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The Art of Focus by Dan Koe | Book Review

The Art of Focus, by Dan Koe, is a self-help book written for people who want to break out of the rut of regular thinking and embark on their own path in life. He writes about using focus, ideas, perspective, and problem-solving to undergo a continual process of self-improvement in all domains of life.

In the introduction to his book, Koe paints a picture of a modern world of technology, unfulfilling work, social media frustration, mediocrity, and daily overwhelm.

Koe describes his own journey, beginning with childhood, when he questioned the contentedness of the people around him. Koe wanted autonomy and freedom from the dissatisfaction he saw in so many people, and from having to work 9 to 5 to fulfill someone else’s goals.

Disillusioned with traditional institutional education, Koe turned to self-education and taught himself web development at a rate that allowed him to pass a formal class without attending.

Koe does not sugar-coat his transformation, admitting it took a decade of work and failures to get where he is today: wealthy, self-made, and personally autonomous. Koe writes that he came from a middle-class, single-income family. If he succeeded, you can too.

Focus, Koe explains, influences thoughts, emotions, actions, habits, sense of purpose, and other important aspects of life and the mind. Our own mind is the only thing we can control. By attaining focus, we can set and work toward our goals and improve our options in life. Koe writes, “Focus is the habit of habits.”

Chapter 1: The Principles

In Chapter 1, Koe describes the principles necessary to understand the rest of the book. This includes the “Supreme Principle” of entropy. Entropy is inevitable but can be mitigated by the effects of human focus.

Koe introduces the concept of “radical acceptance”. This is accepting reality for what it is and understanding that it cannot be any other way. Once this happens, we can see things for what they are and become truly engaged in the present.

Instead of denying the ego, Koe writes that we should use it to navigate the world. He also casts dispersions on the idea of selfishness as a bad trait, as it can lead to self-education, self-reliance, and self-reflection.

Chapter 2: The 3 Pillars

In Chapter 2, Koe presents his three pillars for success.

The first pillar is focus, which he says is the most important catalyst to a good life. Focus must be trained. With trained focus, one can achieve their goals and position themselves to take on even greater goals.

The second pillar is energy. Koe argues that mental energy is the most valuable resource in the modern world. Many people are caught in loops of negative energy, reliving mistakes of the past, or are locked into the roles society has made for them. Koe discusses the importance of systems for saving energy and time, giving us more power to control where we direct our focus.

The third pillar is experience. “Direct experience is the only thing you can make sound conclusions on when it comes to your life,” Koe writes. Experimentation and mistakes will be a part of this. Through identifying and solving problems we build direct experience in our chosen fields.

Chapter 3: The Universe

In order to navigate uncertainty in our lives we can observe the patterns of the universe. Koe muses on the interconnection of things and similarities between the nature of the universe, storytelling formulae, cycles of personal life, and cycles of business operation.

Conflict is inevitable in life and the universe, just as it is a necessary part of stories. Koe suggests seeing conflict as unavoidable problems within a system, like entropy. Then it becomes easier to seek out solutions, and to realize and appreciate the truth of life.

Chapter 4: The Self

“The human superpower is choice,” Koe writes. He explains that as we grow and gain knowledge, we are conditioned by the world, in order to survive.

Humans transcend basic physical survival and are also capable of defining goals. Many people have no goals of their own and are instead accept the goals given to them by society. This can lead to us identifying too heavily with dogmatic institutions like religions, political parties, and other value systems.

Koe writes that when these identities are threatened, our bodies and minds suffer a physical stress response akin to death. Most people would rather blindly follow something than question dogma. Only by forging your own path and investing mental energy into goals can we find our passions.

The call to greatness requires solving exterior problems in order to bring us to unity with our environment. This increases the value that you can provide to the world.

Chapter 5: The Game

In chapter 5, Koe compares life and the universe to the 2004 Blizzard Entertainment game World of Warcraft. You select your race and class, which dictates the opportunities you will have in the game. You complete quests to gain experience and develop your character, allowing you to unlock further opportunities and quests.

Koe suggests that the game of life is a series of systems that cannot be changed but can be manipulated. He compares non-player characters or NPCs with those who never question their conditioning and go through life pursuing the goals society has assigned them.

Koe deconstructs the game analogy further. Your perspective in life is akin to a video game world. Rules are present in games and real life, and as one interacts with the rules and learns them, they free mental energy for other tasks. Game mechanics are a sequence of actions the player performs in-game, learning and improving by trial and error. Koe writes that learning and upskilling in this way, as you would in a game, is the path to mastery.

