"Attention is the act of selectively concentrating on certain pieces of information while ignoring the rest." — Jonas Cain
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Despite having told them what was going to happen before it happened, everyone was still quite surprised when I pulled the full glass bottle of Heinz Ketchup out of my shoe.
“Where did that come from?!” One person yelled.
“It came from my shoe!” I replied, pretending to misunderstand the question.
“Yes, we saw it come from your shoe! But how did it get in there?”
“Hmmm...it seems I must have put it in there at some point.” I like to use my magic as a tool to inspire fascination, to get participants to sincerely think—not so much about the trick itself but what the experience of the magic may mean for their lives. And this trick often does the trick to help coach them along.
“But you just took off the shoe. Your foot couldn’t possibly fit in the shoe with the ketchup inside!”
“Yes, this is true! And I also assure you, I must have put it in at some point.”
“But when?! How?!”
“I don’t think you were paying attention to the right things.” And this is where we finally arrive at the core insight.
This is a typical exchange that happens every time I perform the ketchup from shoe trick. It’s one of my favorite pieces of magic to perform, because there’s really nothing to it. I literally just put the ketchup bottle into the shoe. But no one ever sees me do it, because they’re not paying attention to the right things.
Attention is the act of selectively concentrating on certain pieces of information while ignoring the rest, and we can think of attention as being directed by a brain that looks like a spotlight attached to a vacuum cleaner.
What we focus our attention on gets highlighted by the spotlight while the rest of our environment hides in the shadows. Then, because of the vacuum cleaner, this information gets sucked into our brain, creating the foundation of our perspective.
In this way, what we choose to focus on, whether by design or by default, affects our experience of what happens to us.
Based on this understanding, there are three primary choices we can make when focusing our attention: ketchup, mustard, or relish.
We can choose to focus only on what we think is important, living life by default from a place of assumptions and preconceived notions. But, as we are often reminded, “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.” Therefore, if we choose this path, we will always be playing “ketchup” with the things that truly do matter.
Or we can choose to focus on nothing, without any ambition at all, and instead simply let life happen to us rather than putting in any effort to lead the way. Yet as Henry David Thoreau reminds us, “Don't be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin.” Therefore, if we choose this path, we will become “yellow” like mustard, hiding our love away with apathy.
Or, we can choose to maintain an open mind, living life by design rather than by default, open to new possibilities and discoveries in the direction of our dreams. As Francis of Assisi reminds us: “Start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” If we choose this path, we will “relish” in all the experiences and possibilities life has to offer, come what may—neither clinging onto preconceived notions nor hiding our love under a bushel.
As an educator, facilitator, and coach, my job is to inspire these “relish” moments for the people I serve, coaching them to sincerely think, with fascination and wonder, about what their life might be if only they stay honest and open with a sincere heart to truly come alive.
And sometimes all it takes is pulling a ketchup bottle out of a shoe.
What are you focusing your attention on? Ketchup, mustard, or relish?
Hashtag Positivity can help you and the people you lead achieve growth by design through community engagement keynotes and assemblies, leadership development workshops, and change management coaching. Schedule your free consultation today.
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.