Thursday, February 9, 2012

Be Here Now

I went to dinner at a place called The Yard House on a busy Saturday night. I had never seen a restaurant this big, and it was packed with a huge sports bar, giant televisions, an outdoor patio, and maybe 500 or 10,000 tables on the inside.

The evening was organized chaos—poetry in motion. And most impressive of all: the waiters were incredibly helpful. I believed they were there just for me, despite all the activity and commotion. When the waiter was helping me with a Jetsons-sized menu, I felt like the only patron in the place. I do believe the food tasted better than it might have actually been because the wait staff was so incredibly helpful. They helped me handpick my order.

I was willing to forgive some of the little things that weren’t quite right because the staff was there for me. The service was a team approach. No matter which team player was up at bat, I was undoubtedly the most important customer there. At least this is how I felt.

I felt as if I was being paid attention to at that restaurant because, well, because I was. This goes to a larger point. Despite everything that was going on at the restaurant, despite all the other people my waiter had to help, my waiter focused on me in the moment. And it made all the difference.

In business, and in life, if you can’t give 100 percent to the mission at hand, then you might as well not be giving anything at all.

Now some of you might be thinking, “Hold on a second. I can multi-task. Maybe you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, but I can.”

Sure. You can do it.

Until you can’t.

Perhaps you have always been able to do three thousand things at once. But sooner or later, doing more than one thing at a time will come back to bite you in the donkey, shall we say.

Focusing, being present in the moment, is a skill. And like any other skill, it needs to be honed. The better you get at it, the more rewards you will reap. Let’s take a look at an example of someone who wasn’t in the moment.

Chase Sampson, a college junior from Nashville, flew into New York at three in the morning and didn’t sleep a wink between then and the time he had to sit in the hot seat for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. He told the gracious Meredith Viera he pretty much had coffee flowing through his veins. What with his traveling, his studies, the pressure of being on national television, there was a lot to think about.

After the casual banter concluded, the first question posed to Chase was: Homeowners buy surge protectors to protect their possessions from unexpected surges of what? His choices were:
A) Electric Current 
B) Water Flow 
C) Air Pressure 
D)  Buyer’s Remorse.

For his answer—Water Flow—Chase received exactly zero dollars and 5,276,153 hits on Youtube. Now, if he had taken a moment to set everything else aside and just think about the question, he probably would have chosen the correct answer. Unless he’s Amish, and then it would be understandable. But he’s not Amish. He owned surge protectors. He wasn’t in the moment. He dropped the ball. You dropped the ball, Chase!  

Let’s look at a more intense example of someone who was in the moment. Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette faced one of the greatest challenges an athlete could face while competing in a past Winter Olympics. Hours before she was take to the ice, her mother died of a massive heart attack. Her mother was one of her greatest supporters, confidants, allies, and coaches. Their time at the Olympics was a shared experience.

Rather, than give into her grief, Joannie Rochette continued to compete even though she was devastated. Literally, hours after her mother’s passing, she got back on the ice in competition and skated flawlessly. She could not have done this had she though of her enormous sadness, the pressures of the competition, the millions of onlookers thinking about how sad she must have been.  Joannie focused on the present—on skating, on her technique, on her choreography—and it eventually landed her the bronze medal. That she was able to compete, let alone earn a medal, is beyond incredible.

Maybe you don’t have the same pressures as an Olympic athlete competing on the world stage a short time after her mother passes away, but you have got your own personal circus in town. We all do. How we deal with it is what sets us apart from the rest. If we crumble, we will not succeed. If we take whatever challenge faces us on head on, we cannot be stopped.

But you cannot face a challenge head on if you are too busy worrying about the next challenge, the challenge on the left and the right, and what you could have or should have done two challenges ago. In order to emerge victorious, you have to be able concentrate on a single goal at the time you are in the process of attaining it. Yes, you can and will focus on the other goals and challenges when the time is right; when you do, you will focus on those additional challenges as if they are the only ones who exist. No matter how many challenges you face, the only way to overcome them is one challenge at a time!

That is why, however large or small the challenge you face is, it does not matter so long as you give it your complete attention and focus. It didn’t matter to the Yard House waiters how many people were ordering food—they deal with one order at a time—and why Joannie Rochette was able to perform despite her deep personal loss:
she put one skate in front of the other.

Today’s Challenge:  Practice being in the present.  Concentrate on what you are doing here and now.

Related Posts:
Are You a Scarcicist?
Five Eyes on the Fence
A Crazy Guy Taught me to be a Better Listener

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