David Brooks has my attention

June 2, 2009

The theme of my 2009 is paying attention to what I’m paying attention to.

It turns out David Brooks predicted my year back in December:

Control of attention is the ultimate individual power. People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them. They can choose from the patterns in the world and lengthen their time horizons. This individual power leads to others. It leads to self-control, the ability to formulate strategies in order to resist impulses. If forced to choose, we would all rather our children be poor with self-control than rich without it.

See also the excellent New York magazine article, “In Defense of Distraction.”

David Foster Wallace was concerned about how we construct meaning in real time. Driving home his point for me was the Kid Rock video, “Warrior,” which I watched a couple times in the theatre waiting for a movie to start.

Jonah Lehrer’s been sniffing around this subject, too. I’ll have to read his New Yorker piece on self-control.

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3 Responses to “David Brooks has my attention”

  1. wendy, yer sis. Says:

    I like this concept. Gary has this uncanny ability to focus his attention. It can be unnerving at times. However that ability to notice things, to control your attention and thereby control distractions is what separates what the world views as “lucky” and “unlucky”. Those viewed as “lucky” are simply those who can control their attention and not miss the details.

  2. JR Minkel Says:

    I think you’re right about how some people end up being viewed as lucky. But that doesn’t apply to every successful person, and it doesn’t mean everything a person achieves in life is somehow created by one’s individual will. Two identically “lucky” people born into different strata of society may both improve their lots by similar absolute amounts, but their relative positions in the social order are less likely to change. Self-control per se is a major value. Feeling like I control the aspects of my life subject that are to my control does huge things for my day to day well-being. See also the Chinese man who blocked the path of the column of tanks in Tiananmen Square.

  3. wendy, yer sis. Says:

    I think that the notion of “luck” doesn’t apply to every successful person, but paying attention and acting on opportunities that present themselves would surely be the norm for successful people. Also, I do believe that everything a person achieves in life is created by one’s individual will. Definition of “achievement” is as defined by wikitionary:
    “The act of achieving or performing; an obtaining by exertion; successful performance; accomplishment; as, the achievement of his/her object; A great or heroic deed; something accomplished by valor, boldness, or praiseworthy exertion; a feat;”. Sounds to me like something you achieve you had to have set out to do to begin with or its just happenstance.


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