How to Become Less Distracted and More Connected

Life Lessons are Learned Best from Others

I had a young mentee once say to me: “What can I learn from a mentor that I can’t learn from Google?” I was stunned and then saddened. The ability to learn life lessons from others is a valuable trait to cultivate. Not only do you shorten your learning curve but there is so much rich knowledge to be gained which cannot be replicated by Google. You can build connections, develop relationships, share knowledge and truly benefit from another’s experiences!

Head Down and in a Hurry

I was at Sportsman Park in Idaho Falls enjoying a picnic break during a 5-hour drive across the Western U.S. While enjoying a truly lovely little park I noticed a man wandering about aimlessly. I couldn’t figure out why he was there because he never looked up from his phone. Not even once. I have no idea how he managed to navigate the steps without falling in the river!

How can you possibly take in the richness of the human race or the beauty of the world if you never interact with it? The days of idle people watching and talking to one another are gone. So much can be learned from simply observing others or even (shockingly!) talking to complete strangers.

Electronic Nanny

When I was growing up, my mother told me to “Go outside, play and don’t come back until dinnertime.” Those days are gone. My nanny was the great wide world. I would go pester my great-grandmother for a hotdog and a story. Or, find my grandfather in the garden to help him pull weeds. I would always hear a story. I grew up surrounded by stories of my elders. Images of times gone by, the lessons they learned, funny experiences, and challenges they overcame.

I was so incredibly lucky to grow up surrounded by my family and people that would interact with me.

When I go out to dinner or to a public space – do I see elders or parents talking to their children and telling them stories? No. Hardly ever. The only stories kids get these days are found in a book. I see parent handing smart devices to their children to keep them quiet. Children become good a playing games and solving puzzles. But they aren’t learning social skills or hearing life lessons from others.

Technology Disintegration

What I saw in science fiction movies as a little girl are becoming real. Self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, and household robots. I’m excited and terrified for our race. I’m not sure that we have truly considered how to skillfully integrate technology into our culture and our human psyche.

Instead of thoughtfully introducing new concepts: we leap onto the newest ‘thing’ and use it … without any consideration for the outcomes! We have entire generations growing up deprived of the social essence of humanity. There is a gap in the ability to have varied and diverse conversations. The fact is, we have not developed psychologically as humans to create genuine relationships with others in absence of in-person dialogue.

Because children were deprived of true interaction with other humans and given electronic nannies we have a serious issue to contend with. Deep discussions are avoided. Expectations are fantastical (based on all those childhood books) and egos are fragile. Emotional intelligence is not being allowed to develop until a much later age.

Disconnected and Dysfunctional

What we have done is technology disintegration. Instead of being connected, we are more personally disconnected than ever – and blinded by it. It’s not just the younger generations that suffer from interpersonal dysfunction either. Older generations also struggle with making genuine connections with others: my generation included!

Instead of a Smartphone, my generation had the TV Nanny. Maybe we interacted with our peers but we didn’t always get the opportunity to hear stories from an adult.

By being so disconnected at an early age, we can lose the ability to understand how human discourse works and how it’s beneficial. Increased alienation from other humans can lead to depression, anxiety, anger, and aggression towards others. It’s become epidemic yet all we do is text or comment on social media.

Bridge the Gap

It’s time for us to bridge the gap. All it takes is becoming comfortable with being a little uncomfortable. Give yourself a challenge to talk to 5 complete strangers in a week! Really talk to them and have a dialogue – don’t just smile nervously and walk away.

Have a buddy challenge with friends to see who can make the most phone calls and text the least to other friends. Call your grandparents, or better yet: go see them. Ask them to tell you about how they grew up and what they learned. Volunteer doing something that increases your interaction with others. Ask people to tell you stories. Be interested in who they are.

Life lessons are learned best from others! Making a big decision? Talk to someone you trust about it and listen to their experiences. Want to learn how to present better, speak better in front of others or develop yourself towards some personal or professional goal? Find someone you respect to mentor you.

Learning and Leaping Ahead

I offer you the opportunity to open yourself up and observe others in their struggles and achievements. Hear their stories and take it all in! Develop a reflective mindset. Be open to having a dialogue with others or debate topics. Don’t allow Google to make up your mind.

Those that are genuinely successful have figured out early on to (1) value others, (2) observe and listen first before offering an opinion, (3) and ask for help. To become an achiever you absolutely must learn from others around you. You can leap ahead in your knowledge and wisdom like never before. Invest in yourself by investing in others. You will be a thousand times thankful you did when you look back on your life.

Erin Urban
Erin Urban

Founder, UPPSolutions

Erin Urban, Founder of UPPSolutions, LLC, is a certified professional & leadership development coach with a mission to lift others up to defy their limits and exceed their goals. Erin is an experienced speaker within the professional community, a published author and a member of the Forbes Coaches Council.


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