Our Blindspot

At a public speaking contest I led last week, I got to ask several people to give impromptu speeches to answer a question. They all got the same question. And I got to pick it!

I consider myself a very positive person. But I have to admit, I have a little cynical streak. Just a little one. And it’s centered entirely around the culture of America’s younger generation.

Pop.

#hashtag

I like to believe the information age has better potential for happiness and productivity than debating on Facebook and twerking on YouTube.

Actually, my cynical side is summed up perfectly by New Girl‘s Max Greenfield:

Thanks for the gif, BuzzFeed.

Oh yeah. And BuzzFeed. (You won’t believe what I’m going to write next!)

 

So when given the chance to ask one question of four different impromptu speakers, I came up with this:

“What one value, moral, or life lesson does America’s younger generation most need to learn?”

There were several insightful viewpoints: Conversational skills, ethics, discipline, family values.

It’s really impossible to pinpoint the one thing America’s younger generation would benefit from learning–its one biggest blindspot. But it was good to hear suggestions by people coming from various influences and experiences.

I wondered how I would answer that question.

“What one value, moral, or life lesson does America’s younger generation most need to learn?”

And almost immediately, one word popped into my head:

Quiet.

 

Modern America wakes up with a hangover and flips on the news.

It sits down to breakfast and catches up on all social media activity missed during sleep, filling any gaps with meaningless nutrition facts compliments of the cereal box.

It rushes late out the door to work and speeds down the highway to the tune of talk radio, Katy Perry, and its gnawing screaming dread of the day ahead.

It arrives at work and reads more emails than it can deal with. Scans Google News headlines. Make sure not to miss that one about the guy from Tennessee who’s been hiccuping for 27 years. Priorities, you know.

It plans its day. Creates a to-do list. Mostly just stresses. Suddenly the first two hours are gone.

It catches up on the office gossip. Damn, where do the hours go?

Lunch time. It turns on the TV in the lunchroom so that it doesn’t accidentally spend lunch break thinking. That would be awkward. TV mixes well with more social media browsing on its smartphone. Only the 43rd time its checked Facebook today, after all.

It goes back to work and chats with its co-workers for the next couple hours about the information it just received from the TV and internet. Pushes productivity to the last possible minute. Panics. Stresses some more. Does a little work. Goes home.

On the way home, it listens to loud music to help release tension from the day. Even better idea: It should call a friend and vent about the crappy people it was burdened with today.

It gets home and turns on the TV. Sits in front of the TV screen and rhythmically scrolls its smartphone screen. Need more information!!!

And then suddenly, modern America falls asleep, without having to think a genuine thought the entire day.

And days turn to weeks, weeks turn to years, and years turn into a lifetime that it can’t get back.

Noise, noise, noise, noise, noise.

America’s younger generation needs to shut up and calm down. Let go and chill out.

We need to learn Quiet.

 

I’ve lived in other cultures where people would sit still, silent, and just experience the beautiful life buzzing around them.

I’ve lived in places where you get more accomplished and still somehow have time for a nap, a friendly chat around the dinner table, and a long, peaceful walk.

I’ve seen people who reflect, meditate, imagine, dream. Who feel silence.

I’ve met people who listen, who learn, who receive.

I’ve watched people rest.

I know it can be done. But modern America is determined to make it as damn hard as can be.

 

What could YOU take out of your day, just for one day, to free your mind of a little extra noise, and feel the peace of Quiet?

Yesterday I turned my phone off first thing in the morning and left it off all day long. #BestDayEver. It really was a happy day. So peaceful.

We hear more when we stop bombarding ourselves with all the noise we possibly can.

We think so much more clearly when we stop filling our minds with all the information, drama, and stress we can get our hands on.

We accomplish so much more when we stop trying to do hurried bits of everything.

We rest so much more when we just rest.

I promise you that if you let go of the need for noise, you will feel more peace.

And that is a promise I wish every young person in America will take to heart.

 

Happiness is not hiding. We’re hiding from happiness.

For help finding it, I recommend Jon Kabat-Zinn’s famous book, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.

Or just turn your phone off.

Author: Peter Elbridge

I am a lifelong learner and avid reader, which translates into doing smart work for myself, my team, and my clients. I have a passion for effective leadership and an even bigger passion for helping others do and feel better. I have a lot of experience in communication, public speaking, and writing. Above all, I have a deep and genuine care for every life I touch. That's why I write. (My opinions and endorsements are my own and do not represent my employer.)

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