I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently around the impact of attention, awareness, and responsibility in our lives, specifically how it impacts entrepreneurs and the performance of early-stage startups. I’ve always believed that what you focus on expands, and some of this has been shown in both quantum physics and in sport psychology. In this context, attention is your ability to direct your focus on outcomes you WANT (rather than those you don’t). Awareness includes both your own mental state, the words you’re staying to yourself on repeat, but also awareness of those around you and what might be impacting them. Awareness is trying to bring the most unconscious part of ourselves and those around us to the forefront. And finally, responsibility is accepting how we are impacting those around us and our outcomes by what we say (or don’t say) and what we do (or don’t do). For instance, it’s understanding that we as entrepreneurs might make it hard for our executive teams to talk to us about issues they see if we are too busy, unavailable, shoot the messenger, and other non-productive behaviors.
In the process of talking about this triumvirate to a friend recently, I was directed toward David Foster Wallace’s full commencement speech called This is Water. It focuses on awareness alone, but his talk was so good, I wanted to post the whole thing here for you to hear. It was tragic to lose such a talented man to suicide.