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Stay Focused; There’s No Time for Media Hype or Spin

Be selective as to where you offer your time and attention.

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Decades back, my friend, Bill Halloran, liked to listen to Howard Stern in the morning. Year after year on his way to work, Bill was titillated by Howard Stern’s shock talk. Hundreds of thousands of working professionals must have felt the same way. Howard is now a multi-millionaire.

Stern offered no sense of breathing space to Bill. After hearing Stern, no one was empowered, energized, or better able to face the day. He was, in essence, an electronic fix, a drug, if you will, that briefly took you out of your own life and into some form of contemptuous humor that got you through the next ten minutes. Even among those who know this on some level, why did so many people listen? The answer is what I call “electronic addiction.”

The Anxiety of Electronic Addiction

As a society, our expo­sure to the media, including the internet, has increased several hundred percent within a few decades, and while worldwide media coverage provides many bene­fits, it also has quite a few side effects. As we spend more and more hours glued to electronic media, we are exposed to tens of thou­sands of messages and images. Just as too much food at one sit­ting, isn’t easily in­gested, neither is too much data in any form.

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Concurrent with the deluge, we have become an anxious society that uses electronics to not feel alone, evade confronting why we can’t seem to get what we want, or to avoid better use of the hours we say we so earnestly want. We retain, embrace and offer rapt attention to all forms of media, and to the devices transmitting them to us. So it’s logical that we then make million dollar super­stars out of TV meteo­rologists and morning exercise show hosts.

The shrinking attention span – Our cultural, elec­tronic addiction to the mass media inverts our per­cep­tion of available time, and diminishes our attention spans. Hence the Howard Sterns of the airwaves capture the attention of otherwise distracted listeners. Tele­vision and radio news and features are growing ever shorter to match the fragmented, de­creasing attention spans of viewers.

Try this: For the next minute, stare at your watch, or if that’s too boring, think about something pleasur­able you’re going to do today­. Your per­cep­tion of the length of a minute will dif­fer vastly from using that minute to listen to the news or read a page from a magazine.

Warning: The exercise you were going to do for a full minute may have just failed. Our culture is so com­mit­ted to mo­tion and to in­form­ation intake that you might be unable to make your­self stare at your watch or simply contemplate for one minute, even when the thought is of something pleasurable!

The Rise of Sensationalism

Around the turn of the century, to build his newspaper chain faster and to sell more papers, William Randolph Hearst used sen­sationalism to heighten the most mundane of stories. For exam­ple, if one of his reporters turned in a story about a dog who got his foot stuck in a sewer grate, Hearst would have the head­line changed to read,

“CANINE TRAPPED IN TUNNEL OF DEATH.”

Hearst perceived that the public was interested in prominent names, and he loaded the paper with them. For several years he worked the “signed statement” racket for all it was worth. The method involved simply sending an inquiry to any person of promi­nence. When a courteous reply was received, it was immediately slapped into print.

In every city having a Hearst paper, an index was kept of people willing to be quoted along certain lines. For example, if Hearst favored the Navy’s buying big battleships, a list of retired admirals would be taken from the files, and each of the old gentlemen would be approached for his opinion. Those who agreed would be heavily quoted in articles, i.e., “Retired Admiral XYZ Says Navy Lacking In…”

I find it remarkable that the Pulitzer Prize, an award alleged to represent the highest aspirations and achievements in journalism, is named for Mr. Joseph Pulitzer. While Pulitzer did not originate sensationalism, he played a crucial role in the history of American journal­ism simply by living at a time when social and economic changes enabled sensationalism to flourish.

Pulitzer used frivolous pictures, poetry, short stories, and the like, to make the newspaper a medium to entertain as well as inform. Pulitzer borrowed ideas of sensationalism that were not his own and brought them up to date to fit a modern America of cities and factories.

When Pulitzer set up shop in New York, he wanted to achieve the greatest circulation in America’s history. He needed a large circulation to have a platform from which his liberal principles could be heard. To obtain it, he had to win the confidence, as well as excite the interest, of the masses of people. Many features that appealed to a working-class audience – pictures, lurid accounts of crime and violence, the air of irreverence – were bound to appeal to others as well.

Overstimulated and Distracted

To this day, to capture an overstimulated, distracted population, contemporary television and other news media rely more and more on sensation­alism. It’s in­grained in the nature of broadcasting, and it’s hazardous to our awareness.

