Attention deficit has become a trait — not a condition.
Distractibility, inner frenzy, and impatience define modern life.
Billions of dollars are invested every year to automate our attention — to put us in a trance of infinite feeds. As a result, we’re addicted to powerful, personalized algorithms that turn attention into dollars.
There have been four scarcities in human history: food, land, capital, and now, attention.
Power and wealth shifts to those who control the fundamental scarcities.
In the attention economy, people who control the fundamental scarcity — attention — are called “influencers.”
Attention presents a tradeoff. To observe one thing is to miss another.
There is a biological basis for this: Our perception of reality is illusory. As Tiago Forte says: Attention is more powerful than mere knowledge, but more concrete than consciousness.
Daniel Dennett found that our mental models purposefully constrain us so we only pay attention to the most relevant information.
Since we are biologically incapable of perceiving everything, constraints frame our attention. Freedom, then, is not limitless possibility but the ability to consciously choose your own constraints.
We become what we pay attention to. Tell me what you pay attention to, and I’ll tell you who you are. By offering or withholding our attention, we craft our own unique experience. Change your attention, change your world.
Consciousness is the great human gift; Awareness of awareness, and therefore, the ability to choose what we pay attention to.
By consciously deciding what we pay attention to, we can produce different thoughts, different states of minds, and different skills. Conscious attention is the first step towards prosperity and psychological freedom.
When we lack constraints, we numb ourselves with distraction. Let purpose frame attention instead. Think freedom in constraints, not freedom from constraints. Let attention and constraints flow in harmony.
The goal is not to experience everything but to experience the best things — to optimize our attention.
Richard Feynman’s 12 Problems provides a nice balance between presence, purpose, and long-term growth. He once wrote:
“Richard Feynman was fond of giving the following advice on how to be a genius. You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, ‘How did he do it? He must be a genius!”
At each moment, we decide where to place our attention. Do so purposefully.