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In his 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey made an important distinction about our culture. After studying over 200 years of success literature dating back to 1776, he determined that around 1920 a significant shift occurred in the United States. Covey observed that we went from a culture founded on a character ethic, to one based on a personality ethic.
 

Covey defined the character ethic as one focused on “integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty and the Golden Rule.” He then noted that the personality ethic was more about “personality, public image, attitudes, behaviors, skills and techniques that lubricate and manipulate the process of human interaction.”
 

It is easy to see the effect this shift had on society when we consider the rise to prominence of our movie stars, athletes and political leaders. These big personalities now dominate our culture. We all strive to be famous, act like they do, and make our mark on the world.
 
 

Our culture has continued to evolve . . . or perhaps devolve . . . since Covey made this distinction 30 years ago.
 

In 2004, I believe another dramatic shift occurred that has set us further adrift in America. We have become untethered from the character ethic and knowing who we are at our core and are perhaps one step closer to losing our way.
 

This latest shift ushered in a new era – the persona ethic, a culture based mainly on an image we try to portray and maintain on our social media sites as well as in real life. Sadly, we are no longer grounded in ourselves. Instead we strive to live our lives based on how we want to be perceived by others.
 

This new era was likely triggered by two key events – the start of Facebook in 2004, and the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. With those two inventions, selfie madness was born and being self-absorbed became an art form. Suddenly, life became about living from the outside in, rather than the inside out. We became more concerned about how the world perceives and judges us, than about who we are or want to be.
 

This is most evident in the meteoric rise of reality TV, YouTube stars, Instagram likes, our desire to go viral, our addiction to Facebook and our never-ending primping and posing for the next selfie.
 

It used to be that cameras always faced outward, taking a picture of the world or something we appreciated “out there.” Now all the cameras face inward, the world relegated to little more than a backdrop, with the camera lens centered upon us as we star of our own movie.
 

It is very hard to stop the advance of technology . . . or evolution . . . so there is little sense in trying or fighting against the current. But here is what I would advise – be ever more conscious and vigilant about your use of, and interaction with, technology. Technology is an amazing thing, and is very likely to be the thing that saves our species from extinction. Yet, I also believe it is the very thing that will ultimately steal from us the essence that makes us human. The more conscious we are about that, the more likely we are to maintain our humanness.
 

“Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.”

– Henry David Thoreau
 

We will never see or experience the true beauty of the world around us by looking down at our smartphone or plugging our head with earbuds. That only leads to isolation, the very thing everyone is trying to escape as they seek a “like” on their chosen social media platform.
 

We are all starved for connection and intimacy, and rather than picking our heads up, making eye contact and saying hello, we go on an endless search for recognition and validation on the Internet. And regardless of how many “likes” we garner, they will never fill that hole in our soul. The chase will only leave us feeling hollow and wanting more, hungry to take another hit on the “like” crack pipe.
 

So here is a truly radical idea about how to obtain what we all truly seek.
 

Try having a conversation. You know, actually stop and talk to someone. As in face to face with words coming out of your mouth. I have read that vocalization is the new, hottest technology. In fact, scientists aren’t yet sure how our voice is actually produced. They say it is a very complicated process involving no less than 25 major parts of our body. Some are even calling it a miracle. 🙂
 

Why not give it a try and see what happens.
 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

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A few months ago I saw a video someone posted on Facebook. It showed a woman having an absolute meltdown because her iPhone wasn’t working properly. Perhaps you experienced something similar as I heard many customers lost information with Apple’s latest system update.

 

The woman in the video was ranting and raving as if the world was coming to an end. She was visibly upset and extremely angry, to say the least.

 
first world problem5

Unfortunately, videos like this one often become a source of comedy and amusement in the Internet world. How could anyone actually act that way over such a silly thing? But let’s be honest, we have all probably had an experience like this, especially when it comes to our technology.

 

Then I looked at the comments for this video, as I often find the comments as insightful and entertaining, if not more so, than the video itself.

 

A page or two into the comments, past all those that made fun of her or commiserated with her, was one that stopped me in my tracks. The comment was three short and simple words —

 

“First World Problem”

 

Whoa. That put life in perspective pretty fast.

 

If I took a moment to consider my life, I would have to admit that well over 99% of my supposed problems are first world problems.

 

I have my health. I have a roof over my head. I never go to bed hungry. Come on, do I really have problems?

 

The truth is, if malfunctioning technology, rush hour traffic, the grocery store being temporarily out of stock of my favorite brand, car problems or any other similar challenges are the kinds of things I think are “problems”, then I shouldn’t be annoyed . . . I should be grateful.

 

I can’t think of a better time than Thanksgiving to feel grateful for all of my first world problems.

 

Next week when we Americans sit down at our Thanksgiving tables with friends and family, why not take a moment to be thankful for all our first world problems. May they be all we ever have to worry about.

