According to Life Hacks, most of the problems in your life are due to two things: you either act without thinking, or you think without acting.
Sometimes the best thing is to walk away and come back to the problem later, once you’ve had a chance to clear your head.
The solar eclipse was last week – the first one in that stretched across the continental US in nearly four decades – and quite a few Americans stopped to watch. The Solar Eclipse Cost the U.S. Economy a Huge Amount of Money, said Vanity Fair. Some nearly $700 million, in fact, and never mind the Atlantic Monthly nonsense.
Not that the event marked the largest loss of productivity thanks to an event, according to article. “The U.S. economy collectively lost $615 million from people setting their brackets during March Madness opening week; $1.7 billion per hour from people discussing the Super Bowl the following day; $1.9 billion per hour during Cyber Monday; … and $10 billion during Amazon Prime Day.”
Note to self: the eclipse was the only loss-of-productivity event cited where people might actually have walked away from their computers, donned their protective glasses, and watched in real time. For the record, according to the National Weather Service, the next total eclipse that can be seen from the west coast to the east coast will be in 2045.
Yes, this was An Event, and always good to stop every now and again and be in the moment.
Away from a screen.
Especially since summer is winding down.
For the record, productivity wasn’t the only thing that suffered: Pornhub and Netflix’s US traffic dropped substantially.
We were returning home late on Friday evening after a series of meetings. It was a beautiful summer night, so we walked uptown, and as we approached Lincoln Center, we heard music. Opera. The Magic Flute, live from Lincoln Center and watchable on the plaza via big screen, outdoors. We couldn’t help but stop to enjoy the performance. It had been an horrific day. The music was unexpected – and transformative.
We shared the experience with an investor friend of ours, a Silicon Valley native who was visiting her former stomping grounds on business, who happened to text us then, and who shared her observations about the Valley: that people out there are always working, and somewhat out of touch with real life.
“Except while they’re playing in the sun with their dogs,” she said, “but even that is odd. They use apps to track their dogs’ activities so that they can keep tabs on their pets.”
As for the stopping and smelling the roses – or in this case, listening to opera, – she said, “They don’t do that here. Everyone breathes tech here and that’s it. People are hustling, but the lifestyle is so expensive, it’s tough to balance. Humanity is missing here.”
This is not a criticism; this is a suggestion as we barrel towards Labor Day and the traditional end of summer and vacation season, well aware of the fact that summer goes well into September.
We know that the Silicon Valley corporate culture comes with many perks: free lunch, no doubt free dinner if you’re tethered there to your screen; dental and medical and dry cleaning on premises, from what we’ve heard. Maybe part of what’s missing from that culture is culture itself, and just a thought.
What was reported with the eclipse was not how many people paused to take in the awe and wonder of it: a friend of ours, who made the trip to South Carolina with some friends, described how, in minutes, he witnessed the most beautiful sunset in every direction and that all of the birds suddenly started singing. Then it went completely dark, as stars lined the sky.
We live in a culture that encourages us to reach for the stars and that the sky’s the limit. Might be a good idea good to stop, at least once in a while, take a look at what’s up there, and pause at the wonder of it. You’d be surprised at how effectively it might help you to clear your head, as you go onward and forward.