You Might Have Too Much Focus and It’s A Real Problem
A good lesson from the 1988 NBA Slam Dunk Contest
By now we’ve all watched The Last Dance. At least once. If you haven’t yet, then I’m curious to know if the rock you live under is big or, you know, medium-sized. Is it comfortable under there? How do you sleep? What happens when it rains? What about spiders?
But seriously, love him, hate him, or just indifferent about him…you have to admit that Michael Jordan encapsulates all the characteristics that make human beings human. Strength. Confidence. Insecurity. Resilience. Focus. Creativity. Fear of failure. All of the things.
But this blog post isn’t about Michael Jordan
Nope. It’s about five other people and I have no idea what their names are. Regular people that aren’t famous. They aren’t rich. And as far as I know, they haven’t inspired the world to do a damn thing.
BUT…these five guys have held a prominent place on my bedroom wall growing up and will always be a part of basketball history. Also, to be honest, I’ve wondered about them a lot for more than 30 years. Like A LOT. Like definitely more than I should have.
It’s these camera crew guys towards the bottom of the photo:
The price of focus
We’ve all read and heard that you need to have focus. “Simplify and focus on this.” “Don’t get distracted and hyper-focus on that.” I get it. I really do.
But what is the cost of that focus? What are you missing? Regardless of what you choose to focus on, knowing what you missed due to that focus is an important piece in looking back and evaluating if your choice was good and/or what could have been done differently.
From a storytelling perspective, I understand that ‘Nique’s reaction could be seen as a compelling piece of the tale. Something that is artistically one degree removed from the actual ending which, by the way, was one of the world’s all-time best dunks of all-time in the world (redundancy intended because it’s somehow grammatically appropriate here).
Ok it’s time. Let’s dig into this.
I want…no…need to know all about these five guys. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole and yeah, the only way out is down and I want answers. I kind of feel like we all are entitled to some goddamn answers.
Until those answers (that I’ll never get) actually arrive, I’ve attempted some closure by dissecting this photo with specific attention to these five camera crew guys.
So here are my thoughts (WARNING: I’ve admittedly lost my mind on this topic and don’t know which way is up. Why am I like this?):
A) Ok. I can be friends with this guy. He’s responsibly doing what he has to do for his job (holding a mic) but also understands that doing his job doesn’t have to mean missing this milestone of human athletic accomplishment happening only a few feet away from him. He’s holding the mic, but he knows to look at what’s happening, not just what he’s doing. I like this guy and hope one day to find the opportunity to buy him a drink.
B) These guys frustrate me but you know, I can’t fault them. They’re there to do a job and that job requires them to look through — and manually operate — a camera to get their shot. I used to think, “why not a camera stand?” but I now know that stands can’t replace a human operating a shoulder camera. They just can’t. Ok guys, fine. I applaud your dedication to your job and I appreciate your sacrifice in order to capture footage nobody has neither seen nor cares about and wait…WHY DO YOU BOTH NEED TO GET THAT SHOT?! Goddammit. One is enough.
C) It’s hard to see what this guy’s doing but it’s not a camera, so if it’s a mic, then why not just follow A’s lead and just turn your head? Just turn it. Like a little bit. You don’t need to manually focus a mic on the fly and you know what…screw it. You’re an idiot and I am glad you unnecessarily missed witnessing this dunk. I hope the sound of Dominique cursing his second place finish came out crystal clear for you.
D) Ok. So then there’s this dude. [Big inhale]. [Big exhale]. You guys…this is the guy that fills me with all the rage. He’s holding a pencil and a pad of paper — nothing that needs ANY kind of immediate doing. Nothing that demands a moment to be captured or else it’s missed forever. He’s there looking like he’s cheating off of Becky Wallerstein in 9th grade geometry except whatever he’s scribbling down doesn’t f***ing matter and he’s missing the dunk. Why does this task need to be done in real-time? No, tell me…why?! I want to teepee his house. I want to take A out for drinks, then we ALL go teepee this guy’s house. Who’s in?
There is such thing as too much focus
Can you imagine being one of these guys today and meeting someone at a party? I imagine it would go like this:
Guy: Best dunk contest ever was 1988 in Chicago.
You: Yeah man, I was there.
Guy: You were there?
Guy: Spent a fortune on tickets?
You: I was there for work so I actually got paid to be there.
Guy: You worked the event?
Guy: Get good seats?
You: Seats? Nah, son! I was on the floor. Literally sitting on the same wooden ground when it was all happening. I was technically on the court, not just the floor.
You: Yeah, man.
Guy: I can’t believe I am meeting someone who was there! Holy shit. Was the energy after the final dunk amazing?
You: Oh hell yeah. Incredible. I mean…completely electric. The place exploded. The whole city erupted.
Guy: I can’t believe you were in front of the front row — even closer than the other players — witnessing the greatest dunk of all time!
You: Yeah…wait what? Oh…umm. No.
Guy: No what?
You: No I didn’t see the dunk.
Guy: ….But….But you just said you…
You: I was getting video of Dominique Wilkins and his reaction. Literally looking completely the other way with my back to the dunk.
You: ‘Nique was upset.
Guy: …. (Turns around and leaves)
What are you focusing on — your task or the big picture?
Whenever possible, be like A. He understood that what he’s doing isn’t the same as what’s happening. Do your job and do it well, but not at the cost of experiencing the bigger picture.
Prioritizing tasks is perhaps one of the most important thing we as humans can do. It offers us some breathing room to understand what matters a lot, what matters a little, and what really doesn’t matter at all. If you try to do it all, you most likely won’t do anything.
We won’t always get it right, but being aware that too much focus can be a real problem is a good start. Once your focus blinds you to the peripheral, it’s more than likely time to pull back and reassess the situation.
If you’re getting “distracted” by the larger things that truly matter, then it’s possible what you’re doing either doesn’t matter or there’s a better way to do it.
Ok, I’m off to the store to get twelve cases of toilet paper. Someone find D’s address and can I borrow your black hoodie?