National Motorsport Academy

Focus and Concentration – Can You Multitask?

When I decided on the title for this blog I had Lewis Hamilton in mind, because of his part in the current cause celebre. This was 3 weeks ago, when despite some monumental lap times he managed to fumble his way to fourth in the first race in the F1 season. Soundly whooped by his teammate Bottas!

Ha! I thought. You have taken your eye off of the ball! I agree with you that BLM is hugely important and the atrocities by police around the world, many with a racist background, are something worth campaigning against. But I thought, are you, Lewis, prepared to watch your wins stop and your laser like dedication to winning crumble because you are not focussing on what you do best? So, I decided to look at the importance of focus and concentration. Is it possible to multitask and perform at your highest potential?

Demons & Nasties

Life is full of distractions. Hamilton has history in this area – albeit when he was 10 years younger and less worldly-wise perhaps. Remember that moribund year at McLaren in 2011 (I think) when Lewis was all over the place? By his own admission he was distracted saying “..there’s not a lot of people that really understand the issues that I’ve had this year and the problems that I’ve been going through, which I’ve been going through for the last two years”. This was the time when he split from Nicole Scherzinger and the relationship with his father, Antony, whom he had sacked as his manager, had hit an all-time low.

This lack of focus, concentration and general distraction meant that instead of giving his usual 110% and delivering, he was only giving 100% and getting beaten. Not because he wanted to give less but when your mind is not focussed other thoughts, demons and nasties creep in. We have all been there; that point when you need every ounce of brain power and concentration and then “boom” another thought appears.

It Can Happen to the Best of Us

Do you remember last year when Mercedes had the dog of all races after they decided to change what they did and dressed up to celebrate an anniversary. You can read our blog about it here.  They will never directly tell you that they lost focus, but it sure seemed like that from the side-lines.

Eating My Words Doesn’t Often Happen….

So, based on this first race, I went into “I told you so mode”. I thought that his political campaigning and focus on pulling the other drivers in with him to take a knee before the race, was going to start the same issue and it was showing straight away. The chap who is surely on the cusp of a seventh title, beating the Michael Schumacher win tally and therefore becoming the GOAT (The what? Ed) (Look it up RG) was going to lash up the strangest season on record and I had the evidence there to prove it……based on one race.

How pleased am I then to be wrong? Very, as it happens. Lewis Hamilton has obviously grown and matured and has a wonderful support network around him and therefore he has the (trendy phrase coming) bandwidth to have these diverse issues inside his head or has the rare ability to completely compartmentalize them. Do you remember who else managed that? – Schumi. In 2003 his mother was in a coma and dying and he somehow held it together to win the next day at Imola. It’s reported that she died hours after he left the hospital to go back to the circuit.

Getting in the Zone

For us mere mortals, we don’t expect to have that level of focus. But I can tell you that it is possible. You have heard of the “Zone”. All athletes look to get in it so they can just let the thing they do best just, well….happen.

It take practice, it takes dedication and it is, like in many sports, the separator between the good and the great. I believe I have been in the zone a few times when competing – those times when you don’t actually know what you have just done, when it just flowed, when you delivered above your average and yet at the end of it, you would be hard pressed to even describe what you have done.

But you can also be in the zone for work and home life. Writing a presentation for the Board meeting, reading a book that you become immersed in. The art is being able to switch it on and off at will, and even the best of the best has to work at that. We’ll explore that in a future blog.

I need to add that the subject of focus and concentration comes up ALL the time with our students. Many of our students struggle with the demons and nasties when they’re trying to fit in their studies around their ‘real life’.

Almost by definition an NMA student is an achiever, someone who has got gumption (Is that a even real word? Ed.) but there are, just like the F1 or WEC grid, those at the front and those at the back. Aside from all the qualities and attributes that the whole grid, or whole student base has, the couple that show themselves more in the ones at the front are FOCUS and CONCENTRATION. Those students that can compartmentalise, that can focus on their assignment and the Course content and those that can concentrate on their studies when the world is rushing round them, are the ones that win and score big.

If you can master focus and concentration despite the distractions in any field, not just motorsport, you’ll achieve great things!

Back to Lewis then. Whilst being accused of militancy and pretentiousness, Hamilton has clearly drawn a line in his head between his passions and politics and doing his job. His focus is on track, he’s in the zone.

He said: “I’m not against taking a knee again, so if I can find a way of making sure it doesn’t get in the way of us doing our job then I will”. Plainly that is what he managed to do as he pulled out some awesome laps in both of the following GP’s to win and start the 2020 steam roller. Hamilton is also looking at ways to use his, let’s face it, privileged position, to help increase diversity in motorsport. F1 and many teams are doing the same. A positive step in the right direction.

Silverstone next but no crowd. British drivers have always revelled in their home crowd – track invasions for Nigel Mansell making front pages all over the world. Can Lewis do it again and draw energy from the event even if the supporters are only willing him on through media? Given what I have seen from race 1 to 3 you had better believe it.

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