Focus is one of the Causes of Success
By: Ayatullah Jafar Subhani
One of the causes of success is focus or total attentiveness. As a consequence of centering thoughts on a single point the mind remains attached to it. Then even the hardest hurdle cannot weaken the man’s concentration.
Focus is for work what a lever is for lifting weights.
The principle of a lever is that force concentrates at one point, which makes it easy to lift up heavy objects. Similarly by concentrating the mental powers on a single point one is able to solve complex problems.
The working of our mind and body is like that of raindrops.
When collected at one place they make a vast ocean. But if they fall here and there in scattered manner they disappear in the dust with out any visible effect.
We all must have heard about the great personality of Shaikh Bahai. He had mastery over many sciences like physics, mathematics and Islamics and has left a number of his precious books for the posterity. He says, “I have debated with many scientists and scholars. Though their knowledge was very wide in every field I used to win the debate. However when I came across a person who was a specialist in his field, he vanquished me easily. It was so because my knowledge was insufficient in that particular subject.
Mental abilities resemble the sunrays in the matter of solving problems. If sunrays are made to concentrate on a certain point with the help of a magnifying glass they burn down whatever is kept there. Though the scattered rays do not affect anything.
In the same way unless the rays of human thoughts focus on a point they cannot remove hurdles, as the different aspects are not illuminated. Veteran teachers always instruct their students to study everything deeply which only means that the thoughts must concentrate on a particular subject. All inventions and discoveries are the result of concentrated effort.
There are some of us who do not have any particular aim in life. They wander here and there like a drifting ship that dashes against submerged rocks. We can also compare it to an aeroplane without a compass. People without a program of action also smash against the rocks of difficulties or sink in an ocean of nothingness.
There also are some people who do have some program of activities but midway to their goal backtrack and begin to walk in another direction. Only those succeed who do not leave their path before reaching their goal and even if the journey is very long it does come to an end after continuous travel.
Some people fail despite being active and prepared because their mind is not constant. It wavers and jumps from one place to another. They step in different fields, starting a new venture before completing the previous one. They are jack-of-all-trades but master of none and they are not perfect in any particular field.
Nature has taught us a nice lesson. If we continue to uproot a sapling and put it in another place over and over again it would wither away and cannot grow up. But a plant that remains firmly rooted at the same spot grows into a huge tree. Then it flowers and also bears fruit.
Want of concentration or hesitation is same as a plant that is uprooted every now and then. So it neither flowers nor gives fruits. Rather it withers away and dies.
It is rightly said that concentrating the thoughts at one point is the hallmark of the wise.
Taking up many assignments together brings personal loss and also harms the society. It can damage a nation’s economy and culture and result in anarchy, which is difficult to control.
Boron used to say: Man’s interest and natural talent implies that he can concentrate his conscience and feelings on one point.
Newton was asked how he was able to discover so many things. His answer was that by constantly thinking about them. He was thinking on a subject so thoroughly and deeply that the subject became as clear as daylight before him.
A special feature of the modern civilization is specialization. We have experts in all walks of life. Specialization has become so necessary that the world cannot advance in its absence.
Not only that discipline is a secret of the success of great men, our universe also stands on the same foundation. If the solar system is working regularly, if the stars are revolving around the sun systematically and if there is no flaw in this function for millenniums it is only due to the fact that the solar system is based on order.
Order is found in everything around us from the largest bodies of the universe to the minutest thing called ‘atom’. Everything in this world is made up of tiny atoms. A wonderful discipline is in action and it is seen in each and every movement of the universe. There are tiny atoms in every system.
Every atom has its own center, which is called ‘proton’. Many ‘electrons’ move round the center like stars and moons. In the words of a great Muslim scholar: “If you tear up the heart of every atom you will find its sun in its center.”
The universe is the best guide for all of us. We should learn about life and the causes and reasons of its stability and success from it. This universe tells that: “The secret of my survival is the regularity and orderliness which my Creator has ingrained in me.”
