Driving along Route 6 in Galeton, Pennsylvania, a movement on my left caught my attention. I quickly turned and saw three black bear cubs playing in a small meadow along the road. With a narrow shoulder and a car behind me, I didn’t have the space or time to quickly pull over. Going down the road a few miles, there didn’t appear to be a safe turnaround spot, but the moment imprinted on me even without the luxury of a photograph.
A few days later, my wife and I were driving on Beaverkill Road towards Livingston Manor, New York, when movement on the right side of the car drew my eye. A gigantic bald eagle adeptly navigated the maze of tree branches over the river, landing to overlook the water. The white-feathered head makes the stature of the raptor even more striking. The sight of a bald eagle brings a swell of pride to be an American.
Later in the day, I was wading in the Willowemoc River, experiencing the peace and beauty of the Catskills. A good cast put my flies in a promising seam of moderate flow around a clast of boulders, and suddenly a bright flash of yellow captured my focus. An 18-inch brown trout had attacked my Pat’s rubber legs and plowed upstream, putting a strong bend in my fly rod. The flash made my heart jump, and I started the internal pep talk, “don’t lose this fish!” I got the fish on the reel and brought it to the net despite a strong fight.
All of these interactions with amazing animals directed my attention. During the age of smartphones, smart tvs, and tablet computers, every interaction we have with technology is designed to gain our attention. As Seth Godin says, “Marketing is a contest for people’s attention.” Taking notice of something and treating it as interesting or important to you is the ultimate compliment. Author Will Schwalbe stated, “The greatest gift you can give anyone is your attention.”
A study by Microsoft asserts that the popular use of social media and smartphone technologies has decreased the human attention span from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. I strive to be a good listener and not get sucked into time on my phone, but one day last week I was horrified to see that I had spent over 15 hours on my phone. That day corresponded with driving 6 hours while using my phone’s navigation app and sitting in a hospital with my son all day, but 15 hours is ridiculous.
I reflected on my time spent talking with my wife, developing ideas for writing, fishing on the river, and being productive at work. These are positive things I want to focus on enjoying with my time. Idowu Koyenikan concisely expressed, “Where your attention goes, your time goes.” Fly fishing gives me an outlet to enjoy nature, still my mind, and focus my attention. I value that time tremendously. Valuing the people in my life and my time with them is more important than my time spent fishing. Having a great weekend with my wife was not only relaxing but also was a great way to clearly show me the things I want to focus my attention on.