I was alone and on my own at one of our larger local shopping malls (which meant my wife was off on a “mission” shopping for something), when it happened.
Now, some people find these cavernous suburban malls enticing and the shopping that goes on there entertaining; a kind of “recreational retail event.” I’m not one of them and neither is my wife. If we’re there, it’s generally for a good reason — my wife has something specific she’s looking for, and I’m not writing or working or doing something else that could possibly save me from being someplace I would never choose to go on my own.
A trip to the mall for some people is fun, something to look forward to. For me, a trip to the mall is uncomfortable, generally frustrating and the kind of brain-numbing, sensory overload no one would willingly subject themselves to without good cause. For my wife, a trip to the mall is a surgical military strike: get in, get what you came for and get out.
When on such a mission, I generally get “deposited” at the mall’s Border’s, Barnes & Noble or Franklin-Covey store, depending upon which is available and willing to provide a diversion for those of us who would rather be just about anyplace else. If it weren’t for places like these, people like me would just wander off like the curious 5-year-olds we really are. This time, I found myself “parked” at Franklin-Covey looking through a display of organizer fillers when the store’s manager walked over to see if I needed any help.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m not sure…I’ve tried a couple of these without much success. I guess I’m looking for something to help me stay focused.”
“What seems to be the problem?”
“Unless I’m immersed in what I’m doing, I tend to get distracted pretty easily. But, it’s not a problem if I’m ‘buried’ in something.”
The guy looked at me, smiled, and casually remarked: “Ah, the Pink Bunny!”
“It’s the Pink Bunny! But, don’t worry. You aren’t the bunny’s only victim!”
I was starting to become alarmed. This had already qualified as the most bizarre conversation I ever had in Franklin-Covey store.
“What are you talking about?”
The manager looked at me as if I was from another planet and matter-of-factly repeated, “It’s the ‘Pink Bunny.’” And, then he went on to explain that a “Pink Bunny” was any and every kind of possible distraction we are all likely to encounter just about anywhere every day.
He continued, “You and I are standing here in the store discussing something; something important to both of us. All of a sudden, you catch something out of the corner of your eye. It could be a group of teens all decked out in black — lots of chains and studs, heavy make-up, piercings and rainbow-colored mohawks. It could be a very attractive young woman…or, a Special Weapons and Tactics Unit walking by the window in full tactical array. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, it breaks your concentration, destroys your focus and qualifies as a ‘Pink Bunny.’
“They are everywhere and almost impossible to ignore. They don’t have to be ‘tangible’ either. A ‘Pink Bunny’ can be a thought that materializes while you are working on something else.
“They appear out of nowhere. And, when they do, your brain immediately reacts by commanding, ‘Follow that bunny!’
“Pink Bunnies are the ultimate distraction: mysterious, mischievous and attractive. Worse than that, they are likely to pop up anywhere, at the most inopportune times, and there is very little you or I can do about it!”
Somewhere in the middle of that last sentence, I looked to my left and found myself face-to-face with a new and almost irresistible bunny of my own!
I was lost, deep in another conversation, one that had taken place more than a year earlier. I was standing alongside a good friend at an industry meeting and we were talking about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and his son, who had just been diagnosed. I was concerned. The challenges associated with learning disabilities like ADD are significant for everyone involved. I asked how his son was coping and I remembered how much his answer surprised me.
“He is coping about as well as you and I are.”
“…you and I?” I remember asking what he meant by that and being stunned by his answer.
“Well, you’re ADD and so am I, and we’ve managed OK. How many times did you find yourself talking to a guidance counselor or in the principal’s office in high school, and for what: not working up to your potential, not paying attention or being too easily distracted? Any of that sound familiar? The manifestations are all the same and the symptoms too similar to ignore. They just didn’t know what to call it or how to cope when we were in school.”
I was starting to get upset, “Hey, the vice principal and I may have been on a first-name basis by the end of my high school career, and I may have spent an inordinate amount of time in the counselor’s office, but that doesn’t mean there was something wrong with me, other than the fact that I wasn’t paying attention, I was too easily distracted and that as a result, I didn’t work up to my potential!”
