Get selfish: time to think is slipping away

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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.

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