to fly, I was introduced to the Air Speed Indicator (ASI). The ASI is the flying equivalent of a speedo. It tells you how fast you are going. Whether you are taking off, landing or just flying around there are important speeds to be aware of. You manage speed to get the best performance out of the aeroplane. Unlike a car, speed is managed by raising or lowering the nose, rather than adding or reducing throttle. Lift the nose and it slows down and starts to climb. Lower the nose and it descends and speeds up. There's a window of best performance speeds for different aspects of the flights. At each side there is an extreme that you really need to avoid to stay safe. Too slow and the aircraft stops flying. Too fast and you risk structural damage or loss of control. 

Like most trainee pilots my focus was fixated on the ASI. I would watch it like a hawk to get the right speed. My focus would become increasingly fixated and hard. Trouble is, it doesn't work that way. There's a bit of lag between what you do and the speed shown on the dial. Trying to control speed with your eyes glued to the instrument means you porpoise through the sky - nose up, nose down, nose up, nose down. The speed never settles and you literally chase the needle, and the plane all over the sky. When you get too fixated on the needle you can end up with a growing oscillation that is increasingly out of control. 

To fly well your attention has to be outside the plane, with occasional glances at the instruments to confirm what you observe. A broad, soft focus allows you to see how the plane looks relative to the horizon, how the controls feel, the sound of the engine and the wind over the wings. These things along with the ASI allow you to fly smoothly and well. With your head up you can also pay attention to other important things like other air traffic, weather, and where you are. Hard fixation is a dangerous recipe. 

There are times when a hard fixation is useful. Analysing specific and complex data, and some types of problem solving are good examples. You don't want to be distracted by a broad view. Other times we need to scan more widely to be effective.

A great example of this is in sales. It's easy to get a hard fixation on the features and benefits of whatever you are selling and start lashing a potential customer with what you want to sell, in the way you want to sell it. We've all experienced this at some point - a salesperson flat out answering questions about the product or service. Trouble is there's a disconnect, none of the answers are to the questions that are important to you. It's like they are not even listening. In a worst case scenario you walk away from something you would otherwise have brought. 

A great skill in business is to be aware of your focus and intentional about it. Consciously decide what sort of attention/focus is best for the situation you are in, and then choose tools to help you maintain it.