Attention Please

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness - it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention…” - Brene Brown


When you were a child, how many times did your parents and teachers tell you to “pay attention!”?  Back in the day, (after color TV, but before the first cell phone) I generally just tuned them out and missed the opportunity or lesson they were trying to teach me.  It’s only now, as an adult, that I’ve truly come to follow this advice. In doing so, I’ve had some of the most incredible experiences of my life.

We’ve all heard the saying “stop and smell the roses”.  Let's see a show of hands for anyone who has actually ever stopped to smell roses.  Anyone? (*sound of crickets*).  In all seriousness, some of the most amazing, impactful events of our lives happen when we slow down and open our eyes, ears and hearts to what’s going on around us.  

What does it look like when we pay attention?  It’s looking behind you when you go through the door and holding it for the person coming after you.  It’s helping a mother at the store who is trying to bag her groceries with 2 little “helpers”. It’s a smile at a stranger on the street. It’s giving money to the homeless person at the top of the freeway ramp (and not caring how they spend it because it’s none of our business).  It’s anonymously paying for someone’s dinner at a restaurant because you paid attention and noticed they were a retired veteran.  It’s noticing the elderly woman in the parking lot walking around and asking if she needs help (turns out she couldn’t remember where she parked her car.)  It’s making a lunch for a four year old boy, remembering what it feels like to be on welfare and deciding that if you can do something to help just a handful of children it will be worth it.  

One of the most useful, and wonderfully humbling, skills I’ve worked to develop in recent years is paying attention to the queues the world continually gives us.  They’re the people we come into contact with and the seemingly disconnected events that occur around us. Yet, when I take time to pull back and look at the whole picture, there is an intentional, patterned beauty to all of it.  

As we were making the decision to launch an apparel business with a generous charitable giving element to it, something neither of us knew anything about, we started sharing our idea with family and friends.  In retrospect, we were probably doing a sanity check as much as gathering ideas and input from people we trusted. What happened next still amazes me.

Do you remember the elementary school exercise with the magnet and iron filings?  In this case, our vision (or perhaps our inexperience) was the magnet. Upon placing our idea into the world, immediately we were surrounded by a group of amazing, experienced, loving, generous experts.  Then it multiplied!
As we shared our story, a  magnetism started to develop that inevitably led to “you really need to meet so-and-so”, a phenomenon that has only intensified. Much like the magnet experiment, it’s the energy from the connections that grows the original idea into something much bigger and more powerful than it could be on its own.  It all started with simply paying attention to what was being placed in front of us.

Everyday we’re presented with opportunities to positively impact the people around us.  Undoubtedly we all have examples that we look back and wish we’d acted on. While those opportunities are likely lost, the next one is headed your way even as you read this.  You may cross paths with it tonight, tomorrow, or next week. It may be waiting for you at the grocery store, sitting in traffic, in the list of contacts on your phone, or even in the next room.  When we pay attention to what’s happening around us, and muster up the courage to act, opportunities start showing up everywhere.

“A beautiful thing happens when we start paying attention to each other...” - Steve Maraboli