Focus on the other
On June 19, I had just gotten myself set-up on LinkedIn, selected my interests and was learning how to use the site.. based on my interests the site recommended I follow Adam Robinson. You probably have never heard of him and if it wasn’t for Tim Ferriss’s podcast I might not have either. But it just so happened that the episode where Tim interviews Adam in episode 219 is my favorite. I listened to it over a dozen times since first hearing it about a year ago.
I love hearing Adam’s stories, was blown away by his humility, and his maturity in how he handles his life. Also by how he is still constantly learning and improving how he lives still today. He experienced some things that I couldn’t imagine going through, from losing his father to suicide at a young age, spending two years in a hospital from ages 4-6 dealing with a bone disease, and dealing with depression from around ages 13-35. Yet Adam has gone on to achieve some incredible feats from becoming a rated chess master at a young age, co-founding the Princetown review, becoming a great friend of Warren Buffet, working as a global macro advisor to the world’s largest hedge funds, and most importantly developing the mindset he has been able to.
Adam’s biggest messages from his first solo interview with Tim were to always focus on the other, and along the same lines..always find magic in every moment. I strongly suggest you listen to episode 219 to hear how these came to be such important principles in Adam’s life, but I will explain what they mean to me in a bit.
I was surprised LinkedIn suggested I follow Adam, but of course I clicked follow right away. More importantly than following him though, I wanted to reach out and just let Adam know I appreciate the information he shared, tell him my take-aways from his podcasts, and tell him how they help me in my life. So on June 19, around 3:45pm I sent Adam a message.
By 4:08 pm on June 19 Adam messaged me back, thanking me for reaching out and ending his message with “Thanks again, made my day!!”
I certainly hoped Adam would read my message and hoped it would make him feel good. What I never imaged was that he would message me back, and I definitely did not expect that me sending a message just thanking him, would make me feel so good.
The irony is… I was reaching out to thank Adam for the two main principles of always focusing on the other, and always finding magic in every moment. But I didn’t realize I was using what he taught me at that exact moment.
It would be easy to outthink reaching out to someone you respect.. “They’ll never even read this.”, “ I don’t want to waste their time, or sound stupid.” But I wasn’t even considering those thoughts, nor was I considering that Adam would respond. But thanks to what he taught me, I was just focused on the opportunity that I had to even message him thanks to technology, and the importance of focusing on others and not myself. I was excited I had the opportunity to thank Adam, so I did.
His response, and how I felt from getting it.. reminded me just how important his messages are.
Adam’s two key messages:
Focus on the Other
Adam explains how this principle of focusing on the Other helps him build a relationship with one of his heroes, American Chess Grandmaster Bobby Fisher when Adam was only 16. Adam was walking up Sixth Avenue in New York with his Mom on Easter Sunday when he noticed his hero Bobby Fisher walking up the road across the street. Adam told his Mom he is sorry but he needs to go see Bobby so he ran across the road and immediately asked him, “Mr. Fisher, Mr. Fisher, in 1962 when you were playing Reshevsky in the U.S. championship…“ Adam continued to ask specific questions about matches and moves he made within them. Fisher would respond by inviting Adam to lunch and this lead to a friendship. Adam said, “I wish I realized how lucky I was, but I wasn’t thinking about that at the time I was solely focused on him.”
Most people in similar circumstances today, when given the opportunity would run up and ask their hero for a photo, an autograph, for some memorobelia, or even a job… but you already know people in that position get these requests all day long. Literally all day long getting asked to give your time, give your signature, give a smile, give money, give a job.. and to my amazement so often these people comply and at least will stop for a photo. But when put in a similar situation Adam did not ask anything of his hero, other than specific questions about Fisher’s life and games. And not too surprisingly, Fisher was happy to talk.
When you focus on the other, and expect nothing in return, this is where true magic can happen.
Amazingly people still go around asking others to be their mentor… yet if you truly wanted to find a mentor, instead of asking.. you find someone you would like to learn from. Figure out what they need help with. And do everything you can to help solve problems, and provide as much value as possible to that person. Last, here is the key. Don’t ask for anything. Just help. Provide great value, and see where it leads you.
How about in a conversation. Most conversations sound like one upper competitions where two people compare their problems and try to justify why their problem is more significant, and their life is more stressful… in my post 2:1 I covered how important it is to shut up and listen.. and when you do it correctly, you are focusing on the other. Instead of talking about yourself, listen to who are with, and ask specific questions about them and their life. You will not only feel better since you won’t be complaining or listening to someone else complain, you will have an interesting conversation, the other person will appreciate your attention and then who knows what you will find out from focusing on the other.
