I lost the key to my garage side door some time ago. After the initial concern that prompted a thorough search wore off, I abandoned reason. Leaving the door unlocked became my new normal. Now, the spectacular clarity of hindsight threatens to shame me here because it was a priority, but then suddenly, quietly, it wasn’t.
Months went by. One night, in the midst of Covid-19 lockdown, I’d stayed up late by having a video call with a friend. Then I heard it: The metallic thud of something heavy hitting a concrete surface.
I interrupted my friend mid-sentence, “Hold on a sec —”, as I carried my tablet through the house, turning on every light as I made my way to the back door. I peered through the glass at the garage, illuminated by a motion-activated flood light. The side door was open, and brazenly, the garage door itself — you know, the one you drive your car through.
“I’m getting robbed,” I told my friend, who had been patiently waiting to find out why I’d disrupted the conversation. It occurred to me, fleetingly, to call the cops. But I didn’t. I felt embarrassed by this entirely preventable theft and thought that such a call would amount to, at best, an inconvenience for the responding officers. Here again, the clarity of hindsight shakes its fist at me, but lessons learned.
The Case for Focus
I waited until the next morning to survey the loss. I didn’t want to step out that night and potentially expose myself to some crazed garage-robbers. I’d lost my lawnmower, weed eater, and leaf blower. The metallic thud that had alerted me to the theft was a heavy metal bar that had been propped against some shelves and had been somehow knocked over during all the action. There was a broken 56” television that I’d procrastinated recycling propped against the wall, and I felt bitter that the thieves didn’t help me out and take that while they were at it.
I have since found the key to the side door. It was in a ceramic urn in a room that had become a catch-all for things that didn’t have a home. I discovered it when I was decluttering my house a couple of months ago. But I still find myself reflecting on the incident because it so perfectly makes the case for focus.
I recently read a book, Redefining Possible, that addresses the importance of focus and gives strategies to sharpen it. My focus was so poor that I had let something as mundane (but important!) as a missing key fall off the radar completely.
What else was I missing out on due to lack of focus, and what was it costing me? Thankfully, I’ve been able to internalize some of the strategies from the book, like how to eliminate mental clutter, choose your targets, and guard your momentum. In light of this, there’s no use crying over spilled milk (or stolen lawnmowers). That robbery provided the momentum I needed to reflect on just how out of focus my priorities had become. I don’t want to be the type of person who simply lets things happen because I lack the follow through that focus affords.
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