"Lessons Earned" by John Sanderson: Keep Your Focus

by John Sanderson, CPA, CIMA® Mar 25, 2024 Lessons Earned

In this series, we share some of John Sanderson's favorite insights and anecdotes from his book, “Lessons Earned.” Throughout the book, John shares dozens of lessons he has learned, starting as a young boy and culminating with his leadership as founder and chairman of Sanderson Wealth Management.



It was supposed to be a beautiful winter night out with a client. We met in my office, and planned to walk five minutes down the street to Shea’s Buffalo Theatre to see Phantom of the Opera.

I always loved going to Shea’s, a historic landmark where performers like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope once graced the stage. Today, Shea’s is one of the only remaining theaters designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany—the famous stained glass artist who also worked for his family’s eponymous jewelry company. A night out at Shea’s was something I looked forward to for weeks.

Perhaps I was distracted, then, when I stepped outside of our building and walked straight onto a patch of glare ice.

Down I went—hard. My hands had been in my pockets to stay warm, so I landed on my shoulder, which shattered. The injury required surgery, they removed part of the bone, and I ended up with five pins in my shoulder to put everything back together again.

The day after surgery, I went back into work. I didn’t want to lose a day when I could be serving my clients. It’s just how I’m wired.

Some of my colleagues suggested that I could sue the building for unsafe conditions. After all, it was on their property. An attorney could argue that they had failed to properly clear the ice. Even without going to trial, perhaps we could have gotten a settlement.

I thought about it. Then I thought about the effort it would have taken to sue. I had a choice—I could direct a sizable portion of my time and resources into a lawsuit, or I could keep putting all of my focus into my work.

When you put it that way, it was an easy decision not to sue. It didn’t matter that I had a case, and probably could have won. I didn’t want to take attention away from my growing business. It was much more important to me to keep my company going forward—which would benefit all of my clients and all of my employees. Why would I spend even a small percentage of my time and attention, not to mention legal fees, just to possibly get a monetary settlement?

Focus plays a key role in helping you get where you want to go. It’s crucial that you know what your priorities are and stay focused on them if you want to achieve your goals. (And yes, I recognize the irony; if I had focused on where I was walking that winter evening, I probably wouldn’t have slipped on the ice. At least now I always wear gloves so I can keep my hands out for balance.)

So many people get distracted, or simply lose their focus over time. That’s fine for them, I suppose. But if you’re one of those people like me, who wants to achieve something extraordinary, you can’t let yourself get distracted.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll achieve your dreams by staying focused, but I can promise that focus will take you further than you could ever imagine.


Reprinted with permission from "Lessons Earned: Stories from a Lifetime Spent Fully Invested," copyright © 2022 John R. Sanderson.

This story reflects the author’s present recollections of people and experiences over time. Some identifying details have been changed and some dialogue has been recreated. While the author has made a concerted effort to provide accurate information, neither the publisher nor the author shall have any liability or responsibility for any adverse effects or loss caused, or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly, by any information included in this story.