The Only Two Things You Need to Focus On What Matters

Mass confusion struck in droves, and baby turtles were scattered everywhere.

It was 9:30 pm in Topsail North Carolina and we were walking along the beach toward our beach rental home to hustle the kids into bed and watch as many episodes of Handmaids Tale as we could before becoming deliriously tired.

Ten minutes earlier, we had wandered passed two lines of people lounging in beach chairs. Some had beers in hand. All were chatting quietly. 

On any other night, seeing people drinking and chatting on the beach would have been routine. But tonight, two bizarre behaviors of this crowd caught my attention:

First, everyone was lined up the wrong way; not parallel with the water, but perpendicular to it. Two rows of people, arms width apart, beginning at the base of the dune and extending down into the ocean wash.


Second, there was a strange excitement in the air. The kind of excitement you might feel in the moments leading up to a surprise birthday party; the quiet anticipation of a big event.

Come to find out we were about to witness just such an event. 

We had stumbled upon a turtle nest about to hatch. 

No Handmaids Tale for us tonight. All five of us—my wife, my two sons, my daughter, and me—would join the line of onlookers to help 150 turtles into the ocean before being eaten by seagulls or crabs.

But back to the opening line of my story...

Mass Confusion Struck, and There Were Baby Turtles Everywhere

As a volunteer explained to us, turtles need light to guide them.

They break out of their shell, climb up the nest, then wobble their heart-achingly-cute-newborn-little-selves down the dune, over the sand, toward the moonlight, and into the salty expanse.

Only one in a thousand lives to adulthood, so they needed all the help they could get.

After hatching, turtles come out all at once, and they all migrate together. But they don’t follow each other into the water. They follow the light. Usually moonlight reflecting off the water.

Which becomes problematic when a) the moon isn’t out, b) people walking on the beach have flashlights, and c) beach houses have their porch lights on.

Tonight was just such a night; a trifecta of light-problems for these four-flippered babes.

Some of the turtles went straight. Others veered too far left or right. And, though we did our best to help guide them, by the time 100 plus turtles were on the beach mass confusion had set in.

Without the moonlight reflecting off the ocean to guide them, it was mass chaos.

Without the moonlight reflecting off the ocean to guide them, it was mass chaos.

Turtles were sneaking between our legs. Others about-faced to hike back up the dune. A few were scooting around in circles. And the last of them hit the water, decided they didn’t want to swim, then scuttled off in another direction looking for moonlight. 

There were baby turtles everywhere, and it took the better part of two hours to round them all up and place them in the water by hand. 

God only knows how many made it. I hope at least a few did.

Where On Earth To Go? 

Later, I thought of those beautiful little creatures going every which way. I thought of how simple their task seemed. I wondered why it was so hard for them to accomplish the one and only thing they needed to accomplish; the trek that, if they made it, would increase their chances of survival a thousand-fold and, if they failed, would end in certain death.

But, considering their predicament from the perspective of my own life, it suddenly made sense.

All the opportunities I had never taken... the chances I had missed to make a splash... the slipped deadlines, the goals undershot... all the times I had miffed things up. It all made me realize that so many of my failures had happened because either I a) didn’t know where I was going or b) had some distraction beckoning me the in the wrong direction.

I was no better off than a baby turtle without moonlight; unable to decide what mattered and far too easily misled by distractions on the beach.

Life Is Full of Distractions

Netflix, Instagram, shiny gadgets that purchase status or the hope of a more convenient life. Even if you control yourself and do your best to work on what matters, coworkers, ads, and notifications all cry out for your attention. 

And attention is the one thing we have very little of.

Allow these distractions to command your attention and you’ll end up wandering in the wrong direction, lost on the proverbial beach, in danger of being eaten alive. 

Not literally, of course. But you’ll face a different kind of tragic death.

The death of opportunity. The death of your potential. The death of a life you could have lived, of success you could have achieved.

Yes, allowing the screams of marketers, the pleas of coworkers, and the rings of notifications distract you from what truly matters in your life, and you’ll find your dreams stay dreams and your goals remain far, far away.

Even one distraction is too many. So you have to focus on what matters.

The Only Two Things You Need to Focus On What Matters

Like the baby turtles, you only need two things to focus on what matters.

2. Moonlight on the Water

Call it a goal, call it a purpose, call it whatever you want. You have to know where you’re going if you want to get somewhere important. And the better defined this “somewhere” is, the more likely you’ll find it.

