For Success, Focus on What’s Important, and You Can Accomplish Anything

If you want success, if you want to accomplish something, no matter what it is, applying an intense focus to it will allow you to do anything.

When I was in university, a number of things held true.

First, in general, engineering students don’t have a lot of spare time. I remember walking down the hall one day, hearing an arts student complain about how heavy his course load was. It seems his department was making him attend full time that year.

At the time, McMaster University used a “course units” system for determining your total course load. Anything over 24 units, in a year, was considered to be “full time,” and that was how many units said arts student was forced to take that year.

I was taking 24 units that term. Yes, by the full time/part time measure, I had an annual artsy shithead full time schedule in ONE FUCKING Term. So, not a lot of time to spare. Or sympathy for whiny artsy shitheads.

Second, I was always hungry. Busy as I was, I took 1-1/2 hours, 3 days a week to train in karate. Those workouts were…vigorous. The teacher may have been an arrogant asshole…okay, the teacher was an arrogant asshole, but he ran a high energy class.

In addition to being constantly on the move and stressed out with studying, along with a fairly vigorous workout schedule that included weight training along with karate, I was also going through my last growth spurt.

In short, I needed a shit tonne of calories every day.

Also at that time, McMaster had all-you-can-eat cafeteria meal plans. I only lived in residence for one year, but bought the full meal plan (19 meals per week), even while living off campus, right up to graduation.

I mentioned I was busy, yes? Well, having the meal plan meant 3 big meals per day, no shopping, no cooking, no cleaning. I could hork down whatever calories my body needed, fast, and have a little socializing time, to boot.

One day my buddy Mike, his girlfriend and I arrived at the caff at the same time. I went to the pasta bar for a big plate of spaghetti and meat sauce (as was my wont) while Mike and B. went off to get their dinners.

A little while later, they had their meals and were approaching our usual table. I was just getting up to get another serving. Mike looks at me, “Seconds already, Andrew.”

I looked back and shook my head, “No.”


“Not thirds?”

Yes, thirds. In the time Mike wandered through the lineup getting his salad, and tea, and maybe a side dish or two, I ate my first plate, went up for seconds, ate that too and was headed for thirds.

Did I mention I needed a lot of calories?

When you are trying to accomplish some goal, and I mean really trying, never allow your focus to be taken away by trivialities. I was trying to get an engineering degree and a Goju Ryu black belt, at the same time. For much of first and second years, that was it, that was all I allowed myself time for.

Eating was a task to be accomplished, fuel for the engine, nothing more. Any time spent wandering through the lines was wasted. Any time spent getting there, wasted. All I wanted was to gas up the car. Unless Mike or one of the guys was there, then I’d spend a little slack time with my buds.

In first year, on Fridays I didn’t have a break from first period to last. I had to book it from the engineering building to the caff, eat, get over to the math building for Calculus tutorial, and I had a grand total of 10 minutes to do it in.

I never actually accomplished this, and I was always late for tutorial. Eventually I realized I had to decide between starving and letting my Calc grade slip from an A+ to an A+ (yes, you read that right), so I started skipping the tutorial.

Which turned out to be a good idea, because drafting lab (Fridays from 2:30 to 5:30) started running later and later, and I wasn’t getting to dinner until after 6. Fortunately, even getting there 15 minutes before closing time was no problem. You can see from the story above I can eat fast.

In any case, there was no way I was going to make it from 8am to 6pm without food.

Because food is fuel for focus, and focus is how you get shit done.