What’s your opinion of Sarah Palin?

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All sizes | Gov. Sarah Palin in Dover, NH | Flickr - Photo Sharing!My martial arts teacher played an interesting trick on us in class on Saturday morning to illustrate the powers of distraction and diversion. Right in the middle of a lesson, he highlighted – briefly – some relatively recent news story about Sarah Palin.

The effect was as predictable as it was powerful: a number of folks got derailed from their physical training. You could see written on the faces of a few folks that they had fallen down a very deep hole in their own minds, caught up in something completely unrelated to the training. Their training suffered as well, and had they had that level of distraction and diversion in a real self protection situation, they would have been so mentally wrapped up in knots that a six year old with a popsicle stick could have taken them out with ease.

Ask yourself this: when you saw the tweet and the title of this blog post, how did you react to it? Did you react with curiosity? With anxiety, cheer, anger, sadness? Did it set your mind down a path based on your feelings that was unproductive? Did it distract you from what you were doing?

Distraction and diversion are two of the most potent enemies you’ll ever encounter in your work day, in your training, in your life. They can sap all of your energy in very short order or take you far off the path you’re supposed to be on. Every moment of every day, media (mainstream and social) are willfully attempting to distract you from a course of productivity and divert your time, energy, attention, and money in order to boost profits, garner attention, or use your energy for their own means. I did it to you with the title of this blog post, and there’s a better than even chance I was successful.

What saved me in class and what saves me on a regular basis are the lessons of “I see what you did there” and looking for the lesson. These powerful tools keep me in the game and keep me on target, putting my energy, time, and attention where it needs to go. I felt it on Saturday in class – I heard my teacher mention Sarah’s name and the context of the news story, but almost immediately my own mind echoed back “I see what he did there” and I was free of the trap.

How much time and energy do you lose every day, every week, on stuff that doesn’t matter? Take a moment or two to write “Look for the lesson” and “I see what you did there” on an index card and place it near your workspace. See if it helps you become more productive and defers your thoughts, good or bad, about Sarah Palin until it’s actually an election cycle.

Bonus round: Watch the replies when I tweet this post with the post title. The people who fail at distraction and diversion will be the ones reacting to the title without having ever read the actual content. Make note of who falls into the trap and is easily distracted just by the title and make note of who escapes the trap by focusing on the actual content. If you’re hiring for someone in a social media role, you probably want the latter as an employee and not the former.

Double bonus round: Watch the comments for political remarks to see who completely missed the point of this post or is so trapped they can’t escape even when it’s pointed out that this is a trap!

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


20 responses to “What’s your opinion of Sarah Palin?”

  1. Did you enjoy THE KENSEI?

    (There’s me staying focused on what *I* need to accomplish! lol)

    Great post, Chris!

  2. Well played, sir.

    I fell right into your trap and made assumptions about what the post would be. Point made, lesson learned. Very well played!

  3. The news networks have been executing this magic trick for 3 years now. Thanks for reminding us that nothing commands our attention unless we give it.

  4. As soon as I read “Watch the replies” my thought was on how much I have planned to do today and how I’d best get to it, which means the replies will have to go unmonitored. My next thought: “Ah, I see what you did there.” Very good. (Hope that’s not a spoiler. I won’t tweet it.)

  5. Exactly right ! Especially the 24-hour news channels. They’ve got to keep attracting eyeballs, so they post a headline like ‘The sky is falling ! We’re all going to die ! Details after this ad.’ Shame on us if we fall for it. Stay focused on what’s important.

  6. Michelle Avatar

    What I thought when I saw the title? “Oh, man, not someone else talking about her!” I almost just skipped past it but it seemed out of character for your posts so I clicked it out of curiosity. 🙂

    1. What I find really funny is the amount of private hate mail I’ve gotten from both sides of the political spectrum, each accusing me of pandering to the other. Not only are people easily distracted and diverted, but they’re equally easily deluded or self-deluded about something that isn’t there.

