Why I really hate my stupid smart phone.

I never wanted a mobile phone. In fact, I held out as long as I could. I finally broke down and bought my first non-land line phone in August of 2005. My wife, Dawn was 38 weeks pregnant with our first child. I wanted to be a responsible parent. That meant being accessible when my wife went into labor, and for all of the craziness that would inevitably follow.

The Garter Snake

My first phone was harmless enough. It was a little blue flip phone that was used for phone calls, and nothing else. Yes, it had a camera. But the images it captured were no better than what I could sketch with a dull crayon.

The Rattler

Two years later the ad agency I worked for issued me a Blackberry Pearl, which meant that I could get my email on my phone. Now I could never escape work. Oh, there was also a rudimentary mapping feature. And buttons. Because back then we thought it was more important to have buttons that screens. Those were quaint times.

The Black Mamba

In 2009 I was issued my first iPhone. It had an amazing camera that could capture hi-def photos and videos. It had apps that did everything but make me breakfast. Since then I have rarely been more than 50 feet from my iPhone.

The technology packed into these smart phones is mind-blowing. They have completely transformed life as we know it. And right now I am focused on how much of my time and focus have been stolen by this little fucker.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand that this technology has put the world at my finger tips. That is precisely the problem. I was born with a curious mind that likes to connect dots. I like information. I like to be entertained. I like to know what my friends are doing. And the smart phone has fed my every desire.

Listen All Y’all It’s A Sabotage!

Like Lorelei, the Sirens, and The Gameshow Network, smart phones create a constant distraction. Distraction is the enemy of productivity, imaginative thinking and quality time. My smart phone has repeatedly broken my focus. It has stolen some of my most valuable time, both at work and in my personal life.

On my drive home on Friday afternoon I was analyzing my week. I hadn’t accomplished as much as I thought I would or could. But why? I kept coming back to the little black distraction.

Focused action is the single most important ingredient of success. Distractions sabotage your success. When your attention gets diverted, you lose momentum. You waste energy. And you experience a frustrating loss of traction towards your goals.

The smart phone is the Everlasting Gobstopper of distractions. On any given day I could grab it to check my emails, texts and Slack messages. Then when I am curious about the weather I can grab the phone again. If I want to check in on my company’s cash flow, I can check that on the phone too. Along with the latest updates on my bank account, flight itinerary, the financial markets, and my favorite sports teams.

I can tune in to a quick podcast, listen to music, or get breaking news anytime, anywhere. Then there are the all-knowing twins of Google and Wikipedia that can answer any question that has ever been asked before. This is all before we even mention social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. The distraction is broad and deep. So I am making changes.

This weekend my phone became a phone again. I haven’t used it to explore any curiosities. I didn’t carry it with me yesterday. I didn’t plug it in last night. I don’t even know exactly where it is right now. As a result I have been productive. I have made great progress on several important goals. I had a great new business idea. And I feel more like myself.

Key Takeaway

When you discover chronic distractions you have to eliminate them, or they will prevent you from accomplishing your mission. Smart phones can cause the same type of sabotage as alcohol, drugs, gambling and other vices, simply by diverting your attention. Smart phone time seems harmless enough until you recognize the opportunity cost of that wasted time. Time is our most precious commodity. You must defend it vigilantly if you want to achieve great things.

 

 

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How Social Media Is Killing the Christmas Card.

For much of my life the Christmas Card Season was a highlight of my year. I loved going to the mailbox to see it stuffed full of cards from friends and family all over the country. The cards typically came with beautiful or funny photographs and a written update offering highlights from the year for each member of the family. It was reassuring to know that the people I hadn’t heard from in the past 12 months were still not dead.

The Christmas Card, and its blue-collar brother, the letter, used to be the only technologies that allowed us to share pictures and status updates with our family, professional network and social circles. The people you exchanged cards with defined your social group. Being on someone elses Christmas card distribution list meant that your relationship was worth at least the cost of a card, an envelope and a stamp.

The Year That Changed Everything

Today things are different. The change began in 2007 with the introduction of two new technologies that were invented to kill the Christmas card: Facebook and the iPhone. Facebook’s expansion beyond the college crowd that year meant that old people, like Gen Xers (and whoever was born before them) could suddenly be reunited, online, with people they hadn’t seen or heard from since high school. This was a crazy time. I was in my 30s, and I was suddenly reunited, online, with people I had completely forgotten even existed. Like my Grandparents.

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Leapfrogging The Polaroid

The newly invented iPhone was actually not a smart phone as initially reported. It was a wicked smart camera. It enabled us to instantly capture and view photographs without the help of a darkroom or a teenage Walgreens associate. Even better, these super cameras enabled us to instantly share pictures with our friends and family via text, email, and Facebook. Later we added Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn to the distribution list.

Dear Letter, I found someone new.

And about that thoughtful letter we used to write, summarizing the recent year. It has been castrated by technology. There is no power left in an end of year letter in an era when social media allows us to know what our elementary school friends had for dinner last night.

I am an active social media follower. So I know about that recent recital, the restaurant you went to last weekend and that tournament that your child’s team won. I already know about the 3rd person you are dating since the divorce. I know that the Christmas tree tipped over when you put that last ornament on it. (Wait, that was me. And who puts another ornament on a tree that has already tipped over?)

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Where do we go? (Oh oh, where we do we go now?)

Does this mean it is time to put the Christmas card to bed? No. Not necessarily. But it does mean that it is time for us to reinvent it. Maybe this means we get back to writing about our personal connection and the memories we share with each individual on our list, instead of mass mailing pics and updates that the recipient already knows.

