Standing at Inattention
Is there one among us who has failed to
notice the increasing tendency of our fellow Americans, and
fellow humans in most other cultures, to pay less and less
attention to direct interaction with our friends, our families
and our coworkers? Just go for a walk and you will see people
with implants in their ears conducting conversations in loud
voices. They appear not to be paying attention to where they
are, how to steer the shopping cart or how much they may be
disturbing other people at the restaurant.
Presumably, most of these people are
actually using a cellular phone, although one is left to
wonder if some of them may not be simply carrying on an active
conversation in a loud voice with their one and only friend
How many of us while riding in a car
have looked over to our left or right to see someone driving
while simultaneously putting on eye make-up, reading a
newspaper, shaving or talking on a cell phone with one hand
while gesturing with the other?
The fact is that in the increasingly
mad rush to multitask, we lose sight of the peace and beauty
around us, and in our family and work relationships. We may
also be endangering our lives.
Post recently conducted a most interesting experiment
in which the HR Doctor and the HR Daughter Elyse took special
interest. The amazing and world-renowned violinist, Joshua
Bell, perhaps the greatest classical violinist of his
generation, is a young, dynamic, handsome and amazing fiddle
At the behest of the Post, he
took his multi-million dollar, 17th century Stradivarius
violin into a Washington,
D.C. subway station and
played on a Friday morning.
Bell opened the
violin case, threw a few coins and dollar bills into the case
as seed money and, dressed in casual attire, proceeded
to play amazing music for about 40 minutes.
Before the experiment began some people
were asked what they might expect a famous musician imitating
a street musician to earn for an hour of performance in a
subway. One famous orchestra conductor, not knowing that the
Post was speaking about Joshua Bell, expected the
amount to be perhaps $150, with a lot of people stopping and
appreciating the tremendous artistry.
Suffice it to say, with hidden cameras
rolling and various Washington Post reporters standing
ready to interview comatose passersby,
Bell began playing
pieces as difficult and beautiful as the Bach Chaconne
and Shuberts Ave Maria.
What do you suppose happened? Out of a
thousand people who walked by, one person that would be the
smallest unit of measure available in a crowd recognized the
world-famous musician, and this occurred very near the end of
his playing. She told him that she had recently seen him in
concert and how brilliant his performance had been. She
stopped briefly to listen and then put $20 in the violin case
and said to him, Im sorry.
When he finished
had exactly $32.17 in his violin case. Hardly anyone had
stopped even briefly to listen. The Washington Post
reporters heard people tell them how preoccupied they were,
how they had other things to do, how they were running late,
or, or, or
What they were really telling the reporters was
that they live in a world in which they have allowed
distractions to push out opportunities. They have been swamped
by a tsunami of preoccupation. They are inattentive and are
essentially, as the HR Doctor likes to say, cast members of
Night of the Living Dead.
The thousand-person sampling included
teenagers with head phones covering the areas formally
occupied by their ears, by cell phone listeners, and no doubt
by others fearing that the violin sounds they were hearing
were really a prelude to an attack by some classical music
terrorists, and they had to flee as quickly as possible to
avoid catastrophic injury which would result if they listened.
Only one general group heard and noticed children whose
parents kept them rushing ahead.
The lessons from this experiment are
important. They probably start inside each of us personally.
Make it a point to tune-in not only to our business
responsibilities, which may include being super-glued to a
computer monitor, or using a cell phone, or commuting while
trying to be anonymous, but also to other things around us
that may be much more important to our happiness and our
personal success and survival. It may be the sound of a bird
we hear singing on a tree limb on a chilly, urban
Stop and take a moment to appreciate
that wonder. It may be watching some dogs frolic in a dog park
or children playing as you walk by. It may be deliberately
visiting national parks or watching the sun set or rise to
balance your hectic paper-clip filled day with beauty beyond
anyone of us perhaps just listening to Joshua Bell play the
Four Seasons by Vivaldi.
Beyond that is the importance of a
renewed vow in words followed by deeds to tune in more to your
family and to your relationships with neighbors, other members
of the community and your work colleagues.
When was the last time you had dinner
with that person who should be very important in your life
the next door neighbor? That would be the person or family
that should be there to help you in a personal emergency at
home or warn you that youre violating water restrictions by
having your sprinklers turned on at the wrong time.
The HR Doctor has mentioned in prior
articles how Americans watch television an average of four
hours a day but spend perhaps four minutes a day in private
one-on-one coaching with their child. Tune in to the fact that
this sad and silly situation is not only amazingly dumb but it
is also dangerous in terms of the shaping of the future of the
next generation. If we are not there to be the mentors and
primary agents in the development of our childrens attitudes,
spirit and curiosity, who will be? Contestants on world
wrestling? Don Imus? Jerry Springer? Or perhaps worse, no
The employee who is disaffected and
disengaged to the extreme will not perform well and will take
up increasing time for the supervisor. The person will
present as increasingly scary at work and display anomalies
which are really warning signs of trouble ahead. Disengagement
from others and the beauty around us in the world is a sad
waste which need not occur! Put down the paper clips long
enough to recognize and appreciate other people and other
works of nature.
Bring a violin to work. Even if you
cant play and never open the case. The HR Doctor has a guitar
hanging from one wall in his office. It is not there to be
played necessarily. It is a reminder that there is more to
life than can ever be appreciated by shutting out sounds and
sights of beautiful things!
The HR Doctor www.hrdr.net