One important lesson from two of earth’s richest men

It was on Friday the 5th of July that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates met for the first time in 1991. Buffett had little interest in Gates, who was 25 years his junior, except for the fact they were neck-and-neck in the Forbes rich-list. And as for computers? Forget it. Similarly, Gates was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of spending a day in the company of Buffett, a man who had amassed much of his fortune in the stock market.

The two were, it seemed, as different as could be. Different generations dealing in entirely different business arenas. In spite of their differences there was a surprising amount they had in common.

telescope and city

Having arrived by helicopter to enable a speedy get-away from the event to be held at his parents’ home, Gates was introduced to Buffett. Dispensing with any small-talk, Buffett started by asking about the future of IBM. It wasn’t long before the two were engrossed in conversation, to the exclusion of all others.

That evening, as they sat around the family dinner table, Bill Gates Sr asked what factor everyone thought was the most important in getting them to where they were in life. Both Buffett and Gates replied, “Focus.”

To do something really well requires concentration; applying your whole self to the task in hand. Yes, you need to be aware of what is going on around you, but you must focus your attention on the current priority. Learn to do one thing well before moving on to the next. It yields better results than trying to do many simultaneously.

Distractions abound. News channels, social media and the latest viral videos easily fritter away our time, stealing it from more enduring pursuits. There will always be more news to consume and more trivialities to fascinate us.

Playing football with the kids on the back lawn, fixing that thing that’s been bugging your spouse or simply asking them about their day. These are the things that if done half-heartedly are of little value. But when we focus on them, making them important and doing them well, they become priceless, helping us build excellent relationships.

Is it time to adjust your focus a little?


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