Be Present

If you’re afraid I’m about to get all “Mindful” on you — no worries. If you want to dive into that topic, talk to my brother. No, I’m about get all grandpa on you.

Warning: Rant alert.

I’ve noticed something.

I noticed it again today at the playground, with my five year-old: a lot of parents are not looking at their kids, they’re looking down. Not at their feet — at their phones.

Yeah yeah, I hear you: modern age — blah blah. But this has been bothering me, not just as a parent, but at work too. Paying attention has become a precious resource. As a parent you should know — your kids know that you’re not paying attention, this is the whole reason they’re looking at you. Did daddy see what I just did? It’s not all that much to ask.

You don’t have to congratulate your kid on his achievement of sliding a slide, or swinging a swing. You don’t have to say “good job!” You just have to see. You just have to notice.

Now generally I’m quite cautious linking parenting to management, or any work related stuff. People at work are not kids — generally. People you manage are not your children — thank god. However, people at work are… well.. people. Just like children. So — similar needs.

People require attention. Attention requires presence.

So, here’s my question: why is half or more of the people on meetings I attend in various contexts, looking at their laptops, or phones? Are they paying attention? If I’m standing in front of a room, trying to do my best presenting some of my objectively awesome ideas and I look at the audience, and I see lit-up apples, facing me, and people looking down — I’m… discouraged to say the least. And I highly, highly doubt this is difference for other people.

Yeah yeah, some people will claim they are paying attention. But I’m ready to call bullshit on that. Perhaps I’m not millennial enough to possess the true skill of multi-tasking. Perhaps I’m still from the single-core age. But I doubt it. If you’re not looking at me — or my general direction — you’re not present.

I suspect people do this because they think they need to be multi-tasking, or perhaps this is a more efficient way of doing their work. Meetings they attend generally are boring, and this is a good way to compensate for that, and “get some real work done.”

IMO: wrong solution. Don’t join the meeting. Fix the meeting. Kill the meeting. Don’t multi-task a meeting. It’s offensive.

If you’re not present — you don’t care. And that’s fine. I can’t make you care. You don’t have to care.

Just please, please, please, don’t care elsewhere.