The OWL Despatch

Of a personal loss and dealing with it

We sat in a circle discussing “one thing that we had lost, we so wish we hadn’t“. The story circle that I host once in a while, spawns delightful conversation and an insight or two.  Fitness and health. Lost love. A job quit more in dull anger. And then one friend spoke and it could have been me. It was a personal loss for me too. And I so wish things were different. 

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The emotion in my friend’s voice was palpable. “Life used to be good. I used to finish books, cover-to-cover at one go.  Nowadays a fifteen-minute read is what I can manage. With some effort.”  There was a brief silence in the room and everyone present said it was a story of their lives too. The degree of agreement ranging from “strongly agree” to “even more vehemently agree”.  

 A personal loss

The library was the runway that gave me perspective lifts and thought.  The library fuelled imagination and ideas. At the core of it all, was the ability to sit down and read without any distraction for hours on end. In retrospect, the physicality of having to go to the building, choosing a spot and settling down perhaps played a role. But after that settling down, I could zone out of everything else and take off to focus land. 

The good part of going to the library and focusing was that it lead to the habit of being able to focus at any time.  

That pristine focus land was first scratched by television and then obliterated by the internet-enabled mobile phone! It’s a sad reality that afflicts most of us. We wake up to our phones, walk around with them and take them to bed with us. 

Agreements and promises

At the end of the conversation that day, we agreed on five things that we would do. 

1. We restated to each other that multitasking is a myth. One member of the circle pulled out appropriate research to make it super clear. We agreed that we will do one thing at a time and give it our full all. 

2. We agreed to put our phones on perpetual silent mode and get a cover that also covered the face of the phone. No notifications, please. To the eye or the ear. 

3. We agreed to have a phone downtime 30 minutes before we slept and 30 minutes after we woke up. The phone had to stay in another room. The good old alarm clock had to do the waking up job.  

4.  We promised to keep track of the time that we are able to focus. We had to report back on how long are we able to stay with one book, one topic or something that we have decided that we will give our full attention to.

5. We will declare in our emails that mails will be opened only in certain time windows. ‘We need to set the right expectations’, someone in the group had said. That was one good way of drawing boundaries of a personal loss that we had become present to.

The results

It’s been some time. I have mixed results. My phone has been on perpetual silent mode and a cover to match the promise made adorns it. I more or less manage the downtimes before sleep. And as far as the email declaration went, well, I just couldn’t get myself to do it. 

The longest I could go without any interruption was 47 minutes when doing focused work.  The only solace: I started with far less! These days, I make it a point to take frequent breaks from social media and am beginning to like the space.  

I managed to read Nicholas Carr and Cal Newport and gorged on much data and many hacks. I am more than convinced that we are all addicted to varying degrees. We need to cure ourselves of our addiction if we are to live meaningful lives. That, of course, is a choice we need to make.  It has been very tough!   

Others from the circle, are more or less on the same boat and we are going to come together again and examine this all over again. I am in the market for ideas. 

How did we get into this mess?

We got here, whilst we were busy doing other things. With false notions of being able to do far more than we could and living better lives. And yes, we can get out of this and lead far richer lives. The trouble of course is that the loss, the personal loss is deeply personal. We don’t even realise what all we have lost and to what degree. 

If you have an idea or two, please drop in a note. Will share it with the group and tell you how that worked. Promise. 

Picks for this edition

For this week, here are five pieces for you to consider. 

1. “Digital Is About Speed — But It Takes a Long Time“. I was so captivated by the title for those are the exact words I use with a few business leaders who want it quick and fast! Digital adoption is not about technology. It’s about behaviour, habits and culture. And that is messy stuff! 

2. The story of the first Levis jacket with technology embedded in it! There are a few lessons for everyone. 

3. “Google makes all of us equally wealthy, regardless of what we use it for. Wealth is a construct that has meaning in its current sense because it resides in a world where more for me almost always means less for you.” So says Santosh Desai. A good read to think about a few assumptions that many have.  

4. I love metaphors and working with metaphors. It has always lead me to better planes. This piece on Organisational metaphors is neat. “Metaphors seize our attention, connect us with others, and simplify complex ideas. But they also trap us into a simplified way of thinking. At work, this means that the way we simplify our organisations determines how we can lead and embrace change.”

5. I reserved a piece on listening for the last. For two reasons. One, it is a brilliant piece. Two, it is something that we all need to do more of now. Don’t miss this. 

That’s that for now. I have some delectable feedback from readers like you over the last few weeks. Some of it will find its way back to the next few editions. Putting this together is some work. But it teaches me a few things. And I love the conversations it generates. Let me know how it works with you. 

Kavi

Curated reads for the 41st Edition of owl

Image credits Pixabay

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