Information x Focus = Personal Reality



“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” — Plutarch

I was listening to a Tony Robbins Power Talk the other day about guarding your mind.

In it, he mentioned a simple, but powerful formula: (I) X (F) = Personal Reality.

“I” is information and “F” is focus.

In other words, your personal reality is based on the information you focus on.

I think the simplest thing to remember is just like you are what you eat, you are the information you feed on.

The Information You Consume Shapes Your Experience

You get to choose what channels you watch, what stations you listen to, what Web pages you browse, what people you listen to, what friends you hang out with, what books you read, and what feeds you subscribe to.

It’s easy to get locked into hype or react to buzz.

It’s easy to have how you feel, shaped by the media.

Tony points out that media, such as newspapers can be a problem, for a couple of reasons.  For one thing, pain sells more than pleasure.

If you pass a newspaper and it looks like blue skies ahead, you walk on by.  If you see that there is a big storming coming, you’re going to stop and read it.

The other issue is that media has to simplify and generalize for the masses.  I’ve started to pay a lot more attention to the sources I draw from and what I fill my mind with.

I used to passively take in information from all sorts of sources.  Now I more proactively tune into smart people, smart books, and other smart sources of insight.

Some are timeless, others are timely, and I measure the information using a simple ART test (is the information accurate, relevant, and timely?)

Focus Changes Everything

Two people can have the information, but focus on different things.  For example, in an economic downturn, one person might focus on loss, while the other might focus on ask the opportunity.

You can tell the focus by the questions they might be asking.  For example, while one person asks “why me?”, the other person might be asking, “how can I thrive?” … or “what are my best plays for this scenario?”

I periodically check the questions I’m asking myself to make sure that 1) I’m focusing on the positive 2) I’m focusing on the future and 3) I’m focusing on things that give me energy.

Sure it’s fun to moan, groan, gripe, and whine, but a key to sustainable results and thriving versus surviving is focusing on the right things.

One of my favorite questions to ask people is what information sources they regularly draw from.  For example, I like Ted Talks, Charlie Rose, and Dilbert.

So then, what are your favorite information sources?

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  1. A thought provoking post.

    I think my information sources is reflective of who I am. New York Times, The New Yorker, Slate, and Facebook. This reveals a lot about the person I am. Liberal, much?

  2. I love the equation you’ve used for the title of this post. So true! You have some really great insights here and I really enjoyed reading this. As for my information sources, I’d have to say they are: other people, blogs/websites, and books.

  3. Yep, if we look at information as the whole target and the arrow as the focus, you can see the issue. If the target is your universe and it’s only got negative stuff in it, even if you focus on something there it’s not all that positive. the arrow can only hit what’s on the target.

    Therefore you’ve got to get something in your target that’s worth hitting.

    I was laying in bed this morning trying to find positive stuff that I like about myself and noticed that I really had a hard time. So I had to go to some email I wrote some time ago to add in what I’d forgotten. I need to add infromation to my target.

    I’ve found that controlling you focus is massive benefit in life. For example, in this economic downturn there are many opportunities for those prepared. Buying stocks when they are way down from companies that still have solid fundamentals for example. If you are in control of your focus, you can see these opportunities more clearly.


  4. Hi J.D,

    I also loved the title of the post and the focus on focus. 🙂 I have come to realize that the focus that an individual has really does impact how they experience the world. Your example of how someone can view the current economy as a loss or as an opportunity was perfect. It is like the proverbial glass half-full or half-empty or as I like to joke, overflowing if you just put the water in a smaller cup. 🙂

    As for my information sources, it varies. I love watching talks on TED. I am big believer in the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people. So I am planning to listen to TED more often than I do. I like to read CNN and the New York Times. I also enjoy writers such as Sylvia Boorstein, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer and some others.

  5. It’s a good question. Years ago I made a decision not to follow the news on TV or radio anymore – it was way too biased and also just bad news all the time, which makes you numb after a while. I get my news from regular people now in the feeds I subscribe to. I like it because it’s OPENLY biased, doesn’t pretend to be impartial and if something big happens at least three of the feeds will pick up on it. If I want to know more after that I can always look into the traditional media too – but I get to miss all the other rubbish.

  6. My best source of information is a filed – physical and online. I love being there. The information i get is first hand and not interpretation of the analysts. My customers, colleagues, and relevant blogs are all my source of the information. First hand raw materials matter for me the most.

  7. Focusing on things that give you energy is a great technique. I had a strange vision about what the world would like in 100 years. It wasn’t good. I realized that this was only part of what I believed. Instead of letting myself get depressed I focused back on all the “green” initiatives that we are doing. Then I reimagined the world in a 100 and I saw a positive future.

    I’ve learned not to let my first thought dictate how I feel.

  8. Hi –

    I love this article.I think you can turn anything into a positive experience if you transform the negative energy that drains you, into the solving matters.

    I like being upbeat.I surround myself with happy people. If I fail at something it is important to remember that is a learning experience.

    All a part of life.