  7. Wow – you are a conscious and aware human being! I find myself wondering what is the trigger that makes Palin the distraction that she is. What is it about her, like Martha Stewart I suppose that make people, love her, hate her, and not only take a polarized stand but stand on guard for all related media clips. That is what I would like to understand. What is the anatomy of the distraction?

    Provocative and what an amazing martial arts teacher you must have!


  8. Sherman Rockwell Avatar
    Sherman Rockwell

    That is a very powerful message!

  9. Guilty as charged. My heart rate went up when I read the title of this post. I did actually take the time to read it however (once I was back to normal breathing). The thing that’s interesting to me is that, as marketers, part of our job is to distract. Yet, in our personal lives (the ones being marketed to), we try to avoid the distractions. Tricky balance, no?

    1. It’s two sides of the same coin. If we learn to avoid distraction, by default we must learn how to distract and vice versa.

  10. Back in one of my former jobs, I realized that I was letting political news distract me to the point of not getting much done. So, I put myself on a political-free zone while at work. I did a pretty good job of not looking at things that a) would cause an emotional response and b) send me down that rabbit hole of losing an hour vs. “I’m just going to read this for 5 minutes”. I now work for a website that has a very strong political slant, and I have to monitor / follow an email group where all of our bloggers post the stories they are working on. I’m having a hard time finding that balance again between keeping up with what’s going on and not getting emotionally invested and distracted.

  11. Roman Kniahynyckyj Avatar
    Roman Kniahynyckyj

    I was distracted enough by your and Brogan’s conversation long enough to come over and read this article. Good post. Seems like it might make sense to refrain from your “natural” reactions at times.

  12. Brilliant posting with a genius example of mass distraction. Focus on objectives is increasingly difficult as technology and culture bombard us with increasingly sensational ways to attract our attention to what others think is important.

    One way I deal with such silly distractions is to intentionally ignore until I have finished my primary work task. This comment is an example. Respond after I finish what was more important (to me… not you).

    Great posting.

  13. Check! I was distracted by the title. Well-played! The post was very insightful. =)

  14. Hi Chris. This post made me think of the Foo Fighters’ song, “Best of You…” that is, “Is someone getting the best of you?”

    It also reminds us to never let our enemies’ (or competition) define our position, especially in the war of words. Detractors will only note and play on weaknesses, and in so doing, distract us from our goals & possibly our best selves. If we fall into this trap, all our reactions become defensive and only reinforce the negative.

    If we stand back dispassionate and find the lesson (as you suggest), we are free to assimilate the experience in some positive way and move beyond the distraction. That same detachment and spiritual equilibrium helps us overcome most life obstacles as well.

    When we encounter a bump in the road, do we look up ahead in fear, or do we, as Godin suggests in Linchpin, say to ourselves, “Now isn’t that interesting,” and get down to the business of problem-solving.

    Thanks for the insightful post…


  15. If we stand back dispassionate and find the lesson (as you suggest), we are free to assimilate the experience in some positive way and move beyond the distraction. That same detachment and spiritual equilibrium helps us overcome most life obstacles as well.

    When we encounter a bump in the road, do we look up ahead in fear, or do we, as Godin suggests in Linchpin, say to ourselves, “Now isn’t that interesting,” and get down to the business of problem-solving.

    Thanks for the insightful post…


  16. So much of our personal success is predicated on mindfulness. “Focus” was last year’s word for me; this year’s is “transformation.” That said, the awareness to which you refer in this post is ESSENTIAL to moving forward with purpose.

    The power we surrender when we lose focus is significant. Thanks for the reminder. My best, M.

  17. Thanks for the valuable lesson “focusing.” But fess up, Chris. Using Sarah Palin’s name in your headline also gave you the bonus of a big bump in post “opens,” no?

    1. Absolutely. Like I said in the post, I’m doing it to you right now, in terms of distraction and leveraging attention.

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