My wife and business partner, Darlene, were just on a ten day excursion that took us to our beloved Antigua (in the Caribbean) for R&R and an awesome gig in Orlando on the Disneyworld property! My point? I have decided that way too many people are addicted to their devices and it’s time for some reminder rehab! By the way, this reminds me of the old cliche, “Guns don’t kill…people do”! This isn’t the device’s fault, it is a serious human flaw and the good news is it can be fixed! Why should I care?
if you read between the lines of my story, what I did to overcome being born without arms gave me what I believe, is a somewhat unique insight. Ironically, almost all of this doesn’t involve “me”, it involves society. I was born this way! I am “completely normal”. Apparently, when I was three years old (1963), my Mom, Hilda Law, heard a great question from me…”Why does everyone stare at me?” Imagine the spectrum of answers? “People are rude! People are ignorant! People are insensitive! People are mean! People have no manners!” Frankly, any one of these would have fit. But that wasn’t my Mom’s style. I clearly remember her answer…”Sweetie, people have never seen anyone like you before and they don’t know any better!” By the way, when I go on about another of society’s flaws, “people looking to blame someone for their plight”, this is connected. My Mom literally “absolved” people of their bad manners and impolite behaviour and I learned the same. But there is more.
From the beginning of my memory, I learned to smile at the “mean people” and later in my childhood, even wave with my right foot. In my adult life, I was able to understand what that was…”Mindfulness”. I am pretty sure there is actual science involved but I want to keep this simple, because it “is” simple. I remember another constant saying by Mom and Dad…”PAY ATTENTION!”
So I did. I am very proud of my daily “attention”…to life! There is another connection to a saying…”Living in the moment!” These are sayings, but these are “practices” and they are all “choices” that are available to every, single human being and too many people are making a terrble “choice”…to stare mindlessly at their devices. It is rude, it is narcissistic and I don’t care if that offends you! Oh, and by the way, I have many “devices”, including a smart phone. I text with my toes, use hands-free Bluetooth for calls (duh!), and am even composing this blog using my iPad on the floor typing with my two big toes. I Facebook, Twitter and use LinkedIn. I have a website, email and even take selfies (my leg reach gives great images!) I am not “anti-device”, I am anti “rude”. I am not able to walk and “device” (yes, it is becoming a verb) for obvious reasons, so in essence, I can’t even make the choice to do it…THANK GOD!!!! And because I am paying attention, I witness people exhibiting this addiction every single day.
I travel over 175 days a year, most often by air. I watch people get off the plane and instantaneously get on their device, completely oblivious to to the fact there is actually someone else besides them on planet earth! I can’t even count the number of times I would have run into somebody if “I” wouldn’t have been paying attention and when there is a close call, their expression is usually; “Watch where you’re going!” Seriously? But my favourite is when people of all ages are gathered at a table in a restaurant and nobody is looking up or at each other because “They Are Staring At Their Device!” Really?
Darlene and I recently walked into the lobby of the St. James Club in Antigua where we have a villa we visit once a year and have been since 2001 and over half the people sitting on couches and chairs were on their device. Say What? YOU ARE ON VACATION! Even more important, when we get to our resort, we spend most of the first day walking around the property getting and giving hugs and kisses to the staff, who have become so much more than “employees”. They are like family. In fact, let me be narcissistic for a moment. A couple of years ago, one of the senior managers saw us walk up for our check-in, gave us both a hug and a kiss, then said; ” The Laws are here. The Sunshine just got brighter with your presence!” Wow! What a lovely thing to say. Do I even have to offer the image of Darlene and I walking up, necks bent, staring at our phones? Sound preachy? Don’t care!
By the way, I am a very busy guy, and Darlene is even busier. At any given time, we have over 100 clients in our files, and what I would call, over 25 “active” engagements, or speaking gigs in the coming couple of months. Darlene excels at customer service and handles most of the contract work, but every client has my mobile number so I can be reached 24/7. When I am in travel mode, especially work mode, I am very aware of my device. Again, ironically, I can’t “wear” it on my belt so can’t feel it vibrate. But if it rings, I know it. If I am alone, I will look at it and decide if I am in a position to answer it. If I am with someone, I don’t even look at it. I am relevant but I am not that important? Are you? If I need to respond either to a client or Darlene, I find a quiet corner away from anyone who might be disturbed and make my call or send my text. How difficult is this? If I am driving (remember, I drive myself) I have different hands-free devices, whether my earpiece, or my Garmin, or the Bluetooth in my own vehicle and I “NEVER” answer while I am in motion…EVER! That isn’t even about manners, it’s about Safety. I have not had a car accident since 1978…AND I HAVE NO ARMS!!
In fact, when Darlene and I were on Kaaui at the beginning of the year, we were driving down a highway at 50 miles per hour when my attention was drawn to the oncoming lane. A Jeep full of tourists going the opposite direction hit their brakes to turn right off the road into a food stand. No signal, no notice and a subcompact car following them looked like it was going to rear end the Jeep. Amazingly, it stopped maybe an inch from the Jeep but a huge pickup truck behind the tiny car couldn’t stop. The inevitable seemed to taking place right before my eyes, and in a split second, this truck was in our lane coming right at us! I hammered on the brakes but I was sure we were about to be hit head on! Obviously, we didn’t or I would not be writing this blog but as we came to sudden halt and Darlene screamed, the truck suddenly slid to his left (our right)and with tires screeching and then dust flying, he saw an entrance to a concrete plant and miraculously made the turn…five feet in front of us! As he went by, I saw a logo on the door, didn’t read what it was but the driver was obviously working and I am assuming had safety training, which in my opinion, saved all our lives that day. It was sorta funny. Darlene’s immediate reaction as I stepped on the gas to not get hit from behind was to use some very colorful language aimed at the truck driver until I explained what actually happened. Then she got tears in her eyes and looked at me and said, “Thank God you were….Paying Attention!”
This past Sunday night, Darlene and I were having dinner in a very nice Mexican restaurant in Orlando. As we are looking around, 75% of the customers were on their devices and nobody was sitting alone. I looked at Darlene and said (ready)…”I guess none of them have something as beautiful to look at as you!” Do you understand what you may be missing? Is what’s on your device life and death? Do you even realize what bad manners it is? Do you understand what the screen and its electronics are doing to your brain? Our youth are sleeping with their devices, sorry, make that “Not Sleeping”, with their device under their pillows. Unbelievable. What could possible be going on at 3:00 in the morning? Simple answer…addiction! Would we let our kids shoot heroin at the dinner table? Hey, did you just say…”Now you’re just being stupid!”? This behaviour is very serious and although the comparison is extreme, it does make a point, doesn’t it? Oh and by the way, we are telling our kids to get off their device while we are looking down at ours. What behaviour are you exhibiting? And most important, what is all this doing to us?
We have enough mental health issues in our world caused by stress, multi-tasking and over-activity. Our entire population needs to slow down, breath, focus and live in the moment. I am challenging you to limit your device use to 10% of what your doing now. I use my device and according to my phone logs, about twenty minutes a day, half of that on weekends and in Antigua, 5 minutes every day. It’s a beautiful island with beautiful people. I wonder if the other folks at the resort noticed? This blog sounds pretty critical and judgmental and if that is how you perceive it, fine. The thing is, I became a speaker because I want the world to be a better place with less hostility and more personal engagement with each other, sort of like the “Make Love,Not War” expression. We are human beings, not robots and if we all committed to making the life of another human being just that much better, the “good dominoes” will fall. Better People, Better Communities, Better World! Is that too much to ask? Please, please, please…Start Paying Attention!