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The Art of Flexible Focus2011.08.01

    The Art of Flexible Focus

    In 1970 futurologist Alvin Toffler published a book called Future Shock, which predicted a world of rapid change in all areas of life, a world in which the pace of change would give us all a sense of vertigo. He was right in many ways, but of course he could not have seen the world evolving along with it. The book itself was unsettling, a dizzy read at the time, for he transported you into that future without giving you a chance to live through the changes.


    However, 40 years later it seems now that pace of change has rounded the exponential curve, and appears ready to shoot up at a sharper angle. Artificial Intelligence used to mean computers that could outwit human chess players, due to superior ability to process data and make logical calculations at high speed. However the game seems to be changing now, as artificial intelligence infiltrates and increasingly dictates our lives in the background, monitoring our communications, our buying habits, and our behavior.


    It is changing our economy drastically by eliminating the need for agents and middlemen, flattening the entire process of distribution, driving down the price of everything, and making it more difficult to compete. Social networks are ubiquitous, and changing the way we communicate and form communities. EBay is Mobile, Facebook now has a store, and Amazon sells far more than just books, all of this making it possible for anyone to buy and sell products in the world marketplace. And this is being done through friendly touch screens, voice recognition, and interfaces that look less and less like computers or robots, and more and more like the walls and furniture that surrounds us, or the smart phones that we carry with us.


    While some of this is an enormous convenience, a frictionless path, it is also highly disruptive and destructive to systems based on the old way of doing things. The Internet has left many traditional businesses gasping for air. Amazon put Borders bookstores out of business, and how iTunes and NetFlicks have put CD Stores and Video Rental Shops on their last legs. Your business is not immune.


    Toward the end of his life, American philosopher, architect, and inventor Buckminster Fuller (1895~1983) said in his book Critical Path that we are in the end game. “Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment…Humanity is in ‘final exam’ as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in the Universe.” That is profound food for thought on the grand scale, but it is also a wake up call to each of us as individuals as castabouts on the sea of change.


    It requires many life skills to navigate in this environment, and one of the must fundamental is the art of flexible focus. In a word, this is the ability to shift freely from the bird’s eye view of the whole, to the insect’s eye for detail, to the fish’s eye for fluid change. This is done through the Mandala Chart, a 3x3 Matrix which enables you to better see the world in this way. This method was established by Matsumura Yasuo, the leading authority as author and founder of the Mandala Chart Association. The Japanese website is at:


    To bridge the language gap, I have dedicated an entire column in English to the aspects and applications of flexible focus at: The series already contains over 60 articles, covering a wide range of topics and applications from Lessons in Life Balance to Projecting Your Future, with illustrations, downloads, and templates. These are indexed on the website, and also in the form of a WebBrain at: This is an ancient tool, and a framework for practical wisdom.


    Change is only dizzying to those trying to brace themselves against it. Motion sickness is something only experienced by the passenger, never the driver. The primary difference is that the driver is actively engaged in navigating the course, and therefore naturally maintains flexible focus, whereas the passenger is passive and poorly focused. This is something to remember as you navigate your present and future course.


    William Reed


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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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