When I ran the Navy SEAL sniper course as course manager, we had guys shooting targets at 1,000 yards amid a bunch of distractions. We had loud music blaring at them, banged trash can lids together, and move the targets when they weren’t supposed to. We did anything we could to screw with their concentration. Not because we were trying to flunk them, but because we were trying to save their lives when they would be in dire situations. Just like the one I faced on the Afghan hillside.

We had one particularly difficult drill we called the edge shot. We’d place all the students at 800 yards and inform them that their targets would appear in the vicinity sometime within the next three hours. This meant those SEALs might spend as much as three hours on the scope, concentrating and waiting. There was one student who diverted his eyes from his line of view for just a moment, just long enough to wipe the sweat from his brow. And when he looked back up, he saw his target disappearing from view. I still remember his anguished cry. He received a failing grade. A little sweat and discomfort is no reason to lose your focus.

Distractions in Business and in Combat

High-pressure situations occur just as often in business as they do in combat. While bullets and bombs are not involved and lives are not literally on the line, the stakes can be high. As a CEO, I consider it an invaluable gift that I’ve been trained to remain calm under fire. It has also helped me model behavior for the rest of my team; they know I expect cool heads during stressful times.

Distractions come in a thousand forms. And every one of them wants to tear apart the fabric of your focus.

Ignoring distractions isn’t realistic. Some distractions are nothing but noise, and you can completely ignore them. Yet, there are plenty that you can’t ignore because there’s something meaningful behind them. You can ignore hecklers and dream stealers. But you can’t ignore the threat of a lawsuit. Likewise, you can ignore the critics who are just taking cheap shots. But you can’t dismiss criticism altogether. After all, some of your most valuable learning is going to come from criticism.

It’s crucial to have an open mind and cast a wide net when it comes to what you’re learning, hearing about, and noticing. But some things are plain distractions, and you can’t afford to give them an inch or a minute. I can’t tell you which is which. You’ll have to discern that yourself.

Nevertheless, what I can tell you is to make it a constant practice to ask yourself the following questions and exercise the judgment: Is this worth my time? Is it important? Is it important to me? Will it move my business forward or make me a better businessperson?

In a day, a hundred things will pop up requiring your attention. The trick is not to let them get in the pilot’s seat. You’re the one flying this plane, not them. You can’t ignore them; you can master them. If you don’t, they’ll take your plane down.

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