  9. I choose to focus on this blog site and it’s an amazing source of information and insight.

    Thank you

  10. Great post, J.D.

    You wrote ” It’s easy to have how you feel, shaped by the media. ”

    I think, for the very reasons you cite, that it’s easy to shape the media that shapes how you feel. This fragmented media landscape is, in many ways, a perfect reflection of the balkanization of our (collective human) mental landscapes.

    So many people narrow their information flow to support their existing biases. And the more you focus on the same kinds of information, the more of a rut you’re likely to get into.

    I always tell my clients and audience members that the old pre-information adage ‘Don’t touch that dial’ is dangerous in the information age, and that they should touch the dial, and touch it often. I’m not saying not to be discerning. B.S. is B.S., and if you consume information from a bad source, it’s bound to pollute your info pool. But I find that the broader my inputs, the more likely I am to find things out I would otherwise have missed, and the more effective I am in meeting people where they are who live outside the domain of where I’m comfortable, in working with a diverse range of people, and in understanding the world I live in.

    Instead of reading, watching or listening only to what I agree with, I like to test my assumptions by seeking out those with a different take. I enjoy contrarians (writers and pundits) and comedians for this purpose. I find that a little discomfort is a good thing when it comes to how I develop my focus.

    best wishes

  11. @ Vi


    @ Positively Present

    Periodically I test who I hang with, the sites I see, and the books I read and it really does have an impact on what I spend my time thinking about and how creative I get.

    @ Rob

    Perspective is a powerful thing. I like your point about what’s in your universe. When my universe gets out of balance, I pay more attention to what I’m not getting enough of.

    @ Nadia

    I too need to spend more time on TED. I really love finding new ways to look at the world.

    It’s a great reminder that the world is always what you make of it and it’s all about perspective.

    @ Louisa

    One thing that always bugged me about the news was how the same information could be repeated multiple times throughout the day as if it was new information. It really made me realize how the business of news doesn’t necessarily drive useful or great information. Now it’s just another source I use among others.

    @ Alik

    I am a fan of first-hand experience. It takes information beyond the intellectual down to the emotional or physical.

    @ Karl

    I think it’s great to test multiple “what ifs” for the future. There are so many potential paths. For imagining the future, I like to draw from NLP techniques, my PM skills, or the Future Picture technique from Flawless Executinon (it’s a structured approach.)

    @ Bunnygotblog

    I like having people in my life that push me to better myself. The same ones that push me are the same ones that catch me when I fall.

    @ Patricia

    Thank you!

    @ Dr. K

    Well put.

    You reminded me of a simple practice that serves me well. I try to boil my learning sessions down into 3 take aways. It forces me to always look for what surprised me or what did I learn that I didn’t expect. It’s a way to keep building up my library of little distinctions and insights.

    I find that I get a lot of my best lessons from movies and I’m a movie buff.

  12. Hi J.D.,
    The idea of focus is really jumping out for me, here today. And it is so true, that two people can focus on completely different things, even when they’ve been exposed to what is the same information. Great stuff for me to think about!

    I draw from the TED talks, from respected friends, and other literary figures from the past.

  13. @ Lance

    Focus really is a filter or a lens. One way I try to improve my lens is trying to look through other people’s lenses and taking the best of the best.

    Some of my friends never cease to amaze me with their insights and perspectives.

  14. The last 3 points you made hit it on the nail. You need to ask and focus on the right things. The problem many people have is they are wired to react and focus on the negative.

    What has worked for me and I tell people to do when they don’t focus on the right things (usually the “can’t do” mentality) is to immediately write down their problem and why they feel they can’t do it.

    Then write down 2 or 3 reasons why you can.

    I’m sure this logic can apply to your post as well. After a while what people notice is they train their minds to automatically think “why they can” the instant they think they can’t.

  15. @ John

    Challenging your assumptions is a great practice. I find it’s one of the best ways to break out of ruts or take a new look at the landscape.

  16. I can have many thoughts swirling in my head but I choose carefully the ones that I would like to give energy to. Focused intention brings about the experience I would like to have in my reality.

  17. I love the word focus. It is like a compass for our life and if we put knowledge and information, then add focus. We get a supper compass to success.
    Thanks for sharing
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  18. @ Evelyn

    I like the way you put that. It is about what you choose to give energy to. I find fighting a thought can give it just the energy it needs to spiral out of control. Instead, I simply turn my focus to the thoughts I want more of and follow those paths.

    @ Giovanna

    Focus is one of my biggest game changers. Just like choosing a response, choosing what to focus on is a powerful skill.

  19. Hi J.D.,

    So true. What we focus on can change our perspective. With the down turn of the economy, I’m always looking for signs of improvement. It may be as simple as cars in line at an espresso stand or seeing a new home being built. When the unemployment figures are released and they say “the unemployment rate is 12%”, I remind myself that 88% still have jobs. I find when I focus on the positive, things really don’t seem that bad.

  20. @ Barbara

    Your examples are a great reminder that we might not like the situation, but we can choose to make the most of it, act on the things we can, and let the rest go. I’m seeing very different reactions to the economy depending way more on mindsets and focus than on actual circumstances.

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