Does This Habit Hold You Captive?

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Senior year in high school, my history class took a field trip to Washington DC. There were a lot of powerful moments in that trip, but one that sticks with me is standing in the Jefferson Memorial and reading the quote inscribed around the inside of the dome:


“I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”


As we celebrate Independence Day this week here in the US, this quote jumped back into mind, and I found myself pondering what other kinds of “tyranny over the mind” we are still fighting, perhaps without even knowing it.


Then I spotted a book on my desk I’ve been reading and thoroughly enjoying, and I realized what’s probably the most prevalent form of covert tyranny over our minds in daily life. (No, it’s not social media, but it’s right up there).


The book is called Perfect Attendance: Being Present for Life, by my good friend (and apparently terrific author too), Harriet Stein.



The tyranny: habitual, compulsive multitasking.


  • We eat lunch while in meetings instead of taking a lunch break.
  • We catch up on the news while making dinner or folding laundry
  • We send emails while sitting in the bleachers at our kids’ sporting events
  • We glance at text messages while in conversation with someone else
  • We even respond to text/Slack/Teams messages while walking to the bathroom (but not while in the bathroom, no, we’d never do that…)


Sound familiar?


But more powerful and tyrannical is the mental multitasking, which is even more compulsive and far less conscious in our behavioral self-awareness.


It’s where our thoughts go when they should be somewhere else.


If you’ve been in conversation with someone and they’ve ever testily said, “Hello? Did you hear anything I just said?”, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.


We’re not mentally present to ourselves or to others when our brains are simultaneously


  • Chastising ourselves for the hundredth time about something we should or shouldn’t have said in last week’s meeting
  • Stressing about an upcoming meeting (so as not to make the same mistake again)
  • Making a mental to-do list of things we don’t want to forget in planning someone’s birthday party
  • Worrying that the outfit we’re wearing doesn’t fit the way it used to
  • Wondering when we’ll hear back about that promotion
  • Stewing over last night’s argument with a family member


You know that list is endless.


Harriet’s book is full of crystal-clear anecdotes that keep evoking the same mental response (“Oh shoot, yep, I’m guilty of that one too…”), followed by simple 30-second exercises to help recognize where we allow our thoughts to hold us hostage and stop the cycle, in order to find more joy in every day.


How’s that for an independence worth celebrating?


Oh – and to Harriet’s credit, Perfect Attendance is NOT available in Audible format… so you can’t multitask while reading it!


Of course, we still want you to enjoy your favorite podcasts, whether while walking the dog, driving to a weekend barbecue or to keep you company over breakfast, so this week we thought we’d give you a chance to catch up in case you missed an episode or two along the way.


Here are a few of the highest ranking “Speaking to Influence” episodes to date according to Apple Podcasts:



Ep. 146 – Yesi Morillo, SVP Citi – “Stay Ready!”




Ep. 153 – Dina Pokedoff, Senior Vice President of Kuehne + Nagel: Grit and Resilience




Ep. 131 – Dave Rowan – CEO, BLOCS: Curating Stories and Fostering Donor Relationships




Ep. 104 – Marc Brownstein, President & CEO of the Brownstein Group: Repeatable Messaging and Brand Longevity




Ep. 132 – Rachael Jones – CEO, Syntax, a Redesign Health Company: Stakeholder Messaging and Radical Accountability



Ep. 105 – Cindy Lewis – CFO of Coho Partners, Ltd: Accountability and the Three C’s of Influence





Thanks for being a part of our Speaking to Influence community. As always, questions, feedback, or topic suggestions are always welcome so feel free to reach out to us.

Yesterday we celebrated the independence of our country. Starting today, let’s celebrate being mentally free and fully present in every day.

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