Pay Attention

I really like the phrase “pay attention.” It’s a nice reminder of just how valuable and limited a resource someone’s attention really is.

People have a shockingly limited capability to give their real, active attention to something. Personally, while I can laser-focus my attention very intently, I have almost zero capability to pay attention to more than one source of information at a time. (This is one of the reasons I don’t watch much television – unlike some people, I’m completely incapable of watching TV while doing something else like laundry.) Even people who can pay attention to more than one thing at once can’t scale that indefinitely. And of course, attention is naturally tied to time, a resource that we all must budget. In fact, attention is even more scarce of a resource than time, since you can’t pay true, active attention even a fraction of the amount of time you’re awake.

So when you’re really engaged with something, you’re paying a hefty opportunity cost. You’re devoting a very scarce resource to something. You should make sure you’re getting an equivalent value out of the exchange.

You should also, to the very best of your ability, give excellent value when someone has chosen to pay you their limited attention. Someone paying attention to you is a tremendous compliment; of all their options for this unit of attention, they chose to spend it on you. Maybe you asked them to – after all, before a sales professional asks for a single penny from someone, they first have to ask for their attention. And anyone who’s done more than a day in sales definitely knows how precious a resource someone’s attention can be; you can’t make money without it.

For whatever reason someone has chosen to pay their attention to you, try to make it worth it. Give value in exchange for the high compliment. Thank people for their decision to engage with you. Check in with people and make sure they were satisfied by the exchange. In other words, give good customer service to everyone who pays attention to you.

That’s especially true for you, my reader! You’ve given your attention to me by reading this, and I thank you most sincerely. I hope the experience of reading this was valuable to you, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to make the attempt. If I can make paying further attention to me more valuable to you in any way, I’d love to do so – so don’t be shy. I’ll pay attention to you.

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