Review of “Focus”

Review of “Focus”


This book, written by Daniel Goleman, follows a series of books by the same author I read during the last couple of years.

The main idea in this book is that attention, being a mental asset to perform tasks optimally, has received little attention and did not get its fair share of discussion. The book explains that the ability to focus works pretty much like a muscle: it needs practice to grow. So the author attempts to explain what attention is, how it works, and how it can be improved.

The main reason I read this book is to improve my ability to focus. Based on previous readings of Goleman’s works, I have developed a lot of respect for his pioneering contributions to the field of emotional intelligence.

I finished this book a little bit disappointed though, feeling I learned some new things about attention and how it works, but finding that many ideas in the book were explained in previous books by the same author or others on the topic of emotional intelligence. Other than meditation/mindfulness as a way to improve attention, which I learned about many years ago through other means, I didn’t feel I learned something of practical value that I can apply in my daily life.

I find the discussion about empathy not of so much relevance in the promotion of ideas about attention. The book sometimes goes into some details that make the main message somehow ambiguous. Some parts of the book appear rather like a rambling summary of facts and research. There were a couple of times where I wondered if I was still reading the same book about “Focus” or if it were more about the general topic of emotional intelligence. The author never really tied all the topics in the book together to make a coherent structure.

Topics in the book include: how a lot of distractions are created by modern technology, conscious versus subconscious thinking, that people with ADD are sometimes better at finding solutions outside the box, that people are happier in a “flow” state, the value of meditation/mindfulness, the value of taking a walk in nature, the value of doing what you believe in despite what others advise, the importance of nonverbal communication to show emotional empathy, the value of willpower and delayed gratification, what part of a person’s brain circuitry is activated in different situations, the value of detachment for physicians, the value of empathetic engagement for physicians, global warming, the “10,000 hour rule,” Larry David and the success of certain corporations and their leaders.

What lacks in the book is the smooth transitioning between all these topics. Reading the book, I was looking for a roadmap, an effective recipe to improve my focus. What I found instead was a collection of various elements about emotional intelligence.

I do not consider “Focus” one of Goleman’s best books and personally do not recommend reading it.

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