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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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Business

America Needs a Reboot

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There is a sign outside of Needville Feed that reads: “Has anyone tried unplugging the United States and plugging it back in?” Let the painful laughter ensue! It’s confession time. How many times have you been unable to figure things out on your computer and just decided to start over by rebooting in hopes of a new beginning. Sure, no one wants to lose the current good work, so you save what you can and hope for the best.

But America does need a reboot? Something is not right with America today. Some are working to get the 34 states needed to convene a National Constitutional Convention. Others are clamoring for term limits for all politicians. Unfortunately, every radical answer unleashes radical fears that such plans could create more problems than viable solutions. We seem stuck in stupid!

They want clean energy with wind and solar while they work to shut down natural gas and nuclear energy, two clean energy sources. Due to our clean energy efforts, our coal and oil resources are cleanest in the world. But they want to buy oil from questionable countries while limiting production here. Does it make sense to move from energy independence to energy dependence before we have proven clean energy alternatives that can supply the energy we need? Of course not! We’re stuck on stupid. Time to reboot expanded energy options to reclaim energy independence!

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How can you have true freedom of speech and not occasionally offend someone along the way? The answer to hateful or offensive speech, is more speech and thicker skin. People throw around the term “snowflakes” for people who want freedom for themselves but can’t handle that freedom for those who would attack their own views. Freedom is messy. Freedom is loud. Let people say what they want and experience the consequences for their comments. If you offend enough people, don’t expect to win many votes or popularity polls! It’s time to reboot freedom of speech for all!

I always thought that government was established to protect their citizens from enemies and from criminals. Why are people buying guns? Citizens want weapons to protect themselves. They are seeing far too many criminals let go without being prosecuted or punished. Government wants to take guns away from citizens, and everyone knows that criminals will keep theirs! In America today, crime seems to pay pretty well for the growing number of flash mobs, carjackers, and rioters taking what they want! Few big city DAs are doing their jobs. If you riot in the streets, rob small businesses, and attack bystanders, you should go to jail and serve time! We’re stuck on stupid! It’s time to unplug and reboot America’s law and order program!

Immigration has made America a better country, a melting pot of people who value freedom and the opportunity to earn their own dream. But people playing by the rules to immigrate to America keep waiting and never get the welcome illegal aliens receive by just crashing our Southern borders. By not having a secure border, we are advertising for more illegals to come. The Biden administration will provide transportation, let you have benefits, and work to get you housing and an eventual path to citizenship. Why immigrate legally, when doing so illegally works so well? Time to reboot. Time to finish the wall and secure our Southern border!

Martin Luther King, Jr. paid the price and rallied the country around a dream that one’s character would mean more than the color of a one’s skin. And yet today, calls for racism are encouraged. To many, you’re celebrated for saying that all whites are racist. Many blacks call for special reparations for the racism of a distant past. There is one sure result of such calls for special racial treatment-renewed racism! Reverend King would have surely affirmed that “All God’s children matter!” Under democratic leadership, America is backsliding into more racial animus. It’s time for a reboot. It’s time to reaffirm that “All men are created equal” is a value and a promise worth fighting for.

Personal responsibility for one’s choices is a critical American value. If you commit a crime, you do the time. You borrow money for something you want, you pay your debt. President Biden executive order to “forgive” student debt is not “free.” That debt isn’t “canceled;” it’s transferred to every tax-paying American. Many of those taxpayers have already worked and sacrificed to pay off their own student debt. This is not only stupid; it is an assault on basic fairness and a blatant attempt to buy votes. Reboot required! Reinstall personal responsibility programming!

In a recent interview on Jesse Watters’ Fox News show, Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution confronted the extreme actions of the left in transforming America. They are attacking and overthrowing America’s time-tested values.

To Hanson, the left is governing exactly the way they accuse the right of acting: “I mean, nobody on the right said let’s junk the 233-year-old Electoral College; [the] 180-year-old filibuster; the 150-year-old, nine-person Supreme Court. Nobody [on the right] said let’s bring in two more states and end the idea for 60 years of a 50-state union.”

It’s only left that has no problem stalling protection for right-leaning Supreme Court Justices facing demonstrations outside their homes. It’s the left that wants to radically federalize the voting laws to ensure that 70 percent of the votes would not be cast on Election Day. It’s the left that has radically weaponized the IRS with excessive increases in personnel and funding. The left calls January 6th an insurrection, but as Hanson notes: “Remember in 2021 when they had barbed wire and 30,000 troops in Washington, D.C. in the greatest weaponization since the Civil War?” Do you remember?

When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in government entitlement programs that take from your neighbor to give you the things you ought to be forced to earn for yourself. It’s time to unplug this radical administration before it is too late. In November, it’s time to reboot by booting out the politicians who have played so loosely with America’s time-tested recipe for freedom and opportunity. It’s time to send the left home!

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Business

Redirect Yourself to Be More Productive

At any moment you have the opportunity to make a choice

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When you feel as if you’re not being as productive as you could be, or that you have strayed from your desired path, ask yourself: “What is the most effective use of my time?”

Suppose you face a variety of unrelated tasks, and what day does that not happen? Or, you face a variety of related tasks on the same project. Asking yourself what is the most effective use of my time invariably helps direct you to that task, which at present, merits your attention.

What Is the Most Effective Use of My Time

At any given moment you have the opportunity to make a choice, even if a task or project has been going well, you have the opportunity to make the choice as to how to use your time starting at that moment.

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Generally, speaking, when the self-directed question arises, it’s an indication that you’re facing some sort of quandary, and probably need to redirect your efforts. So ask yourself the question anytime you feel the need.

Will It Be Any Easier Later?

When faced with a situation I would prefer to put off, I ask myself another type of question: “Will it be any easier later?” If the task will be easier later, then I have rational justification for not proceeding on that particular task.

For example, if I have to organize all the receipts related to a certain project that will be in progress for another week, I can readily put off this task for another week. Then, with all the receipts collected, I can organize them accordingly, knowing I can do the job until its ultimate completion.

If the task won’t be any easier later, then it largely makes sense to proceed now, particularly if it might be more difficult later. Preparing for a speech, an interview, or a test or exam several days beforehand is a wiser approach to studying rather than cramming the night before.

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