Obsession is the word I’m currently obsessed with. Yet, it isn’t the most popular word. Many people cringe when they hear it because of a limited connotation stemming from predator relationships and Sigmund Freud’s work on fixation.
But we need to bring this word back into vogue as being obsessed is an outlier contributor to genius. Obsession rings loud in my ears as I think about the UAE’s National Day. It clearly describes leaders who’ve done far more than they had to ... and substantively more than others have.
Why did they continue to push forward when the UAE was sure-footed after the formation of the Union and had the comfort of high oil revenues? Post-1970s, the “era of need” was history. It was clear the UAE was going to survive.
But the leaders wanted more; they were obsessed with a vision. This move from doing something because you have to in order to survive to doing it because it is now part of your DNA is what I call “the hunger of habit”. A habit is what you do because it is now natural. Obsession is the ultimate expression of a habit.
When you think about someone or something constantly especially in a way that is not normal — meaning differently than everyone else does — that’s obsession, which is clearly a habit because you’re doing it naturally without any prompt.
Is your mind continually preoccupied with an idea, even to a troubling extent to those around you? What’s uppermost in your mind seems normal to the obsessed person, but potentially bothersome to everyone else.
Yet, if you’re obsessed you won’t worry if it bothers others because you can’t let go.
In a recent performance at the London Real Summit, world-champion boxer, Chris Eubank says, “My son Junior, he’s obsessed. When you look at him you can see he is. His magic, his genius is obsession.”
I would argue that Chris is also obsessed. How else do you become a world-champion?
If you’re obsessed, nothing can distract you. There is nothing that can stand in the way of you achieving your goal. Nothing!
If something can distract you or stop you, you aren’t obsessed.
Our leaders in the UAE witnessed their ancestors pursue the future with the intensity of a man chasing after a dream.
When they formed the federation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971, they were obsessed with a Union that was better for the people, both Emiratis and foreigners. And that obsession is still alive to this day. I’ve tried to imagine what drives them other than an obsession with their ideas.
They justifiably could’ve slowed down or even stopped and declared victory. Yet, they press on.
When you’re hungry for so long, it becomes your habit, your obsession. The desire to achieve is addictive.
When huge ambition becomes an everyday habit, it naturally becomes your own habit. Seeing the biggest, tallest, and fastest being erected around you, you feel left out if you can’t yourself lay claim to a super accolade.
After being in this environment for a while, not thinking big seems odd. Operating without fear of the size of an idea is the essence of this leadership habit.
To achieve grand results, like forming a country, being a world-champion or building a great company, you need to be obsessed. Obsession is the inability to stop thinking about a particular idea or topic without a high amount of anxiety.
Obsessed people get nervous when they aren’t focused on their obsession. If you’re obsessed, you’ll continue your obsession to avoid the consequent anxiety.
If you want to achieve your objective, to get the job done, you must be obsessed. Clear away everything else so you can tap into what you really want.
“I know about focus, application and persistence. The guys who have a plan, apply focus and persist do usually make it,” says Eubank. “But the guy who is obsessed — he makes it and he does not lose to the guy who is just focused.”
—The writer is a CEO coach and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org