Skip to main content
power points

Focus, consistency and patience.

Those are three lessons blogger James Clear gathers from the Game of Thrones phenomenon. And if those don’t come to you from watching the saga, that’s because he is drawing it not from the television series or even the book those were drawn from, but by the working life of the creator, George R.R. Martin.

Mr. Martin still writes on an old DOS machine running WordStar 4.0, which you may be too young to have encountered or recall vaguely as something from the last century (which it was). He has turned out 1,770,000 words on that ancient machine for his fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire as well as his writing beforehand. That seems silly, handicapping his output, but Mr. Clear suggests the reverse: It provides focus – the machine is not hooked up to the internet and Mr. Martin is thus spared the accompanying distractions. As Mr. Clear puts it, “his computer can do one very important thing: type words. And typing words is his craft. That’s what he needs to create. He is 100 per cent focused on doing the work that matters and he has completely eliminated anything that impedes that goal.”

Mr. Martin was a failure before he was a success. He wrote early books that flopped. But he has kept at his craft, doggedly and consistently. “I’m willing to bet that if A Song of Ice and Fire was a total dud, then he would have found another way to keep writing. He’s not just focused on writing when it’s easy. He’s focused on writing, plain and simple,” writes Mr. Clear.

With that doggedness has come patience. Sure, he probably would have loved to be a success earlier in his career. But he waited for his time. “The greatest display of patience is a continued commitment to the process when you're not being rewarded for it yet,” adds Mr. Clear.

So focus, consistency and patience – the key to the throne.

Weather, work and you

Does your day start by looking outside to see the weather and checking the weather report? Does that, subconsciously, lead you to judge the coming day – or the one you have just gone through – by the weather?

“Weather, or anything else that’s not in our short-term control, can become an excuse and a distraction. If you can’t do anything about it, it might not be worth your focus and energy,” suggests entrepreneur Seth Godin on his blog.

Instead, he notes you can judge a day by how many tools you get to use, how many people are open to hearing from you, and how many problems are available to be solved. He suggests you embrace the fact that you have a whole new day to make an impact – rather than fretting about the weather.

Of course, some days you feel like you’re facing a work storm. If so, consultant Kevin Eikenberry suggests creating a circle of calm. Take a deep breath, stay present, and ask whether the issue you’re worrying about is actually worth the energy and turmoil.

“Lower the temperature. Whether in a communication, a project, or situation, be the person who cools things down, rather than spinning things up. In the realm of weather (since we are talking about storms), storms diminish without the energy to maintain or grow them. There is a lesson there for us,” he writes on his blog.

He also urges you to be a storm reducer for others. How we respond to situations influences colleagues. Help to lower the temperature – reduce the storm threat – and create a circle of calm.

Quick Hits

  • To ease his return to the office after a vacation, Mike Pugh, a vice-president at the communications platform Ring Central, does one e-mail sweep in mid-break to clear topics that need a simple response. But he does it in off hours, so he is less likely to get immediate follow-ups.
  • If you view airplane flights as a chance to work in a frenzy – reading and writing reports, without other daily interruptions – consider this alternative approach from Daniel Sieberg, CEO of iO Enterprise, who uses it as a chance to unchain from worries and concerns at ground level and come up with his inspirational, eureka thoughts.
  • There’s a cost to agonizing over a decision, warns economist Dan Ariely, not just in pain but in other opportunities lost. State a time limit for any decision you face and if you haven’t made a choice by then flip a coin.
  • Instead of saying, “I need this ASAP!” Claire Lew, CEO of the software management tool Know Your Team, suggests asking “what can I take off your plate to accomplish this,” inquiring what trade-offs are needed to make it happen in time, or even, “is this deadline reasonable?”
  • Sales consultant Colleen Francis points to a study that says 75 per cent of all new sales goes to the one who responds first to a lead – the customer in today’s marketplace reaches out when they are ready to buy. So give yourself a tight deadline to respond – a day at the outside, maybe even an hour.

Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.