Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


The dullest people I know are those who have a laser-like focus.

They focus so hard that they don't see the people around them who wonder if they're, you know, sane.

We're told, though, to admire those who have this ability to obsess about one thing.

They're goal-oriented. They're committed. They're driven. Yet they're as interesting as frozen porridge.

Stanford psychologist Emma Seppälä wonders whether all this focus actually stimulates creativity. 

Goodbye laser-like focus. Hullo, lazy-like focus.

Writing in the Washington Post, She lays out her belief that focusing deeply on something won't help you come up with fine ideas about it.

Instead, she suggests breaking up your day with mindless activity. (I can highly recommend this.)

You see, that silly basketball net in your office might be a very productive distraction.

She especially recommends walking, which frees the mind to roam as the legs do the work.

Expertise isn't all that, either. It can make you blind to thinking outside your expert knowledge.

Experts can be awful people. They think they know everything.

Hasn't anyone stopped to think that a bunch of pimply boys and girls barely beyond puberty managed to change so much of what we do -- and what corporations do -- in such a short space of time?

Seppälä also believes that just shutting up and being still are frightfully good ideas, too. If you want to have good ideas, that is.

This is an attitude that has been perfected by Judge Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court.

He's not the only one who believes that just being can keep you both sane and productive. Louis C.K. thinks that cellphones, for example, have taken away "the ability to just sit there."

And then there's fun.

Have you noticed how seriously focused people find it difficult to unwind? Have you observed that some of them need far too many drinks and then become entirely focused halfwits on a Friday night?

"We are the only adult mammals who do not make time for play, outside of highly structured settings like a Sunday neighborhood soccer game or playtime with a child," says Seppälä.

She has conducted experiments in which encouraging adults to be 7-year-olds in their heads allows them to free their minds far more than even encouraging them to just be playful.

Seppälä has written down all her thoughts -- while skipping in the middle of the street and chanting old Bay City Rollers songs, no doubt -- in a book entitled The Happiness Track: How To Apply The Science Of Happiness To Accelerate Your Success.

It suggests that single-mindedness just isn't conducive to either success or happiness.

Let me tell you how bad it's become.

You might think of Stanford University as the most laser-focused academic institution in the world.

It's rolling in money and it produces graduates who roll in their money before they're either married or even mature. It's all about achievement, self-empowerment and those other "ments" that might drive some people mental.

Yet Emma Seppälä is science director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

Someone must have been out for a very, very long walk when they thought of that name.