I had the good fortune (or the misfortune, depending on your climate outlook) to live in Minnesota for ten years. Summers were beautiful, fall was spectacular with the changing colors of the tree leaves, and winter was … well, damn cold.

My neighbor, Harold, was a nice old man who had retired many years ago and hibernated all winter, but he loved to garden in the summer. The only time I saw Harold leave his house was to put some bird food in the feeder he had set up in his tree in the front yard.

Every year as winter began to fall, I would see squirrels around our front gardens gathering food. They rushed to dig and prick in hopes of filling their jowls with some food and returning to their hole.

One day I saw Harold putting some metal sheets around the base of his tree where he kept his bird feeder. I didn’t understand why until another neighbor explained that Harold was trying to stop the squirrels from eating the bird food. By placing the metal sheets around the base, Harold figured that the squirrels would not be able to climb the tree. The next morning, the food ran out.

Later that week I saw him wrap a ragged funnel around the base of the tree. It seemed that the dogs wore funnels around their necks so as not to bite or lick their wounds. Well imagine one of those wrapped around the tree with the wide end pointing down with ragged edges. It looked like something out of a Frankenstein movie. However, the next day, the food ran out.

The following week, Harold thought he would put the bird feeder on a string and hang it from the end of one of the branches. I think his thinking was that the squirrel could not get off the edge of the branch because the branch would not support the weight and therefore would not allow the squirrel to reach the feeder. The next day, you got it, the food was gone.

This battle between Harold and the squirrel went on for at least the 10 years that I was his neighbor. He wanted to tell Harold that his attempts were futile and that he would never win this ‘Feeder War’; but I didn’t say anything. I just saw. It was cheap entertainment.

As this was happening, I began to think about how unfair the confrontation between a man and a squirrel was. I didn’t feel sorry for the squirrel … I felt sorry for Harold. Although Harold was stronger and smarter than the squirrel, he lacked the only quality that would guarantee victory: concentration.

You will see that Harold thinks of ways to prevent the squirrel from getting food from time to time, when he has time. The squirrel, on the other hand, intends to get that food 24 hours a day. The squirrel’s very survival depends on it. Survival not only generates focus, but also intense focus on solving a problem by removing an obstacle. Unless Harold shows the same level of commitment and intensity around the clock, I always have my money on the squirrel.

Success is not about who is stronger. Success is not about who has the most money. Success is not about who has a better GPA. Success is about who is most focused and committed to achieving your goals. You, the reader, can compete with anyone, no matter who they are. All you have to do is commit to focusing on the topic that interests you. When you focus on one thing, like the squirrel, all the resources of your mind are directed towards achieving your goal and obtaining your rewards. With focus, you start to receive more information quickly because you are interested in learning, you want to know everything. You are consumed by your focus to succeed!

Harold was not an expert in stopping squirrels; it was a task that had to be done and he attended to it when he had time. The squirrel, on the other hand, became an expert at navigating obstacles and solving problems because she focused all her attention on obtaining the end goal, food.

In today’s market, too many people want to be a generalist (that is, good at many things or very good at all trades but not mastering any). But the market DOES NOT REWARD the generalists, it REWARD the experts. The market wants people who are good at a particular task; an expert. Do you want job security? Become an expert in your field of expertise. How do you become an expert? Like the squirrel, you focus.

Harold was 92 years old and died the year we moved from Minnesota. I don’t know how long Harold fought in the ‘Feeder War’, but as I walked away on the last day I looked back and saw a squirrel scampering across the front lawn still trying to get to the bird feeder still hanging from the tree. Harold was gone, but the squirrel was still around, still strategizing and still focused. The squirrel had won!

Please forward this article; share it with a friend who needs it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *