I apologize for the delay with this installment of “Moving From Being Driven by the Urgent to Moving with the Important”  This installment is about creating boundaries and I had it all created….proofread….and was searching for just the right images when a video came, ironically, across my Facebook feed.  Since it has had over 15 MILLION views, some of you may have already seen this.  I had not and Prince EA says what I want us to look at better than I can.

So please take the next 3 minutes and 28 seconds to listen to him, before reading further.


The images which came to my mind as I reflected on the words of Prince EA were those of walking to a client’s office in an upscale neighborhood of Chicago early in the morning.  The client was near where I as living at the time and on my way I passed a private English school.  Every morning I would see these cute little munchkins, no more than 6 or 7 years old, in their crisp school uniforms, their hair in tight braids, backpacks in tow.  It always made me smile….for a half a block or so…then time and again I would notice the same thing.  It was 7 o’ clock in the morning and all these little girls and boys wanted was to play with their moms or dads…tell them how excited they were about school….or the squirrel that they just past…the little guys would pull on their parent’s hand and…..get ignored.  Mommy or Daddy was glued to their iPhone, texting/talking/checking email..    Seemingly not even noticing the smiling face looking up at them.  Trying so hard to get their attention.

A couple of times I saw the child stop at the entrance to the school, while mommy kept on walking, totally unaware she had shot passed her destination and lost her child.

The pull of the screen is strong in us.

Ever been at a concert or sporting event or movie and look around and notice how many people paid good money to be there and spent much of their time looking at, or interacting with their phones?  Dr.Chris and I were lucky enough to obtain 2nd row seats directly behind the dugout for that rarest of events….A CHICAGO CUBS PLAYOFF GAME (ok, for those of you who do not follow professional baseball, the last time the Cubs were in the World Series was “the year the US dropped the bomb on Japan” to quote an old (but true) song. BUT I digress).

Anyway, suffice it to say that these tickets were rare and the event special.  It amazed me how  many people around me were spending this possibly  once in a lifetime event, watching not the game, but their phones.  Amazing to me.

One of my friends sent me a modern definition of the word “life” some time ago.  It said simply, “Life is what is happening around you, while you are looking at your iPhone.”

By now you may be asking, “Brian, even if I agree with everything you have said, what on earth does any of this have to do with being an Aware Leader.  To that a I answer….


You see, it’s hard to be aware, if you are never fully here.  If you have no boundaries how can you lead?  It is all about setting boundaries for yourself and how you are present with people and situations.

Remember the little fact that Prince EA shared with us in the video?  The one about “the average human’s attention span being 1 second LESS than a goldfish?”  Well guess what, that not only made a nice rhythm and rhyme for the song, it is true.  Or at least based on a study by Microsoft reported on by Time magazine on May 14, 2015.  It stated, “The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the effects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.”  


News you can use

Researchers in Canada surveyed 2000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs).  Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.

Heavy multi-screeners find it difficult to filter out irrelevant stimuli – they’re more easily distracted by multiple streams of media’ the report read. 

Microsoft theorized that the changes were a result of the brain’s ability to adapt and change itself over time and a weaker attention span may be a side effect of evolving to a mobile Internet.”  

In short, as we at Q4 say all the time, “We are what we Practice.”

So, what are YOU practicing?  Are your practices shortening your attention span?  Are your practices enhancing your relationships?  Are you practicing really listening and being present?

Or are you practicing “the accepted form of digital insanity”?


Daily Practices

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your day-to-day practices.

  • How often are you sitting with someone, and looking at a screen (smartphone, computer, TV)?
  • How often are you looking at more than one screen at a time, with different subjects? (A Video Call, and your smartphone? Or a Conference Call and Email?)
  • How often do you turn off (not put on silent, but actually power off) your smartphone?
  • Do you check your email before taking your morning shower?
  • How often do you go out to dinner with family or friends and find yourself checking email on your phone?

Use these questions to see how often you are in the Practice of being with something, but not really being with it.   Remember, no matter what you think, you cannot multi-task.  It doesn’t work.  You cannot be wholly with someone, while doing something else.  You must be in the Practice of creating boundaries for your digital use.

So, the next time you walk into a meeting, try a new practice.  Power off your smartphone.  Truly be with the people sitting around the table.  See if it feels different, more connected.  See if you become a better listener.  Then, look for other opportunities to be truly focused on one thing at a time.  See if that makes you more productive.  See if it makes you a more Aware and Effective Leader.

To go fast, you must first slow down.

My next installment will be on Digital Sabbaths.  Allowing yourself to be disconnected for a while and the benefits you will gain.