Insights come in ordinary moments. At dinner recently, some friends were talking about their hundreds of internet bookmarks they never return to. We’d all formed the same habit of opening ten tabs of pages we “wanted to read” but eventually closed, unread. It’s a familiar moment to many of us: so much stuff, we don’t know which to choose. And we really burst out laughing when I said:
I think I have so many apps on my iPad, it’s making me a nervous wreck!
Flashbulb. We live in an era of abundance, for which we’re grateful for the opportunities of modern technology. Yet we’re increasingly stressed, overwhelmed, under-rested and distracted – as the endless array of attention-grabbers beep at us. As I write this very article, two tweets have popped across my screen; I try not to look at them, to keep writing, stay focused…. Um, what was I just saying?
We all must respond. To update. To upgrade. To announce. To express. To contribute. To engage. To exist in multiple virtual dimensions, and in none at all.
Even my camera plays this trick on me. Twenty years ago, my Nikon 2000 had a single focal point in the lens. Align the two halves and your image was in focus. Today, my D7000 has 39 focal points (I just popped open a browser tab to quick-search that fact, to make sure it was correct). That’s the paradox. Modern technology can focus on 39 things at once, but does it follow that so can we?
(Excuse me while I press save.)
I take my camera everywhere because it helps me slow down in an otherwise rushed schedule. I stop to look around me, when I know I should be thinking of other things: It’s a struggle. What time does my speech start? How long it will take to get to the airport? Can I upgrade my seat? Excuse me, a text has just arrived; Oh, sorry, that beep was from Facebook. I can’t keep track any more.
Damn, I just missed a shot.
Life is about taking the shots. Not all of them will be great. But you can’t take any shots if you’re not looking thru your lens. Patient and persistent and prepared to sieze the moment. Using all 39 points of your tools and skills to improve your chances of success. But ultimately it’s up to you to release the shutter.
Customarily, we begin new years with resolutions: We look ahead and imagine ourselves in the future. We then try to setup the conditions for success. We adjust our stops, speed and sensitivity. We make a few practice tries, a week at the gym, reading whole articles, clearing our desks every night. And then….. something happens. Things start ringing, flashing, whizzing into view. We return to the tempest, our view buffeted everywhere. We risk losing our focus.
Which makes me wonder: Do I really have too many apps on my iPad? If I collect them into folders, neatly organized, will I feel any less pressure to check them? What if I turn off the beeps? Somehow, the solution isn’t to organize the overwhelming. It’s to get into focus. To select and frame and concentrate. To choose the people, places and things that will contribute to big picture.
To compose the shots we want to take in the New Year.
That’s my resolution. How about you?