Chapter 6: The Lens

Koe compares life to a film set where we are our own directors. We are the cameras, and we have the ability to zoom out for a wider perspective on the universe, or to tighten focus on tasks and create visions inspired by that bigger picture. By adjusting our focus, we can increase our awareness through observation and questioning.

While apes have knowledge they do not learn through questioning, according to Koe. Humans can explore, observe, and question ideas, and see how their discoveries aid their goals and handle their problems.

Koe believes that the default state of consciousness is chaos, and that the modern world forces goals onto those that do not invent their own. “The only option is to forge your own path,” he writes. Set goals, self-educate and experiment, and improve your skills until your efforts result in a philosophy or a valuable solution that be shared with others.

Chapter 7: The Formula

In chapter 5, Koe gives us writing exercises to help form our vision for the present and future. This involves the “anti-vision” or writing down what we do not want to experience in life, and then figuring out how we can avoid this anti-vision. If this gets too depressing, Koe suggests switching to writing about your ideal life, and how you can get there.

Then Koe writes about life purposes and goals. He suggests large goals that will provide inspiration for your vision. Then break your primary goal into smaller goals. This process should be repeated for the four domains of health, wealth, relationships, and happiness.

Chapter 8: The Shift

Chapter 8 is about education. Koe believes that traditional educational institutions are becoming outdated. They parrot the same information to thousands or millions of students every year and are behind the times compared to creators on the bleeding edge of their industry. It is possible to learn new skills more quickly by using Internet resources.

Through personal development and self-education, Koe states that we can create our own careers, instead of adopting ones thrust on us by society. The rising creator economy provides an avenue for creatives to be paid for their passions, and for passing on their enlightenment and education to others.

Chapter 9: The New Rich

Koe writes that most people oscillate between working too hard and attempting to rest through harmful activities like drinking wine or binge-watching television. They go through life on autopilot, anxious during both work and rest.

The importance of good rest is emphasized by Koe, using the example of Charles Darwin’s typical workday, consisting of long walks and answering letters, punctuated by short but productive periods of work.

Koe believes in a four-hour workday and says that many creatives find a 3-to-5-hour stint of work to be more productive than an eight-hour workday. He writes, “The paradox of productivity is the less you work, the higher quality your work is.”

Chapter 10: The Skill Stack

Koe notes that technological advancements have made the acquisition of specialist skills possible for anyone with an Internet connection. He lays out the four evergreen skills (that never go out of fashion) as writing, speaking, sales, and marketing. With these skills it is possible to deliver value to an audience using the power of the Internet.

In addition to the four evergreen skills, Koe suggests tapping the four eternal markets of health, wealth, relationships, and happiness. Identify four of your most valuable skills, and four personal interests, and these sixteen things form the corners of four squares, which in turn form a cube. Place a problem in this cube and you can work out a solution and repackage that solution for others.

Chapter 11: The Project

“The source of learning is struggle, not memorization,” Koe opines. This is why project-based learning is so important. Rather than watching a bunch of tutorials and then realizing you have not gained enough knowledge to build your ideal project, you can start building the project and learn as you go.

Koe explores the transformation of a project into a product. “You become an entrepreneur when you take your projects public,” he states. And the best path to creating projects and products is to build solutions to your own problems and then sell them to others.

Chapter 12: The Vessel

Koe believes that “Entrepreneurship is the only logical option for long-term thinkers.” He advises beginning entrepreneurs to start with a one-person business to test the waters. Further, he recommends building a income sources straight away by teaching people who are a few steps behind you in their knowledge. If you can package that with a positive philosophy, all the better.

Koe notes that the most profitable niche is the reader themselves. Everyone has a unique confluence of skills, interest, and experience. Use these to set goals, learn skills to help achieve those goals, and create a solution to a problem that can be turned into a product.

To close out the book, Koe states that there might be no greater good than passing on valuable information. To do so we must observe and experience the universe to gain a wider perspective, align our decisions with the perspective of our ideal selves, and harness our creativity to build projects that contribute to humanity.

The Art of Focus is well-written, interesting, and full of metaphors about life and the universe. I recommend it to anyone who wants a self-help book that combines topics of personal development, self-education, spirituality, philosophy, business, and entrepreneurship.

Dan Koe’s The Art of Focus is available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle format, and audiobook.

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I wish you all the best in your journey of learning and self-discovery.

Some of the links in this article are Amazon Associate links and the author may earn a small commission from purchases made using them.

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