Dining with a wise young man on a mountaintop in Italy not so long ago over a nest of pasta and a glass of Barolo, watching a glorious sunset over a mountain range, I asked him his philosophy on life. He simply replied “we have just one life”.
In our time, a digital deluge of information flies at us from hard, cold, shiny devices at a breakneck pace that could give any world-class race car driver a run for his money. Potentially paralyzing, this digital era compels the poignant recognition that each of us must be the astute curator of our lives. Despite the benefits of unprecedented access to voluminous data, the acquisition of information (and often misinformation) poses dangers when taken out of context and unfiltered by a thinking mind and a feeling heart, each of which can become numb in the face of invasive facts, factoids and homogenized pictures.
Given that our most precious commodity is time, how we devote our energy defines our lives. Are you spending yours developing skills, talent, passions and love? Working (where most of us spend the overwhelming majority of our time) to create meaningfully alongside people who enhance your life, whose lives you enhance? Connecting with people whom you care about and respect, who care about you, who you can teach or learn from? Caring for yourself and those you love, as well as a world you care about? Experiencing the pure joy of sensual moments, fully present? Laughing and having fun, falling in love with someone’s mind? Or is Facebook on top of Instagram, on top of news feeds, on top of incoming emails drowning your mind and consuming your heart in minutes that become hours better spent connecting, creating, and being present with lovers, friends or in sweet solitude?
The right answers seem obvious but I struggle with the whole thing, often setting out to create something meaningful only to get distracted by TOO MUCH INFORMATION. While I know what’s needed, it takes a conscious effort to edit what I call “incomings”: messages and calls that bombard my phone that don’t truly require my immediate attention. This conscious quest to detach from the “monkey-mind” is essential to my physical and mental health, as well as to my emotional and spiritual well-being in this age of mass attention deficit disorder insidiously ingrained in our society. Ritalin is not the answer. I’ve turned off notifications on every app on my phone, and carve out “no distraction” time, whether with others or alone. Our expectation for split-second response timing is often too high for our responses to be human and thoughtful. In a meeting or at a dinner table, I find it unnerving when I hear that familiar, jarring buzz or ringtone, upon which people press their phones into their hand as their eyes dart across text which leads to mad fingering of the phone. The flow of the moment is disrupted. Then I breathe, and remind myself that I’m lucky to have developed (still insufficiently) an awareness and burgeoning capacity to liberate myself. I then feel sad for my cohorts enslaved by their monkey minds. It’s as pitiful as watching someone shoot up and nod out.
Besides navigating the tough point in the luxury real estate market in which we’re currently entrenched, the great topic of concern among top producers is the future of brokerage. While technology has proven to enhance the business of talented, smart and dedicated people, to every force there must be a counter force. It’s a law of nature as sure as the sun and the moon that even technology can’t undo. Our technocracy begs for the counter force of soul, human connectivity and humility, which is why I believe that human interplay (and play) matter and always will. Technology is a tool, not a replacement for humanity.
There are meaningful differences between having access to information and being informed; between being informed and being knowledgeable; between being knowledgeable and being educated; and between being educated and developing wisdom. Wisdom is honed knowledge from experience that provides the ability to interpret, negotiate and creatively navigate difficult situations. These assets come from learning and sharing, and from intellectual focus, practice and experience in any arena. What is your clearest memory of learning something seminal looking at a screen? I couldn’t answer that question, but I clearly recall and embody revelations involving the look in someone’s eyes, the tone of their voice, the hue of the light and the scent in the air of the moment. Without human touch, information is just more stuff to overwhelm and confuse smart people. I find that the wisest people look to others to lead, educate, and influence them selectively, which frees them to focus on their passions while incorporating greater wisdom. It is in these shared experiences that we become the best collaborators with each other and enhance our ability to be better creators, lovers, friends, mentors, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters.
The next wave of intelligence is being led by those who craft their talents and humanity like artisans, who edit “incomings” to focus on their lives while staying in touch with their instinctive, emotional intelligence (unavailable online), learning from other people’s experience and strategically collaborating. From my perspective, this is the evolution required in our time in order to blossom as a culture; to celebrate our collective human individuality that lifts us all in this collaborative process we call life.
This day will never be stretched out before us again. We are just a breath away from the next big thing in our lives and an eye gaze away from the next meaningful person in our universe. Like ripples in the ocean, even our slightest moves impact one another in any given moment in time. How will you enhance your and our world today?
After all, we have just one life.