Making Way Through the Digital Forest (and Seeing it for the Trees)

May 10, 2010 in News & Events | Comments (0)


This is a post originally penned for Intel’s Inside Scoop blog.


It’s one of those things of which we never seem to have enough and yet at the same time the world in which we live has accelerated so that we’re expected to do more, faster, better.

It’s stressful.

When it comes to technology human beings have a tendency to adapt pretty quickly to new norms, and get frustrated when things don’t work. The folks at Intel recently shared with me a recent Harris Interactive poll conducted on their behalf that revealed “66% of computer users said they are at least somewhat stressed when waiting for their computer”, specifically due to the lag time they’re forced to wait while their computers are processing.


It’s like death by paper cut. These teensy tiny slivers of time, which taken alone amount to just enough time for a bio break or to grab a snack, in aggregate steal three full days every year. Three days. That’s a nice weekend in Sonoma. That’s a quick getaway from San Francisco to Mexico. That’s a staycation, saturated with hot baths, great meals and all technology turned off. If one’s computer was faster, and those lag times eliminated, you could actually take those three days and do … well, something other than wait.

This is where I put on my Intel hat with the disclaimer: I am an Intel Insider, and it’s through this relationship Intel recently sponsored the launch activities for Story Navigation in New York. As part of that launch, I spent some time talking with folks about what they’d do with those three days if they were to get them back.

Not a single person said they’d do more work.

Kodak Chief Marketing Officer Jeffrey Hayzlett, deep in the throes of a tour for his book “The Mirror Test” mused that getting the time back wasn’t about doing more, it was about precisely the opposite.

Jeff’s perspective was not unique, and while my study was far from scientific, there was resounding consensus among the dozen or so people with whom I spoke. They’d sleep. They’d go on vacation. Most of all, they’d spend time with the people they love.

As I later sat down to pen the post for Inside Scoop about the launch and hourglass syndrome, I found myself a bit concerned. After all, the premise here is that faster technology means doing more with our computers, right? After some thought, I realized that’s the wrong way to look at it. Instead of being frustrated at waiting, people should take a moment, take a deep breath and think about why they’re rushing.

You see, from where I sit, more often than not (and especially in the world of social media) the biggest gaffes and missteps are taken when people act too quickly, not taking a moment to stop, step back and think first. When you’re waiting for your technology, all you can think about is the waiting. While it may just be 30 seconds here, another 15 seconds there, in those moments most people are so blinders-on-focused to their technological end, they forget the technology is the means to the end, but not the end itself. They forget that in order to be truly sound in the on-line stories you tell and interactions you have, you first have to be sound within yourself.

Now if this rings a bit strange to your ears, bear with me for a minute. What I’m talking about here is something that Eastern philosophy calls mindfulness, and which an increasing array of experts and educators call a critical ingredient for the long-term health of our increasingly digitized lives.

Lest you think I’m going a bit crunchy-granola-hippie on you, I’ll take my point to a slightly more concrete if not somewhat self-promotional point – the role of your personal story in your professional life. As I teach people every day through my consulting work and now through StoryNavigation it’s imperative to step back from your story in order to see it clearly … it’s that whole forest for the trees thing.

In this talk at the 140 Conference in New York during the Intel sponsored launch week, I outline some thoughts about what it means to be mindful in developing your on-line presence and how that plays out in social media.Put simply – the speed with which our world operates is not slowing down. In fact, if anything the pace is accelerating. New technologies from companies like Intel will enhance and augment this speed, and so the question and challenge I pose to you is this – what will you do with that time? How will you consider your digital path? Most of all, how might you take advantage of the extra space to look more deeply at your on-line world and how you might balance that with the things that are truly important?


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