Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a hater.
This world is full of things I HATE!
I hate SUVs.
I hate cell phones.
I hate Blackberrys!
Not the sweet and juicy kind that grow on vines.
No, I'm referring to the ubiquitous annoying kind that are attached to the hands of self-important biz nerds.
These are people SO critical to the success of their respective enterprises they can't be out of communication range for even one second.
Curiously, this phenomenon is most evident among the job descriptions whose decisions are the least vital and the most subjective.
Are you listening all you ad agency geeks?
People whose decisions have real and substantial consequences understand that their attention is critical to the decision-making process. But for those whose decisions are limited to "the blue backdrop or the purple drapes, shrimp cocktail or lobster rolls" the myth of multi-tasking seems to be inextricably linked to their own inflated sense of self worth.
How many times have you tried to complete a conversation with someone who's checking emails or answering the cell phone?
"What is that? The kitchen is on fire?
NO, NO, NO... THE ICE GOOSE GOES NEXT TO THE VODKA AND CAVIAR!!!"
Now, what that you were...
YES. PICK UP MY SUIT AT FRANCESCO AND MAKE A 7PM RESERVATION AT UMBERTO."
Ugghhh... it's a madhouse. Now what was that again?... Fire?... Where?"
The bottom line: If you're not focused on being excellent at what you're doing-- right now--you cannot excel at anything.
The most successful people I've known have had the unique ability to do several tasks in rapid succession and give each of them their undivided attention. To the casual observer it may appear that they're doing five things at once, but they're not. They are paying close attention, making decisions, resolving problems and moving along.
You can accomplish a lot by simply paying attention. And you can do a lot of damage by trying to do everything at once.
Last week, during an ice storm, I was sitting at a stop light minding my own business. In my rear view mirror I was horrified to see a suburban armored personnel carrier, AKA a Cadillac Escalade, with 20-something driver yacking on the cell phone.
Closer... closer... closer... SPLAT!
Smack into the rear bumper of my magnificent 1995 525i. My cherished car has given me unconditional devotion and impeccable service for more than a decade, and it will be celebrating its 12th birthday next week in Bob's Collision Shop.
Okay, these things happen. Let's get out and exchange documents.
"What? No licence? No registration? But you remembered to take your cell phone!"
With that she burst into tears. I'm cooked. She slams into me, sends my spare tire into my back seat and she's crying. Luckily, daddy showed up in a few minutes and assured me that he would take care of the damages. He has three kids of driving age and runs an open tab at Bob's.
Okay, so I'm overreacting. A little damage to an old car isn't the end of the world.
But last month Westschester EMTs removed a corpse from a wrecked car that had careened off the highway. Stuck in the eye of this unfortunate accident victim they found a mascara applicator. That is the end of the world. The only positive anyone could extract from this tragedy is that it was a single-vehicle accident.
In the business world I've come across dozens, if not hundreds, of "Busy Bees" whose work days consisted of attending to 100 insignificant crises simultaneously. Not coincidentally, these crises were all manufactured to create a veil of busy activity masking a total vacuum of real importance.
To make matters worse, these busybodies invariably agonized over decisions that did not make one whit of difference one way or another.
Then, when finally confronted with a decision that carried some real consequences, they would throw their hands in the air and shout:
"I can't deal with this now!"
Of course not. You can't be expected to worry about the fire in the kitchen when you have to decide whether to put Mrs. Kolmeister and Mrs. Minciotti at the same table while choosing between gladiolas or gardenias for the centerpieces.
Uggghh... it's a madhouse.
As a clever motivational poster I saw recently stated: "When you earnestly believe that you can compensate for a lack of skill by redoubling your effort, there's no limit to the damage you can cause."
The moral of the story: Don't mistake busy for productive and never confuse activity with action.