Of course, there is no better example of the power of focusing on the other than in your relationship with your partner. The minute you get lost in your own head, lost in all your problems, how busy you are.. blah, blah, blah.. is the minute I can guarantee your relationships suffers. The key is, the more difficult things get, the busier you feel, the more you feel their may be tension or stress in your relationship.. the more important it is to drop everything and focus 100% on making your partner happy, and feel loved. If you can do this consistently, you will not only have an amazing relationship, but life seems to balance out.. everything that seemed so pressing is less important, you feel like you have more time, and most importantly your relationship with the most important person in your life, is back where it needs to be.
Find magic and miracles in every moment
This is a two part principle for me.. let me explain.
If you are not focusing on the other, you will never be able to find magic in a moment. It’s only when you get out of your own head, and stop focusing on yourself and what’s in it for you.. this is when you unlock the magic. So before you can get to this, you need to practice focusing on the other.
A great example of this is when Adam tells a story about how he ran into a hurdle when trying to send his friend Warren Buffet a Christmas gift. (Notice Adam is already focused on the other, he is trying to send a gift to someone else.) Adam explains he was trying to send a framed pack of Beeman’s gum which Buffet used to sell as a child. He wanted to send it from New York City, to Nebraska. He got it framed and had a calligrapher write, “From small beginnings.” When Adam went to pick it up from the framer around December 22nd the store owner who created the frame asked what he thought. Adam quickly told her how much he loved it and then realized out loud. “O, how am I going to get this to Nebraska.” She asked, “What do you mean.” Adam responded, “No matter how I send this, the gum is going to fall off the frame and it won’t stay in place.. so I can’t FedEx it.. I have to send it through a courier.. and I don’t know how it will get there in time.” The store owner said, “O, I will take care of that.” Adam responded, “O great you know a courier?” She said, “Yea I’ll take care of it.” Then Adam asked, “Well what’s the name of the service so I can use them for future reference?” The owner responded, “O, I’m sorry. I meant, I’ll deliver it, personally. Free of charge.” The owner had no idea who Adam was or that the gift was for Warren Buffet, but still she clarified, “I’m happy to deliver it personally free of charge, I can see how important this is to you.”
Adam was blown away, and while he didn’t want to ruin whatever magic that convinced the owner to want to make the trip. He explained he would at the very least pay her for the service, and pay for her trip.
There are all sorts of famous examples like this one. Tony Robbins often talks about an example in his own life when he didn’t have much money, but he used his last $17 to pay for a young boys lunch. Within hours Robbins walked home to find a check for $1,000 was sent in the mail from a friend who had owed him money for months. Obviously not much longer after that Robbins was able to turn his life back around but it wasn’t until he was able to get out of his own head, stop feeling sorry for himself, and focus on others, that unlocked the magic in his life and helped him turn things around.
Ray Dalio has an example in his life as well, which he speaks about frequently.
These are major examples to emphasize the power of this, but I’m positive you experience examples of this in your everyday life as well.
And no I do not believe this is karma, or think this is anything spiritual at all. It’s just reality. When you are able to focus on making fun and delight for everyone around you, and you can find the magic in every moment.. you have the opportunity to experience a great life.
Finding magic does not always mean, just making magic for others.. and ignoring your own well-being. It means practicing the ability to be grateful and thankful literally no matter what is going on.
There are many famous examples of those who tried focusing on the other, and focused on making each moment magical for others, instead of finding magic in each moment. Like John Belushi and Robin Williams most notably.. the difference here is, the point of focusing on the other and finding magic is not to ignore yourself completely. It’s instead, to not get caught up in your own head. There is a big difference between always making magic for others, and finding the magic in each moment. Finding magic and gratitude in each moment, allows you to experience contentment no matter what. Making magic for others all the time without keeping your own well-being in mind, contorts Adam’s message the wrong way.
You have to find the balance so you can focus on others, and finding the magic in each moment in a healthy way that still keeps your well-being as priority.
Always keep your well-being as priority. Your own mental and physical health is more important than anything.. but a major key to improving your health and life is focusing on the other and finding magic in every moment.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a job interview, relationship, date, or you are looking to get a partnership/ funding for your next business.. remember it isn’t about you.
If you can focus on making each moment, fun, exciting, and memorable for the other person, you will make a great connection, and unlock magic.. then, who knows what might come of it.
Learn more on this:
Follow Adam on twitter @IAmAdamRobinson
My favorite Tim Ferriss Podcast Episode 219:
Tim Ferris podcast Episode 210 with Adam Robinson, and Josh Waitzkin:
Tim Ferris Podcast Episode 322:
Video: Josh Waitzkin, Adam Robinson, and Dr. Leah Lagos