With a planet of nearly eight billion people, the media are easily fur­nished with an endless supply of turmoil for mass transmis­sion. At any moment somebody is fomenting revolu­tion some­where. Such turmoil is pack­aged daily for the 24 hour news cycle.

We are lured with images of crashes, hostages, and natural dis­asters. We offer our time and rapt atten­tion to each new hos­tility, scandal or disaster. Far more people die annually from choking on food than in plane crashes or by guns, but crashes and shootings make for great footage, and play into people’s fears.

Your chance of dying from a commercial airplane mis­hap actual­ly is one in 2,600,000. So, you need only be con­cerned if you fly five flights per week, 52 weeks per year, for several thousand years.

Unless it directly affects you or your com­munity, give up offer­ing any attention, whatsoever, to news coverage of specta­cular crashes and train wrecks, etc. If you’re con­cerned about reducing the incidence of violent death, learn the Heimlich maneuver or CPR. But puuleeeease, stop being enthralled by spec­tacular media cover­age of non-imperative events and sensa­tionalized trivia.

Gaining Control

It is not immoral to not “keep up” with the news. However to “tune out” – turn your back on the world is not appropriate either. Being more selective in what you give your attention to, and to how long you give it, makes more sense.

There is little utility in in­tel­lectually reson­ating with the world’s challenges and problems. Pick one cause or one issue, and take some kind of action outside your home. For most of us on the Right, the burning issue today is reclaiming our country from Leftist zealots.

Action is customarily invigorating. Your ability to make a real, if minute, difference will immediat­ely lessen your concerns about attaining some breathing space.

Tomorrow morning, quietly envision how you would like your day to be. Include every­thing that’s import­ant to you – the commute if you make one, entering your building or your office, sitting down at your desk, handling tasks, and taking breaks.

Envision interacting with others, going to lunch, conducting or attending meetings, using the phone, finishing up projects, and walking out in the evening. With this exercise alone, you’ll begin to feel a greater sense of control in aspects of your job that you might have considered uncontrollable.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Society & Culture

The Rightness of The Righteous Brothers

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Righteous

I was feeling a bit anxious about all the Orwellian absurdities going on in our country. Randomly, I began listening to The Righteous Brothers and suddenly everything seemed a little more ordered and honest.

Apparently, for me, there’s something about a couple of crooners singing Unchained Melody and other hits and using terms of endearment like “baby’ and “honey” and unabashedly embracing the glorious differences between men and women that’s surprisingly refreshing.

Until recently, artists like The Righteous Brothers felt no inhibition about writing and singing songs that celebrate love and attraction between genders. There were no pronoun police, no anti-machismo militants, no shame and no efforts to emasculate men and weaponize women. Refreshing?

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If some think our pseudo-infatuation with many genders and desire-over-biology transitions are good for us as a people—or are good for ANY people—I don’t see any shred of common good in elevating desire over basic biology. I think they’re stiff-arming reality and open-arming fantasy.

If others think The Righteous Brothers should be renamed, “The Righteous Persons” or that they celebrated what is now considered sexist, rather than natural, I disagree. If those who hold this view don’t value tradition and institution created through loving design, I think they’re either fooling themselves or are being fooled, or both.

In their defense, The Righteous Brothers ask their love interests, “Without you baby, what good am I?” At first blush, these words seem to be about worth or utility. I think they’re about more than that; I think they hint at a “lostness” and a completion.

Design and destiny

Speaking of completion, Jesus teaches about men and women fulfilling their design and destiny. In doing so, he describes the union of a man and woman as not merely a joining, but as a becoming. He does this when he defines gender and marriage thusly:

“From the beginning of the world, God made them man and woman. Because of this, a man is to leave his father and mother and is to live with his wife. The two will become one. So they are no longer two, but one.”

According to God, this becoming, this state of oneness happens between members of opposite (and equal) genders. It does so because it’s based on a built-in and glorious design. No amount of surgery or hormones can change it. We’re male and female. This biological and spiritual reality doesn’t lie, and neither does God.

In terms of gender, who we are is fixed because we’re permanently and perfectly designed. It’s also glorious because as men and women we’re made to reflect God’s image in all his glory.

In truth, most of us know this is so, and those who say otherwise likely know deep down that they’re pretending. It’s quite an irony. They want something to be true, yet they’ve convinced themselves that truth is relative. They’ve chained themselves with inescapable logic.

