Klay Thompson, Sunsets, and Digital Distractions

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panoramic sunset photo

Driving to work the other day I listened on the radio to Warrior’s commentator Jim Barnett recall some of his favorite memories from the now defunct Oracle Arena. I was particularly struck by his experience watching Klay Thompson’s mind-blowing, record performance of scoring 37-points in a single quarter. At some point during Klay’s barrage, Barnett said, he took off his headphones, stopped broadcasting, and simply immersed himself in the roar of the crowd.

Realizing he was watching history unfold before him, Barnett chose to be fully present in the moment and wasn’t going to let anything – even his job – distract him.

To me, Barnett’s point is well taken. As Marker Seven’s creative director, much of my time is spent designing digital products that, while highly focused and task-driven, still have the potential to distract from other important things worthy of our attention. ‘Digital distraction’ is an interesting quandary in our business since it’s a recognized problem that no snippet of code or combination of pixels is going to solve.

Recently, digital distraction became top-of-mind as I was photographing a spectacular sunset at Ocean Beach last month. As the sun dropped blow the horizon and reflected across the remnant clouds of a storm, I felt a deep sense of awe and connection to the moment, the environment – and everyone else lucky enough to be there.  Well, almost everyone.

Sunset photo by Scott Abbott

As I stood behind my tripod overlooking the beach, I briefly glanced back and noticed a man parked in his car, totally immersed in a mobile, digital experience. Texting. Swiping. Flicking. Whatever. Doing something on his phone. Maybe it was even important. But the reality was that he was missing nature’s version of a 37-point quarter. A once-in-a-lifetime performance, never to be repeated. I wondered, for a guilty nanosecond, if he might be distracted by something we’d designed at Marker Seven.

Stanford psychology expert, Nir Eyal, identified the most important job skill for the future as being ‘indistractible’ – the ability to not be distracted. To no surprise, most of the distracting culprits are digital products: Email, Group Chat, and Phone. But literally any digital product has the potential to be a distraction, and we all have our individual vices. Full disclosure: mine are TeamSnap and Slack.

Maybe the key to being indistractible is to simply follow Jim Barnett’s example and be cognizant of our surroundings, appreciate the moment, and just be present. If you’re using a digital product, especially if it’s one of Marker Seven’s, I encourage you to take frequent breaks and be attentive to what’s happening right in front of you. Especially when you’re at a Warriors game or at the beach. You never know what amazing sights might flash right in front of you.