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LOSE SIGHT, LOSE FIGHT: How Focused Vision Leads To Victory

We have a saying in the fighter pilot world, “lose sight, lose fight.” Lose sight for just a second of the ground or aerial target, and chances are you’ll lose the fight (i.e. miss the target or get shot down). It takes intense concentration, discipline, and focus to keep sight. Your vision is only as good as how well you see the immediate target.

We’ve all heard the experts talk about vision. Vision paints an inspiring picture of what an organization can become and gives us something to believe in, work towards, and identify with. Warren Bennis calls it ‘a compelling goal.’ When we have a vision, we’re naturally driven to achieve it and it inspires us to action every day. It gives meaning to our mission as it provides a purpose in all we do.


Henry David Thoreau once stated, “In the long run people hit only what they aim at.” He was onto something here. The key word is ‘aim.’ Aim requires focus, and lack of focus is a huge factor that leads to failure. Most of us have a decent vision of where we’re going. But in my experience, it’s rare to find someone with a clear and laser-sharp focus who has the discipline to stay on target to achieve this vision. Long term vision is great, but it’s useless unless you stay on target every day and not become distracted by non mission critical items.

“Beware of Distractions Disguised as Opportunities.”

This gets to the core of why focus is so critical to success. Focus guides us in the daily activities which lead to the accomplishment of our vision. Think about it. You’re entrenched in writing an awesome sales proposal and the phone rings. You’re practicing your sales pitch to that huge prospect and an e-mail pops up ‘demanding’ an immediate response. You’ve just sat down to plan tomorrow’s schedule and your friend calls to discuss a relationship issue.

One second you’re ready for action, the next, you’re off target trying to deal with an ‘opportunity’ which is simply a distraction designed to help you lose focus on what’s important. What you do at that moment is critical.

I’m not saying blow off everything other than the task at hand. But if you’re serious about success, you better have your mission priorities straight and multi-task only items that support the immediate mission. Real leaders are great at this.

Vision without focus is like a combat mission without an objective. You fly around going after targets of opportunity but in the end never accomplish anything.

The key to keeping focused is establishing parameters and boundaries for your activities and staying disciplined.

  • Silence the phone, shut down outlook, and lock the door to your office.
  • Have focus sessions – u p to 50 mins of uninterrupted time when you’re focused on a single task.
  • Delegate, delay, or ignore non-mission critical tasks.
  • Hire wingmen and outsource these tasks.

Staying focused is difficult and requires intense training and discipline, something that fighter pilots rely on to win in competitive and rapidly changing environments. In today’s world of changing technology, constant communication, and ‘I need it now’ mentality, the difference between Top Gun and average is focus.


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