Our attention is our most valuable asset. How we choose to allocate it is how we decide who gets our power.
When I was in third grade we took a field trip to the Statue of Liberty. I was pumped to be rocking a fresh pair of red, white, and blue Keds but when it came time for my big debut I got made fun of and ended up hanging alone on the opposite side of the boat.
My parents used to say, ‘don’t pay attention’ when it came to bullies but that was so unfulfilling. Wasn’t this why we had karate?
It took a few decades to see the life lesson, that the only way their teasing had any power over me was when I decided to react to it, when I agreed to give it to them. It wasn’t like Harry Potter was waving a wand at me. If I ignored them they would cease to exist. Like Tinkerbell.
What We Let Inside Our Brains
Our attention is our power. We give people power by allowing them space inside our heads.
We have 24 hours of currency per day. Music, children, and friends are all good objects. The trick is recognizing how we allocate this most precious resource.
Since we are largely free from physical despair these days any negativity we feel is likely a product of what we choose to pay attention to, what we let in.
If we spend our commute flipping off other drivers we have given away an opportunity for calm in the morning. If we spend time seething after work we have given away time that could have been spent thinking, building, helping, connecting, or relaxing.
We do still need to vent, we do need to have our emotions and let them run their course, and every now and then a bully just needs to be crane kicked in the face. But don’t let energy vampires invade.
We have to be aware if we are giving away our cycles (via excess anger, frustration, etc.) to those who don’t deserve them. Just leave them to wallow in their primitive existence. That is their punishment.
When we wake up we don’t have to open Twitter. Someone’s thumb pressing glass somewhere will have as much impact as we allow it. It isn’t wizardry.
The evening news persists only because we keep tuning in.
If A Tree Falls…
The artist Austin Kleon says, ‘What you choose to pay attention to is the stuff your life and work will be made of.’
If a tree falls and nobody is around does it make a sound?
I think the better question is, what tree?