Clarity but not focus

More clarity about what and how you want to engage in the world does not necessarily guarantee the ability to focus your work.

In my last piece, I wrote about the gift of clarity. Then I wrote a piece about the power of focus. You didn’t miss it: it never got published. So now I need to talk about the difference between having clarity and being able to focus.

The piece I wrote about focus started like this:

Last week I talked about the power of clarity coming out of some time off the grid. But in many ways the idea of focus feels theoretical and even naive in the current moment we are living through. COVID, climate, Haiti, Afghanistan, and and and the next crisis. Everything is urgent. Everything is important.

What does it mean to focus? Does it mean ignoring urgent or important things? Does it mean embracing the arrogant naivety of control? Or is focus about how we engage and react and respond to a world spinning? Is it how we continuously engage without living in a state of perpetual burnout? What is required is the clarity of a clear worldview, a frame for interpreting “all the things”. Because if we have a way to contextualize our work, our emotions, our responses, we can continue to respond, continue to be productive but with a constant connection to a clearer source of continuity and energy.

Sounds good on paper. However, even if that focus enables us to maintain our perspective and manage our responses, it does not guarantee we can focus our activities — as revealed by my ironic failure to even publish the piece on focus last week.

On top of the usual collection of projects I am working on, I chose to take on being the Interim CEO for an advocacy organization I helped an old friend start a few years ago called I AM ALS. IAA is a community-centric ALS advocacy organization transforming the lives of people affected by ALS and accelerating treatments and cures. Our CEO was poached for an amazing opportunity in the Biden Administration, and I agreed to step in to ensure we had the time and space to find the next right leader for the organization going forward. May not seem like it fits into the clarity I shared about earlier this month — because it doesn’t. But sometimes there is work to do, and as Scott Jurek loves to say, “sometimes you just do things.”

Interested in the work a scrappy advocacy group is doing to put people at the center of rare disease advocacy? Check out our work and bring tissues if you watch the videos (my friend Brian’s story is powerful and painful):

More to come on the work of transforming discourse and building a generative America — stay tuned.