I was reading about Steve Martin’s biography, and apparently his biggest asset was his ability to ignore other endeavors while he worked on his comedic acts:
Martin credits “diligence” for his success. But he’s quick to clarify that he’s not referring to working hard over time. What he really means is staying diligent in his interest in the one field he was trying to master; being able to ignore the urge to start working on other projects at the same time.
It can be hard to ruthlessly whittle down your ambitions to a needle-thin point. But Martin is clear on this point: if you don’t saturate your life in a single quest, you’ll dilute your focus to a point where becoming outstanding becomes out of reach.
The rest of the article is here.
He’s probably right, but I think these types of discussions are not complete without at least some mention of persistence. Steve Martin’s story is nice because it doesn’t resort to formulaic generalities, but I think sticking with a goal over long periods of time is a stronger common denominator than cutting out other agendas (though it certainly helps).
J.K. Rowling had to write the Harry Potter books on breaks from taking her baby on a stroller after work. She didn’t lock herself up in a room for two years. En route to becoming a supreme court justice Clarence Thomas was a black panther, drunkard, and shop worker, among other things.
Gradual improvements in your human capital function like small annuities that compound over time.