The Barefoot Corporate Warrior: Themes for 2019
Constancy in the Age of the “Short Little Span of Attention”? (Albert Knew)
Summer in Australia, breezy beach and lazy afternoons, is the ideal time to allow the daily rhythm of sand, surf, sun and cricket (and perhaps an afternoon kip?) to relax the mind to the point where potential directions and themes for the new year and beyond “present” themselves for consideration.
While I have previously written about the benefits of an annual strategy session and plan/Life CV (Summer 2014/15) or definition of success for the year ahead (Summer 2016/17) there is also a less structured and more intuitive approach which can deliver results.
Do you find it more than just a little amazing how many solutions arise upon awakening in the morning or when you are focussed on an activity which requires your full attention? It seems that the brain in “rest” mode is still working away on our behalf. And it is often doing its best work in this way.
This is the non-thinking method of decision-making in which you put issues aside for a time – stop “bothering” them – in the hope that an answer will just “pop out”.
Awash in a seemingly inescapable rising tide of inattention I have been thinking about the word “constancy” – being enduring, unwavering, unchanging – over the past year.
It seems to be emerging as a potential theme or direction for consideration for 2019.
The problem is that constancy seems to be a quality that is hopelessly out-of-fashion. In proofing the concept I need to be careful it does not mean that I am also out-of-fashion. (I am holding out for cycles to turn i.e. eventually 1970s afro hair and shorty shorts will be back-in-fashion? – I could be waiting a while).
Everywhere I look I see people seemingly distracted from their surroundings and the moment by devices which pander to the naturally restless mind – seeking escape, entertainment, information and a form of connection to others.
This is a global phenomenon, this manic topic-flitting culture.
Some people seem happy to pay more attention to their portable screen or earphones than they do to walking down the street. It’s a bit dangerous for all concerned.
And it seems to me to be a trend which could be unhealthy for a person over time.
One of our great musical sages, Paul Simon, could have been writing for the 2000s when, in the mid-1980s he wrote about a man walking down the street questioning his “short little span of attention” (You Can Call Me Al).
Albert Einstein is said to have described compounding interest as the “eighth wonder of the world”. He was a man of many wise quotes but he also obviously understood the power of constancy when it came to financial management – allowing a focus over time to bear fruit.
Albert knew about the benefits of staying the course through the ups and downs and the eddies and distractions of life.
He also said: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer”
It is not that we should be unresponsive to change. Like all sustainable organisations, individuals need to adjust to the external environment and circumstances as they present and try to make informed choices on how best to proceed.
This is how we survive and thrive beyond the short-term.
Also, technology and engineering through history have brought great benefits to many civilisations and people. Technology is one of the key enablers of wealth creation for developing nations seeking to improve the wellbeing of their people. Hear, hear to all that!
Part of the issue seems to be that it is always handy, always available and there is always something which we can find to distract ourselves from the present moment.
Do we have the willpower to use these devices judiciously so we are still able to ”be” where and when we are, experiencing each moment and not lost in cyberspace imagination?
I am not sure.
I have recently seen Buddhist monks checking smartphones in Bhutan, an image which has become associated with this magical country around the world.
While they need to be part of the modern world, engaged as they are in developing focussed minds, this underscores the challenge for us most unmonk-like types in using electronic devices for activities which benefit us or others.
This brings us back to constancy and perhaps considering the habits, qualities, belief systems, values, friendships, goals and circumstances which we want to see endure into 2019 and beyond…and those which we really need to discard.
Life is not a continuum of improvement or advancement across all areas of our lives.
It can be difficult to maintain focus through the ebbs and flows, when challenges create a buffeting imbalance which can easily distract us from our goals.
My observation is that persistence pays off.
Elite sportsmen and women talk about the “one percenters” or those small, incremental improvements which a dedicated focus can deliver. Lots of one percenters add up.
Quantum leaps are rare. The “overnight success” which took 20 years of hard work to make is more the norm.
A constancy of purpose and action across our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual lives would seem to make sense, even when it feels like a chore to continue with a particular endeavour.
The “keep-chipping-away-at-it” approach.
We know it works, because as a general rule we admire people who do not give up even against the odds, but it can literally be the hard yards.
Consider your theme/s for 2019. Has constancy always been, or is it about to come back-in-fashion for you?