Ever heard the quote, “We are born with our eyes shut and our mouth open—a flaw of nature that most of us never overcome?” I don’t know about you, but I find it all too relatable in my own life.

Why is it so hard to see something from someone else’s perspective? Probably because we’re not seeing them. We’re too busy bringing our own pre-conceived notions and biases to the conversation and just waiting for them to stop talking, so we can finally tell them why they’re wrong. (Right now, some difficult conversations with family members, employees or customers might be coming to mind.) We all like to think we don’t do this, but I really hope it isn’t just me!

Experience has taught us that this approach never leads to good things, but somehow it’s so easy to drift right back to this failed formula.

I recently did some filming for a project that will most likely have a good deal of exposure. The camera setup included a cardboard cutout applied to the exact spot where the producer instructed me to keep my gaze during the shoot. It was important for my focus to remain on the cutout, he said, or the clips could seem “off” and possibly distract viewers and detract from the content.

Just staring at one object sounds easy enough. But the more time that passed, the more difficult it became. I began to get restless and a bit impatient with the whole process. I was reminded of how challenging it can be to truly home in on one thing to the distraction of all others, but I forced myself to focus because I wanted the best possible outcome. Why? Because what I was doing was “important” to me.

Cue the conviction for all of the times I haven’t chosen that kind of focus for far more important things.

Listening to someone communicates caring, but genuinely hearing them shows that you value them. Active, empathetic listening will always lead to better outcomes and improved relationships—in every aspect of your world. Still, it requires an enormous amount of focus, and, given the nature of our chronically busy schedules, focus is hard, but so worth the effort.

To quote Tony Robbins, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” So, where will your focus be in this new year? Where will your energy flow? I’ll be working on reevaluating my priorities, looking for ways to trim the excess, building more margin into my life and being more generous. But most of all: listening.

Shifting my gaze from that cardboard target might have resulted in a less than perfect video shoot, but consistently being distracted and failing to focus on what really matters can have real-life, devastating consequences—consequences that can lead to wounded or failed relationships and businesses.

Decide what deserves your focus and commit to its importance. If you do this, I believe you’ll be looking at a better new year and a brighter all-around future, personally and professionally.

So, here’s to 2021.

May it be anything but 2020.



  1. This really hit home with me. I need to focus more on the person in front of me and really listen to what they are saying.

  2. Well stated Joe! True “listening” is surely the key. This coupled with a passion to understand and help others will benefit benefit them and us. We all need to slow down a bit and focus on the things that are most important.

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