If one accepts that we’re made in God’s image and that he made us male and female, one is free to embrace reality and his or her destiny. This truth brings light and clarity in the midst of the chaos and cacophony of our loud and silly mixed-up culture. Loving design becomes an unchained and beautiful melody.

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Business

Post Lockdown: Are You Juggling Too Many Tasks?       

Concentration and focus are under rated in our current era of multitasking

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As traffic starts to mount up everywhere, and more people are heading back to office, is the ill-advised practice  of multi-tasking regaining a foothold? Considering all that you need to do personally and professionally, are you attempting to handle too much?

These days, we all seem to be human doings, not human beings. Unfortunately, we give short shrift to concentration and focus. Indeed, concentration and focus are under rated in our current era of multitasking.

Consider this: A magnifying glass held up at the correct angle to the sun will quickly burn a hole through a piece of paper: concentration and focus. Meanwhile, no matter how much sun shines through your office window onto your desk, none of those tedious memos are going to catch on fire.  The lack of combustibility has nothing to do with the way the manufacturer engineered this flat piece of glass.

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Multi-tasking is occasionally helpful and satisfying but, along with the shower of information and communication overload, represents a paradoxical impediment to getting things done. Let’s see why.

Faster and Less Attentive

The term multi-tasking evolved from the computer industry, the early mainframe computers designed with parallel processes is perhaps the prime example of automated multi-tasking.

In many respects, the computer has accelerated our inattentiveness.  Personal computers achieved critical mass in 1981 with the introduction of the Apple Computer designed as an alternative to the IBM PC.  The affordable technology enabled us all to engage in sequential activities and elevate our propensity to become task-switchers.

Then for many reasons, and some so bizarre that they defy description, over the next 40 years we began to emulate our computers, multi-tasking while they multi-tasked.

Today, with the typical office professional sending or receiving more than 200 messages a day, counting all forms of communication, and all of them coming and going at shorter intervals, a generation of career professionals are being driven virtually to distraction. A number of the messages are fleeting, the meaning often unclear, and the result a listless and confused workforce.

Against the back drop of information and communication overload, ever-advancing technology, and more choices than anyone needs or even wants, an entire workforce generation has been taught to multi-task as if this is the way it has always been, needs to be, and always will be.

Continuous Partial Attention

Undivided attention is a term that has fallen out of use! Multitasking has become a norm giving rise to “continuous partial attention,” where nothing gets your true and undivided focus, and everything is homogenized to the point of carrying nearly equal weight.

We offer our attention here, there, and then somewhere else. Like a one-man band, we get our strokes from strumming the guitar, tapping our foot, and blowing on the harmonica. We equate accomplishment with flapping our wings, stirring up commotion, and making a lot of noise.

We can barely tolerate stillness. For many, silence doesn’t appear to be golden; it seems more like a dark space, lacking productivity that can yield nothing useful.

Undivided attention is a term that has fallen out of popular use. Generally, we feel guilty if we don’t multi-task! We contemplate our increasing workloads and responsibilities and how they are subject to continual shifts, and justify multi-tasking as a valid response to a world of flux.

Despite the temptation to do otherwise, focusing on the task at hand is vital to getting things done. Whether there’s a handful of tasks confronting you, or ideally only one, give all your time, attention, energy, focus, concentration, effort, and all that good stuff to the task at hand, and then turn to what’s next.

Over-employed, and Undesired

It’s likely that people have always sought to handle many things simultaneously, stretching as far back as cave dwellers. Their multi-tasking effort probably seemed crude by comparison. Someday, somewhere, someone may discover that we are hardwired to continuously attempt to economize our use of time.

Our age old “flight or fight” response to perceived stressors in the environment works well, at intermittent times. The small jolts of concentrated energy and vigilance helps us to safeguard ourselves, our loved ones, and our possessions.

As a species however, we are not wired to effectively handle continuous streams of two major stress hormones — adrenaline and cortisol — on a daily basis.

Bruce McEwen, Ph.D., director of the neuroendocrinology lab at Rockefeller University, observes that while we can apparently weather stresses and rapid hormonal changes in the short term, about 3 to 15 days, soon thereafter chronic stress begins to ensue.

The result is a weakened immune system, aggression, anxiety and a decrease in brain functioning which results in burnout. Dangerously high levels of cortisol can result in poor sleep patterns and insulin resistance, which can open the door to bad eating habits and weight gain.

 

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