If the educational system of any country becomes chaotic, if the trade and economy of any nation is disturbed, if the balance of supply and demand is upset, if the law and order of any country turns corrupt, if the army gets out of control the end of that nation becomes certain.
When the commander of the Faithful, Ali (a.s.) was fatally injured by the sword of Ibne Muljim, the first bequest uttered by him to his sons, after advising them to refrain from Allah’s disobedience, was regarding this orderliness in every affair: “I advise you to refrain from disobeying Allah and to abide by law and order and regularity in life.”
One of the ways of orderliness is to divide our daily time according to our needs. Doing every necessary work in its proper time is life. We should further this foundation of life. We must refrain from disorderliness and indiscipline because irregularity ends propriety and destroys our talent and competence.
The leader of the God-fearing people Ali (a.s.) says, “A Muslim must divide his time into three parts. One part should be reserved for Allah’s worship, one for earning livelihood and the third for attending to the demands of the body which cannot be ignored.”
If there was no orderliness or discipline in our past life can we benefit from such orderliness in the remaining years of our life?
“Certainly, we can…” because the three stages of our life, viz, childhood, youth and old age are like three compartments of a ship which can be separated from one another by pressing a button. If a compartment is damaged it can be separated from the rest.
Only he is successful who can, using his wisdom, separate different compartments of his life and deal with them separately.
It is pitiable that man, instead of gaining from the present opportunities, should remain sorrowful for his past, thus wasting the time available to him and become careless about bringing order in the forthcoming time.
A competent minister was carrying out his administrative duties with the help of his assistants. When asked as to how he was arranging his affairs he replied, “I never postpone today’s work for tomorrow. In my view it is not correct to delay anything.”
We see signs in offices and workshops saying: Time is Gold. It surprises me because the value of time becomes more than gold if everything is done in time.
We should start working on a small scale. But this does not mean that we should begin with little courage.
What we mean is that we may prepare an elaborate and lengthy program and also start working on it with great courage but we should not try to hurry through all the things simultaneously. Rather we should advance little by little and achieve our goal gradually.
Why should we draw a big program?
Because those who have lofty thoughts and high intelligence cannot limit their courage in small circles. They intend to pursue a new aim as soon as they achieve the first one. Therefore it is necessary to make a big program right from the beginning.
Human psychology also demands it. Unless a man does not ready himself for a big goal he cannot attain his aim and sometimes he is unable to obtain even half of it.
Narrow-minded and coward people remain content with their present condition and want to remain where they are, but people having high ideals and foresight begin their job with lofty thoughts and always try to improve their condition.
Saduddin Taftazani was one of those great Islamic scholars who founded the art of eloquence in Islam. Once intending to gauge the courage of his son he asked him, “What is your aim in acquiring knowledge?”
“I want to acquire as much knowledge as you have.”
He was sorry to see this low aim of his son and told him regretfully, “If your courage is only this much then you will not reach even half of it. Your thinking is very narrow. I am your father Saduddeen. I had heard about the marvelous knowledge of Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s.) and was appreciating his high position through his memorable narrations of Hadith. From the beginning of my primary stage it was my endeavor to reach the standard of knowledge of this great man. Despite such a high ideal. I could attain only the position, which you are now observing, while this is nothing compared to the knowledge of the great leader. Therefore, if your aim is so low, you will attain very little knowledge and one day you will give up the pursuit.”
Hence it is necessary for us to begin with great courage. A Persian couplet of admonition says: Always cultivate great courage because the great men of the world have reached some status only due to great courage.
Rumi says: If there is continuous hunger and hirst and the water in the stomach is continuously boiling therein up and down.
Why to begin at a low level?
The initial stage of any job is an experimental one wherein the exact idea about its benefits and harms is not quite clear. Maybe there are some obstacles in the path of the aim, which may require a long time for their removal.
It is also possible that we have adopted a path, which may not be leading to the goal we have in mind. Perhaps we have made some mistakes in drawing the program. Therefore, if we begin our work on a high level it might become difficult to correct our mistakes to remedy the situation by changing the strategy.