 

Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”

– Alphonse Karr

 

Perspective is everything. I totally understand that even if our problems are first world problems, they still appear as problems in our lives that need to be handled. They can be just as frustrating and worrisome as other bigger problems.

 

But perhaps at least once a year, those of us enjoying the luxuries afforded to us in the first world should stop long enough to see the incredibly beautiful rose growing among our first world problem thorns.

 

If you want a good chuckle, take a look at the video below. I can’t think of a better person to highlight this concept, and poke fun of some of the things we think are problems, than Weird Al Yankovic.

 

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Last week I read a news article about this video. It is a short, 90 second, impassioned plea from a father asking a large corporation for a simple favor. The video plea went viral and received over 1.5 million views in just one day.

 

 

In a USA Today article about the father’s (John Berlin) plea, Berlin said, “I touched the hearts of a lot of people. I wasn’t trying to do that, but I did … I just wanted to see a one-minute video.”

 

The one minute video he is referring to are those magnificent “Look Back” videos Facebook is creating based on a user’s posts over the past 10 years. If you are on Facebook and haven’t done yours yet, I highly recommend it. Berlin wanted to see what the video would look like for his son who passed away in 2012. As often happens when one is led by their heart, Mr. Berlin received his miracle and Facebook agreed to overlook its current policies and create a “Look Back” video from his son’s postings.

 

Then I thought about the amazing work Maggie Doyne is doing in Nepal. You can see her impact here – http://www.blinknow.org. I remember way back to when she was just starting her non-profit organization in 2006, when it was little more than a pang in her heart. Overwhelmed by the thousands of orphans she saw in Nepal due to a 10 year civil war, she said something to the effect, “I don’t know if I can help them all. I just want to help that one right there.” She was referring to a young 6 year-old girl named Hema who she had connected with on one of her first visits to the country.

 

These two beautiful moments, and the impact they have had on the world, demonstrate the perfect model for changing the world. Simply put . . . stop trying to change the world.

 
ripple3

If you really want to change the world, just focus on your passion. What calls most strongly to your heart? Focus on that. Focus on what you care about most, take one SMALL STEP toward that, and let the ripples that passionate and caring step creates do the rest. It will undoubtedly have an impact and will change the world around you.

 

So, what is it you care about most?

 

I can’t imagine a better time than Valentine’s Day to take your first step and send out that first ripple of love.

 

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

– Pablo Picasso

 

What good is a gift if you keep it beautifully wrapped, yet hidden in the back of a dark closet, never to be opened. A true gift is one that is shared with others, and when it is, it spreads joy to all those fortunate enough to share in it. Don’t keep the passions you hold deep in your heart from the rest of the world. That is your gift. That is what the rest of the world awaits for. And until you share it, neither you, nor the world will be complete.

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Every morning after I wake, I spend time doing some yoga and stretching. I usually do this in silence, but lately I have left my radio on. It is tuned to a sports radio station, which means that the silence is now filled with a constant noise about nothing that is truly important in life.
 

silence

After a few days of this, I have just one thing to say, “Oh my God! Will you shut up already?!!” That constant yammering is annoying. I can’t hear myself think. Or breathe. Or be.
 

As long as that radio is playing in the background, my mind, soul and brain is busy listening to the broadcast and thinking about what is being said. It blocks everything else out . . . which I think is the purpose. For some reason, I probably don’t want to be with my silence or hear what my thoughts are. In a nutshell, I am in avoidance, with a desire to be distracted.
 

As usual, this got me thinking. This is bigger than just listening to the radio in the morning. What else is playing in the background of my life’s soundtrack, distracting me from my more important thoughts and feelings?
 

In thinking further about this, I realize this is exactly what has occurred in most everyone’s life today. We have all become so busy and distracted that we can no longer hear the answers we yearn for that lie just below the surface noise. Smart phones, iPads, texts, emails, phone calls, Facebook messages, YouTube, TV, tweets and more have created a society of distraction leaving us little or no time to hear the answers we seek in life . . . let alone understand the questions we are truly asking.
 

What would happen if you allowed yourself to sit with silence for just one day? What do you think you would hear? What answers would you suddenly realize? What questions would you ask? What clarity would suddenly find you? What peace might you find in your life?
 

I am pretty sure these are all gifts that lie in silence . . . if only we had the courage and discipline to give silence a chance.
 

Yes, the world is rapidly moving toward a culture of distraction and disruption, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in what once was. Some may think this is resisting the inevitable future. I think of it more as holding on to the wisdom of the past.
 
In the silence, I rediscover who I am.

– J. Francis

 
I am continually amazed by the number of people who seek out others to tell them the answers they already know. We know so much more than we give ourselves credit for. I think the real problem is that we just don’t listen closely enough to what we know and feel in our hearts.
 

The challenge is that the answers we seek in life lie in silence, for that is the only place we can hear their whispers. Which leaves just one question —
 
Do you have the courage to unplug and listen?
 

Welcome to the Culture of Distraction. This video beautifully demonstrates how smartphones have intruded into our lives and taken us away from being present.
 

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