Sunday, November 13, 2011

Texting While Driving–A Distraction Story

A while ago a friend of mine told me a story he heard during a presentation. It was about how a young girl was texting and driving and ended up getting into a car accident that killed a family and community friend. She felt ashamed, sorrow and great guilt for what she had done. The family of the man who was killed took compassion on this young girl and asked the judge to be lenient. The judge was and gave the young woman a light sentence as per the victim’s family’s plea. It was an accident.

However, this young girl, unchanged from the original experience, once again was texting and driving and once again got into an accident that killed another individual … almost identical to the first situation. This time the consequences were not so forgiving. The judge was not lenient and the sentencing was for the full amount of time required for the crime.

When the story was told it was more of an instruction to the younger members of the audience about the perils of texting and driving. But something has been nagging at me since I heard the story and I’m not sure the dangers of texting and driving are the only lessons we should learn from this tale. As I have driven these past months another thought kept coming into my mind.

I think the problem isn’t with texting and driving, but distraction while doing something important. All too often we lose site of events that are common place in our lives. Driving, for instance, is about going from one location to another. usually the mode of transportation is a large 2000+ pound vehicle that moves at killer speeds even when slow. Getting behind the wheel of such a machine deserves respect and reverence. But we don’t care about that. It’s a device that is a part of our life. It isn’t something worth respecting and it certainly isn’t something of importance we need to mind.

So the mass of people get behind the wheel and move from point a to point b without thinking that today is the day I could hit something or someone, ignite into a ball of flame, have shards of glass tear through our delicate skin, get mangled by pieces of metal, or a dozen other damaging events that could occur. We drive moving from one lane into another without looking in our rear view mirrors; speed through red lights without stopping; and drive faster than posted speed limits because point b is so important to get to. We forget (or worse we don’t forget) that we are in a machine that deserves respect for the pure awe of it’s existence. We forget the importance of how dangerous this blessing of modern technology truly is.

So we distract ourselves. We talk on the phone; We text people what we are thinking; We prepare for our arrivals at point b. And in doing so we abandon the importance of presence. We take our eyes off the road ahead and lose sight of where we are going. And in that instant the world changes without our knowledge and we succumb to the consequences of that change. A car swerves into our lane; Our vehicle turns too sharply one direction; A person walks out in front of us.

I can’t help but think about this distraction in another light. What important directions in your life were you headed that have been altered? Was it because the change was required or did the change occur because you got distracted?

We all have a direction in life that is an “ethereal point b.” Some believe it is a heavenly eternity others the joining of energy to the cosmos. The question which needs to be answered then is not “What is the meaning of life?” but rather “How well am I progressing towards my ‘ethereal point b’?” If your goal is to be a good person and you live in a world of frustration then what needs to be accomplished to remove the frustration? If you are trying to return to a sacred state and you live in a revolving life of profane then what can you do to change? If you are searching for meaningful relationships with people and you are not a meaningful individual how can you start living a life of worth?

Our “ethereal point b” is important, and we need to stop getting distracted from that path. Put down the cell phones, televisions and other distractions. Pay attention to the road ahead of you. At times it may be long and monotonous. Other times it may be frustrating. It is in times of great struggle that it is most important to stay focused. Diligence during these times will always yield positive results and get you to your destination safely. Most importantly as you travel towards your “ethereal point b” you will appreciate the actual journey itself for what it was: an opportunity for progress.

It may seem like a stretch to leap to life’s progression from texting while driving, but I assure you it is not that far off. The power of the automobile and the power of your potential are very similar. Both can take you to places you’ve never imagined. Both need direction to get to point b. And both are easily distracted by the individual operators. Remember: It wasn’t the texting while driving that was the error, but the being distracted while doing something important. Your life is important. Your potential is important. Your “ethereal point b” is important. The distractions are there, but it is you who makes the choice to pay attention to them. Choose wisely, because the consequences may never be lenient.

Happy Journeys and Travel Safely!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Being Memorable–Creating Events that Stick

It has been mentioned to me repeatedly that I have a unique view on the world at large. I am frequently asked by clients, friends and the occasional strangers advice because I “think-outside-the-box”. Besides the fact that I think the box doesn’t exist (that’s for another post) I truly do believe the reason why I get some of this attention is due to an underlying principle I to which I subscribe: Leave people better than when you met them. How does this equate to being memorable? Let me explain.

Our past is dictated by emotions

Think about your memories. What comes to mind? Are you remembering the mundane activities of life (i.e. getting a drink from 7-11, reading the morning paper, sitting in a meeting) or do you remember the feelings of the activities (i.e. the refreshing feeling of the drink after a workout, reading about a momentous event that changed your world, getting praise for a job well done in front of your peers)?

The majority of what we “recall” in our past is controlled by the emotional contexts we attach to those memories. Sure we recall facts and information so we can traverse our daily activities, but when we think about “Memorable Events” the emotional link is incredibly stronger than the factual link. It’s one of the reasons why people say purchases are “emotional”. It is because when you purchase something one of three emotions can occur: excitement, depression or indifference. And yes … indifference is an emotion.

The two controllable regions of memories

When looking at the emotional context of our past two controllable regions appear. The first is the ability for gratitude and second is the ability for forgiveness. Each one tackles a different area of the emotional cortex that makes up our memories.

Gratitude allows us to ruminate on those activities and events that excite us. When you think about a past event that makes you smile or brings you joy often a feeling of gratefulness for being able to participate in that event occurs as well. This feeling may be large or small. Usually it shows itself by some comment like “That was fun” or “We should do that again”. It is this grateful feeling that allows us to not only think about the past, but ruminate the emotions we had with the event.

Forgiveness allows us to change traumatic events into forgotten memories or, if extremely successful, into Gratitude. When forgiveness occurs between two or more parties then the emotional depression created by the event can begin to dissipate. Ultimately the emotional context of the forgiveness event can surpass the past tragedy. This is where powerful customer service can really shine (but again … another post topic).

When we start to understand these two controllable areas we can start to understand how memorable events can occur.

Anchoring the common into the emotional

When I think about events to put on for a client (either promotional, training or just gathering) I try to look for those emotional moments that can anchor the event into the memory of those attending. The goal is to create an event where the participating parties can ruminate afterwards about the time they had and feel grateful for participating. And if that fails then to jump on the forgiveness train and turn those feelings around so they bind that emotion to the client.

Think about your past memories and the times where you had great joy. Remember the feeling you had during those times. Are you the only person who can have those feelings? If you’re not then that might be a great event to try to host for your business. Here are some random ideas to try:

  • Opening day movie premier
  • Camping, Fishing, Hunting parties
  • Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over open fire pits
  • Dinner and Dancing date night
  • Occasional drop-in to say hello and see how things are going
  • Lunch (and it doesn’t matter where)

The key to being memorable is to provide a memory that is emotionally joyful. The problem I find with many businesses is that they anchor the clients to the wrong thing. Money is important, but it is not emotional. The spending of money is. Ergo “everything 50% off” doesn’t mean as much as you would think to someone not in your store. The 50% off is not emotional, but if you had someone come into your store and they got a surprise 10% off just for being there now you have tied into the emotional spending with a surprise. That is an event people will talk about and come back for more.

Remember my underlying principle: Leave people better than when you met them. Think about that for your next event. Then create the event around the memory. When doing that you start creating clients for life instead of clients for the moment.

Many happy successes on your next memorable events. And of course if you ever need any help, I’m just a lunch time meeting away.

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