He looked at me and smiled, “Listen, I’m not trying to upset you. I’m just suggesting there may have been a reason you had a problem focusing and trouble concentrating. Let me ask you a couple of questions and let’s see what your answers tell us.” And, then he proceeded to ask me a number of questions, enough to cause a fair amount of anxiety.
After he was done, he smiled again. “You know, those were the same questions they asked my son. And, guess what? Your answers were the same answers he gave, and the same answers I came up with. He’s ADD. So, what does that tell you about you and me?”
It told me that I was probably just “bunny watching” in high school, something that had an entirely different meaning back then, and wasn’t suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder after all. I was thinking about that and much more when the store manager dragged me back into the present with a light tap on the shoulder, “Pink Bunny?”
“You know, based upon what we’ve talked about and what I just witnessed, the organizer won’t make as much difference as what you choose to do about your Pink Bunnies. Learn to deal with them, and the rest is easy.”
I purchased the same fillers I’d used in the past, and we continued our conversation as I waited for my wife to come looking for me. She finally appeared and we left the store together. As we headed for the car, she asked me where else I’d been and what else I’d been up to. I told her about my conversation with the store manager and asked her if she remembered me telling her about the ADD conversation I’d had with my friend at that meeting the year before. She did. So, I told her about the bunnies.
At first, she didn’t understand. But, then she seemed to get it.
“If that’s the case, you’re in real trouble! Between the shop, your writing, the seminars and everything else you’re doing, your life is a veritable Pink Bunny farm!” (Pink Bunny farm…not, Pink Bunny ranch!)
I shook my head in despair. If that really was the case, what could I do? How could I introduce a little Pink Bunny birth control into my life and curb the endless parade of distractions and interruptions?
Over the next few days I couldn’t think of much else. It almost seemed as if just knowing “about” the bunnies was worse than the bunnies themselves. That was until I realized something else, something profound. While I was trying to figure out how to deal with these distractions, I hadn’t had any. Every time a Pink Bunny appeared, instead of trying to follow it, I recognized it for what it was and dismissed it! “Go away! I haven’t got time for you now, I’m busy!”
The more I tried it, the better it worked. That might not seem like a big deal to some of you, but it was incredibly powerful and liberating for me. Sure, the bunnies still pop up, at the oddest times and in the strangest places.
They always will! I just choose not to pursue them, at least not at that particular moment.
It doesn’t work all the time, but what does? It has, however, provided relief where there was none before, and I kind of like that.
Most people wouldn’t think of what we do as agricultural, but if the distractions we contend with every day is any measure of the number of Pink Bunnies we are likely to confront, it’s pretty hard not to. The worst part is that these guys are prolific and just chasing them away won’t keep them from multiplying!
In fact, I only know of two ways to control them. One is to make believe they don’t exist and ignore them completely. And, the only way to do that is to learn to differentiate a genuine distraction — a Bona Fide “Pink Bunny” — from something that really does warrant your immediate, complete and undivided attention. The other is to confront and engage, to deal with the distraction immediately, and then get past it.
Think about it for a minute. Think about how much time and energy you might be able to save if you were able to control the bunnies just a little bit. What would happen if you could identify a Pink Bunny instantly, and then determine which kind it was: one that could be dismissed or one that demanded immediate attention?
How much more time would you have to deal with the real problems that plague us: the wrong parts in the right box, parts that didn’t get ordered or didn’t make the last delivery, miscommunication, difficult diagnosis, difficult employees and difficult customers, if you weren’t chasing the attractive banner that just rolled across your Internet browser; you weren’t endlessly sorting through an incalculable number of meaningless e-mails about things in which you have no interest, sent by people you don’t know; or, answering calls from companies selling products you are never going to purchase…Pink Bunnies, all!
I wish I could tell you that I’ve figured it out, but the bunnies still pop up from time to time. At least now I’m aware of “who” and “what” they’re all about and the mischief they are capable of. I still get distracted, but not as often.
I am no longer in constant pursuit — which means that every once in a while I’m in control, not the bunny!