One of the first truths we are all taught as young children is 1+1=2. However, as an adult, I have learned this simple equation is actually not always true. In his book Entreleadership self-help guru Dave Ramsey tells the story of the Clydesdale horse. He explains that a single Clydesdale horse can pull roughly 8,000 lbs. But two Clydesdales hitched together can pull up to 32,000 lbs. In this example, 1+1=4.

Ramsey uses this example to explain the concept of synergy. Oxford defines synergy as the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate efforts

The exponential power of a unified focus can be seen all the time, especially in sports. Let’s be honest, the Chiefs were not the most talented team in the NFL this year, but the sum of their parts produced a Super Bowl victory nevertheless.

In business, Chick-fil-A comes to mind as a similar example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. In 2022 Chick-fil-A had total gross sales that were higher than competitors such as Taco Bell, Burger King or Wendys despite having less than half as many total locations as these other restaurants, and also being open one less day each week.

How were they able to accomplish such a monumental feat? I would say it comes down to their complete understanding of who they are and what their goals are. Their business model has a singular focus: provide the highest quality product with the highest quality service in the industry. From their CEO to their franchisees to their employees. Everyone in the company is pulling in the same direction just like those Clydesdale horses.

As I really thought about this concept of synergy, I began to realize that a unified focus is the key to exponential success in our own individual lives as well. I truly believe our accomplishments in life are the direct result of the decisions we make and the actions we take. The more focused we are on our goals, the more progress we will make towards them. For example, if someone’s goal is to be healthy, exercising is a good idea, but if they don’t also stop smoking or eating junk food their success will be limited.

Personal finance is also a place in which a unified focus can be seen in the end result. I cannot tell you how many people I have met who in retirement are independently wealthy despite never making an above average wage in their working years. How did they do it? Intentionality, focus and discipline. Their end result was significantly more than the sum of their individual actions. Through saving, wise investment, delayed gratification, and learning contentment, a person can find themselves living the life they always dreamed in retirement. Inversely I have counseled many individuals who find themselves unable to retire comfortably despite earning a great deal of money in their career. Usually, the reason was a lack of focus in their actions throughout life.

The question for us each to ponder this week is what is the most important thing to us? Are our actions reflecting that? Are we singularly focused on the actions we need to take to reach our goal? If we aren’t, what changes do we need to make to refocus ourselves? This has been something I have been pondering a lot the last few weeks. I may not have figured it all out yet but I am certainly closer than I was.

(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations)