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Get selfish: time to think is slipping away

I spent last weekend at the Cleveland Boat Show and watched it swell with visitors. For the first time in 65 years, the show was cut from 10 days to a 5-day event, but the 10-day attendance figures still poured in.

“The crowds were unbelievable,” said John Clemons of Clemons Boats in Sandusky, Ohio), “it was like the 1980s.”

A good friend, Jim Armington of Buckeye Sports Center in Peninsula, Ohio) told me he had to escape from the display for a time to get a few minutes of silence to think. “It’s been a while since I had to do that at any show,” he said.

On the flight back to Florida, Armington’s comment rang in my head. There’s a real parallel, I realized, between manning the crowded show exhibit and our everyday business lives these days. The time we have by ourselves to just think has been slipping away from us.

Clearly, we have become victims of all those incredible, time-saving, connection devices that have expanded our reach, but also made us reachable 24-7. Couple that with the likelihood there is less staff these days to operate our dealerships and we, especially as owners or managers, have lost the opportunity to be silent and just think.

As incredible as it sounds, surveys indicate we now average more than nine hours every day in front of a tube, be it a computer, TV or smartphone. The skyrocketing use of mobile devices is pushing it even higher. The average teen now sends 75 text messages a day (my grandson’s thumbs can text faster than I can talk). Life has simply become overcrowded with cellphone calls, streaming videos, scrolling headlines, tweets, blinking embedded ads and more, just like Armington’s crowded exhibit at the boat show.

It appears we are now accepting that being caught in the “rat race” has simply become the way of making today’s living. It “goes with the territory,” we’ve probably said more than once. But it shouldn’t.

The truth is we should become a little selfish. We should purposely step away from our computer and smartphone, our office, our boss, our shop, our employees. Specifically, we need to schedule a definite time to just think. Nobody with us. No conversation. No interruption. No distractions. No electronic umbilical cords. Perhaps it’s sitting alone on a boat out in the marina. Or a cup alone at Starbucks. Anywhere we can be really disconnected, if even for a short time.

Moreover, it doesn’t matter if you’re an owner, manager, salesperson or mechanic. Being selfish, even briefly during a hectic time, can make it possible for us to bring back something of value — a refocus, an energy or even a valuable new idea. When we schedule some selfish time to just think, everyone around us can benefit.

Isn’t it ironic that the very devices that have expanded our knowledge, increased the speed of our lives and helped our businesses are also things from which we must now intentionally escape? I’ll guess some great philosophers somewhere have already pointed out that we are the only animals on earth that can think and reason. Of course, that assumes we make the time to do it — a good resolution for the new year.


4 comments on “Get selfish: time to think is slipping away

  1. Tom Delotto

    Norm – cannot agree more. I am blessed with a nice little shop space in my basement that I have built over the years which provides me a peaceful zone. I make it a point to head down there as often as I can in the evenings, turn on my music, leave the “mobile device” upstairs and truly enjoy working on my projects or “playing with my toys” as my lovely wife likes to say.
    When my sons and I fish on my boat the rule is phones off and enjoy nature and fish. It is sometimes disturbing – to me anyway – at how all the younger Gen X, Y or whoever cannot put the phone down.
    For me at this point in my life its much easier to ignore the phone but I am amazed at how addicted so many folks are to staring at that little leash we all carry.

  2. Bill

    Norm, I think its ironic that one of your “getaway” suggestions is Starbucks — where it sometimes seems that 3 out of 4 are there for the WiFi hotspot, and aren’t drinking any coffee !

  3. Ryan G

    Well written! Some people think I’m crazy because I enjoy mowing the grass – It’s my alone time!

  4. Mark Mowl

    For a few years I had a commute that kept me on the highway for three hours a day. I hated the time it took from my day, but unless I was waiting for a specific call, I turned everything off during the ride home. It is amazing how a little time un-plugged organizng your thoughts can do wonders.

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