At the beginning of every year (and right now if you haven’t done it yet), write out what your ideal life would look like. Write down your perfect day, week, month, and year. Put real thought into what would make you celebrate a successful, meaningful life of achievement.

Here’s mine for 2019:

I wrote and published a book. It’s selling great with rave reviews and driving people to my business Where I write everyday and sell to my email list. I find it on bookshelves in bookstores and convenience stores which is $#@#%^& awesome.

I’m making $20-50k per month on affiliate links and book sales and speaking engagements and coaching. I’ve even got a second book in the works which will be ready to publish in 2020.

Twice a month we go to church. Four times a year we go on week long vacations. Many Friday’s I take off, or take off when the kids are out of school to go skiing or visit New York or some other fun. 

I have great starts to every morning, journaling, sometimes meditating, eating and thinking and planning and getting ready for my day via candlelight, alone. I workout when I want, listen to audio books while exercising, and read real books over lunch.

At the end of the year I’m feeling accomplished because I have focused on a simple, clear, working strategy to get subscribers, of which I now have 10k and which is growing rapidly. My business works, and I know how to work it, and I know how to make money and sustain. 

I’ve invested in stocks, have plenty of cash assets, and have all of these assets managed by my financial advisor. 

Other people wonder what I do. The people who know what I do are always asking what I’m going to write next. They are intrigued. They want to know more. They want to read what I write. 

I spent the year confident, standing up for what’s right, making an impact on those around me. I’m listened to, respected, and inspiring. I’m full of life and energy. 

5-Year Vision?

3 books published. $3M in net worth. $50k monthly income. Self employed. Healthy and respectful family. Strong as an ox, full of life, wise, and a trained leader.

Ask yourself, what would cause you to celebrate at the end of this week/month/year/project/whatever? What would cause you to crack open a big expensive bottle of wine, say a toast to all the important people in your life, and drink to success?

Your answer to this question is your direction, your moonlight on the water.

When chaos strikes, you can look to this light. 

When confusion sets in, you can look to this light. 

When exhaustion strikes and burnout sets in, look to this light.

2. Avoid the Shiny Lights

The flashlights on the beach were distractions to the baby turtles. So were the beach lights.

Neither of these helped the turtles get to where they were going. They could follow these lights all night long and never find their destination.

So too must you avoid the shiny distractions vying for your attention.

Each one is an obstacle in your way. 

How many times have you missed an opportunity because you were distracted by something else? Or a deadline? Or a meeting? 

Even one instance is too many.

But it doesn’t have to happen again. 

For your next major project or big goal, ask yourself what could get in the way of your success? What distractions could take you away from your work? What problems could arise that might prevent you from achieving all that you want to achieve?

Each of these distractions is a risk that needs to be acknowledged and addressed before it becomes a problem. Develop a plan for how you will prevent that risk from becoming a reality now. If nothing can be done in advance, develop a plan for how you will deal with that risk should it occur in the future. 

With a plan in place, problems prevented, and distractions alleviated, you’ll have carved a straight and narrow path to your goals.

Remember the Baby Turtles

Follow your purpose, avoid distractions, and you’ll be as happy as this little flipper in a great big ocean of opportunity.

Follow your purpose, avoid distractions, and you’ll be as happy as this little flipper in a great big ocean of opportunity.

We walked back to our beach house two hours after the live hatch began. Though it was far past our normal bedtime, we were thrilled by this miracle we’d been a part of.

For the rest of the week, we told anyone who would listen of our experience. Complete strangers would nod in polite appreciation of this once-in-a-lifetime event. 

But they didn’t get it.

They didn’t understand these little creatures... how simple their task was but how difficult it was to execute in the face of uncertainty and distraction. And they didn’t understand how closely it related to the very challenges they likely faced; challenges we all face.

But I did. And you do now.

Our lives are infinitely more complex than these turtles. We have to navigate family pressures, politics, social influences, and job demands. These turtles just had to make it to the ocean.

Even so, we can use the simplicity of their life to navigate the complexity of ours by remembering their struggle and the two things they needed to avoid it.

Find your moonlight and avoid distractions.

In other words, focus on the things that matter to you most and don’t let anything get in your way.

About the Author


Michael Mehlberg


I help high-achieving entrepreneurs organize their brain and schedule so they can organize their life and business.

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