You don’t seem to be getting anywhere. You only slept 5 hours last night, and now you are tired. You have to write another chapter of your paper or another blog post, but the ideas just aren’t coming and the research seems too hard.
Yet, you want your next article to be great. You hold yourself to a high standard, so you won’t just write some crap – just to be done with it.
You realize that nothing great can ever be accomplished in one go, that you need to take steps, learn and research individual pieces, and get on top of new concepts to create something of value. But – everything seems to be so high up in the clouds, out of reach. Will it even be worth the effort?
Well, now you have time. So you might as well start somewhere and do something else but procrastinating. Read a little article that gets you further. Start writing something. Shoot a question from the hip and outline the answer, even if you don’t know much about the topic yet. Having something concrete in front of you will point you in the right direction.
The waiter in my favorite coffee shop just brought me this nice Cappuccino – with two Chinese characters written on it. She is learning Chinese and – knowing that I know some – she wanted to practice. She certainly did get my attention.
I was immediately pulled out of my train of thought – mentally, I had been mulling over yesterday – and admired my Cappuccino. I erased the characters by stirring them with a spoon and started savoring it. It tasted a lot richer than usual. It certainly tasted a lot better than yesterday’s coffee. For a moment, I wondered whether they had changed the coffee mixture, but then it dawned on me: This coffee wasn’t any different from the one yesterday. It wasn’t any different from the many I had had in this café before. I was different today: This coffee had gotten my full attention.
Reflecting on it for a moment, I couldn’t even recreate the taste of yesterday’s coffee. I could not remember what it tasted like. It must have tasted like most of the “Cappus.” So of course, it couldn’t have been a match for today’s Cappuccino.
What can this little experience teach us? Think about it for a moment… If you don’t pay attention to the Cappuccino you are drinking now, what are you losing out on?
Well, you might be depriving yourself of a wonderful experience. It becomes part of a dull past: tomorrow it will have become one of the thousands of coffees you have had before.
Now substitute something else for the Cappuccino. Take the person in front of you. Are you working with your smartphone, instead of really paying attention to what the person is saying? What did he/she just say? If you want “here, right now” to become a memorable experience, you have to be right here. Not on Twitter, and not in the past I was.
You might say, “He is also working is phone.” And that might well be what he is doing. It has become so common to escape to somewhere in Cyberspace rather than remain where our physical body is located. Unfortunately, then the consequence is likely going to be that both of you will remember the current encounter as one of the many dull ones you have had before. In all likelihood, in a few weeks you will not remember the encounter at all. No rich, memorable experience there – and – not much fun either. You might have had some fun by tweeting with your online friends. But if that is what you wanted to do, why not stay at home, save yourself the expensive dinner, and focus on tweeting instead?
My suggestion is different: Stay where you are now, and look for something unusual. Enjoy this moment “right here, right now.”
Do you remember what the Chinese characters on the Cappucino meant?
Oh, I haven’t told you yet. 平安 (ping an) means safe and sound, or at peace.
As Randy Pausch used to ask, “Have you figured out the head fake?” I wasn’t lecturing you; I was lecturing myself.