Opportunity

This also presents a business opportunity to invent a more relevant holiday correspondence. Maybe a Mad Lib type technology that enables us to send personalized digital cards, highlighting the experiences we shared with each recipient. Maybe we use facial recognition software, time stamps and geo tags to effortlessly create cards that show our people when and where we interacted with them throughout the year. And maybe we video chat, or hologram ourselves to sing Christmas carols together on Christmas Eve-Eve.

Since 2007, my family has created a year-in-review video using the best of our digital photography to tell the story of all the things we did, places we went and people we saw. We set it to music, and shared with our friends and family on New Year’s Day, via Vimeo link. Technology makes this so easy that the hardest part is simply deciding which pics to cut out.

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The Grand Consolation

If receiving fewer cards each year saddens you, don’t let it. The traditional Christmas card era was a great one. We will always have those memories. But it is better to be in touch with our friends, family and professional network more often. It’s great to see photos of our siblings, cousins, childhood friends, former clients and coworkers on a regular basis. The real-time nature of social media allows us to celebrate the successes when they happen. And support each other as we go through tough times, instead of hearing about them months later.

Key Takeaway

Just like the newspaper and the horse and buggy, the Christmas card ain’t what it used to be. But these are better, more connected times. We have upgraded to more frequent exchanges of pictures and updates. Even better, technology now allows us to instantly respond to them with real, private conversation through social media apps, or that smart phone that makes it all possible. This is progress. This makes for a better world, year round. Which adds happiness into our lives every day. Not just at the holidays.

Note: The Albrechts are not pulling the plug on our Christmas cards yet. If you are still sending us one, you will still get one in return. 

Do you know that your smart phone is robbing you every day?

Digital devices are amazing. They enable you to find the answer to virtually any question, any time. They help you fill in knowledge gaps like grout. Or mortar. Or caulk.

So we end up filling our free time by answering questions: What is the weather like tomorrow? Tap. What’s the balance in my bank account? Tap. What is Debbie doing? Tap. Is she still in Dallas? Tap. What was Gregory Hines famous for? Tap. What do you call water from the faucet? Tap.

The Dark Side

But these omnipresent digital devices have a significant downside too. They are depleting one of our most valuable resources: our free time. That precious time when we can let our minds wander in empty space. The time we can use to imagine exciting new ideas is disappearing at an alarming rate. In fact, the planet is losing free time faster than we are losing rain forest (acutally I just imagined that fact in my free time).

If we are not careful we will squander our most fertile time to invent, improve and inspire. That time lost can never be recovered. Not even with LoJack.

The world needs more great ideas. So do businesses, communities, schools and households. Great ideas are born in the quiet spaces in between. Those spaces that are now being filled in with screen time.

Key Takeaway

Starting today, take back some of your thinking time. While you are waiting for something to start, or something to end, or someone to show up, keep your smart phone in your pocket or purse. Instead, let your mind go wherever it wants. If you give it enough time it is sure to arrive somewhere exciting and new. Once it does, pull out your phone and tell me all about it.

*If you know someone who could benefit from more free time and less screen time, please consider sharing this post.

The 2 Things You Can’t Google.

Do you remember life before the internet? Back in the day, when you had a question, you just had to guess what the answer was. Or you could spend a lot of time searching for answers with primitive tools. Like books and microfiche.

Now, the detailed answers to our most random questions are literally everywhere. We have harvested all human knowledge and loaded it onto the internet like stacking hay in a barn. Anyone with a smart phone has access to that barn and all the information in it anywhere, anytime. Yes, the barn door is always open.

The Google

Today, if you have a question you simply google it. Where did Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall get married? (Lucas, Ohio). What was the first interstate school district in America? (Norwich, Vermont and Hanover, New Hampshire). What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? (African or European?) Curiosity, and the ability to satisfy it, is the driving force behind Google’s success.

Curious Mind

I recently read Brian Grazer’s book, A Curious Mind. He positions himself as a modern-day Curious George (my words, not his). The Graze (my word, not his) credits his curiosity, not his creativity, as the driving force behind his Hollywood success. His curiosity lead him to interesting stories that turned into blockbuster movies like A Beautiful Mind, Backdraft, 8 Mile and The Da Vinci Code.

Curiosity also led him to push the limits of what hair gel can do. He talks about that in the book too. But you can just look at the picture below to find the answer.410161296_hr

However, one of the most interesting elements of the book was Grazer’s, statement about where Google’s supreme powers stop. He writes:

There are two things you cannot google.

  1. Answers to questions that have not been asked.
  2. New ideas.

Unasked Questions

If you are the first person to ask a question, the best search engine to find the answer is you. Don’t stop because the answer doesn’t exist. These are the most important questions to answer. And once you do, you get to pitch the answer into the haymow of knowledge to benefit the rest of humankind.

New Ideas 

You can’t google a new idea. You have to invent it. You have to do the work, the thinking, the ideation yourself. Only the human brain can come up with valuable new ideas. There will always be a great need and great value for those who can create a new idea, not simply blow the dust off of an old one.

More importantly, there are new ideas that can only be created in your mind. Yes you. The person reading this. Just like no two snowflakes are alike, no two minds are alike either. Your mind is formed by your unique combination of thoughts, perspectives, experiences, readings, learnings, language, friends, physiology and chemistry. Which means that despite the fact that there are 8 billion people on this planet, there are ideas that could only possibly come from you.

As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I am constantly wowed by the power of the human mind. The power of the new idea. The power to create new things, new thoughts, new connections. There is so much still to come.

It is up to us to create new innovations, new stories, new humor, new lessons, new solutions to old and new problems alike. Stay curious and you will discover the new ideas yourself. Those ideas, your ideas, have the power to change the world. Which means the world may soon be googling you.