We oriental people have this defect that we begin our jobs on a high level with much pomp. In such a condition it is quite difficult to change the path leaving the wrong road. As a result we may lose both, precious years of our life as well as our money, become disappointed and courage-less and remain where we are.
We read in the diary of Nasiruddin Shah that he had gone on a tour of Europe. In London he met the British Queen. He wanted to know the reason of a British bank’s successful functioning in Iran. Hence he asked the Queen, “When this bank had opened its branch in the capital of Iran it began to function with a very little investment. How did it achieve so much progress so soon?”
The Queen replied to the effect, “Britishers do not reveal the secrets of their success to others. But due to our respect for you I shall mention one point. We, the westerners, especially the British, begin our work always on a low scale, so that in case we do not succeed, we may have an avenue for return and we may be able to change our strategy with a little loss. And if we achieve some benefit we expand our field at once. In this respect we are totally different from eastern people.”
We ourselves have seen people who invested money without keeping the aforesaid point in mind and, consequently suffered much loss. They were then engulfed in difficulties and economic crisis.
Now we may look at the success of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Millions of Muslims are proud to follow him. At the beginning of the call of Islam their number could be counted on ones fingers.
The Holy Prophet’s program was so vast that it covered all the field of human life, be it politics or economics, morals or anything else. Moreover his program was perfect in every respect.
In the beginning the Holy Prophet did not demand from the people except the acceptance of belief in the ‘Two witnesses’ that is, belief in Only One God and in his being the prophet or messenger of Allah.
The Holy Prophet’s great work had started on a little measure. He created the atmosphere little by little and issued commandments one by one for each and every aspect of human life and guided the entire humanity with such a great program that it changed the course of their life tremendously.
Avoid Blind Following
One of the secrets of success is to refrain from following others blindly. It is because such thoughtless following amounts to a war against our human nature.
We should not start copying those deeds of others for which we are not competent. We must also understand that the tendency of copying others in every way leads to failure.
As a rule, if the personality of some people remains defective and if they sometimes face failure and deprivation, it is so because they start moving without keeping in mind the extent of their ability. They ought to have made up their shortcomings by following some other path.
Becoming proud, envying others, remaining unaware of facts and situations are the defects, which make men copy others blindly even though, right from the beginning, they know nothing about what is to come at a later stage.
The Master of the Pious, Imam Ali (a.s.) has divided people into three categories: “People are either scholars or students. The third group is comprised of those who are ever ready to respond to every call. They are like mosquitoes being swept away with the wind. They fly in the direction of the wind without anything like self-will.”
Such type of people, instead of trying to making their capabilities blossom put a lid on their intelligence and waste it away.
These people always look around for the wings of others to fly with. They are ignorant of the fact that in this world of creation no two individuals are born with exactly equal capabilities in every field. No one can be equal to any other person in every respect, be it a matter of appearance, feeling or likes and dislikes. The lines on the palms of one man are always different from those of all others.
When the situation is such it is very unwise on our part to bind our thinking with the thoughts of others and not to take benefit of the individual God-given abilities, faculties and proficiencies.
Great people always tread their own new path. They have walked on ways, which others did not tread before. They have gifted new presents to humanity. Such great people have, throughout their lives, been innovators, giving birth to new ideas, sciences and industries.
The secret of Descartes’ success in the field of science was that one day he purged his mind of all his earlier knowledge in every science, especially in philosophy, and also gave up all of his earlier thoughts and theories. In this manner he turned all certainties too into doubts. He doubted everything so much that he doubted whether he himself existed?”
On this basis he succeeded in bringing about a change in all the branches of philosophy. Had he too followed, like others, scholastic philosophy he would not have attained this success.
Great men always think independently. They believe that freedom from the bondage of the thoughts of others is the golden key to success. In their opinion, be it a personal matter or a social affair, blind following is suicidal.