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The Value of Attention

The Value of Attention

Hello and good day!

I stand at the bottom of my neighbor's black paved driveway and look up it. My son is perched at the top, sitting on his bike.

"Ready, poppy?" he asks me. "Ready," I say. He lifts his feet from the ground and puts them on the pedals. The bike lurches down the hill, slowly at first, and then picks up speed. At the bottom, where the driveway meets the road, there is a sharp right-hand turn into the street.

Depending on how brave he feels, my son either leans into the turn at full speed, or taps the brake, which makes his back tire skid. On this pass, he taps the break and lets the wheel slide out. In the middle of the turn, he sticks both feet off to one side of the bike. He holds the pose for several moments and then returns his feet to the pedals.

At the end of the block, he does a turnabout on the hill that runs up along the side of our house. He glides back down the hill, and rides back to where I am standing.

"Did you see it poppy?" he asks. "Yeah, I saw it," I reply. "What do you give it?" he asks. "A three," I say. "A three? That's it?" "I've seen that trick too many times. I need something new if you want a higher score." He laughs at how tough and silly my judging is and rides away. I stand and judge a dozen more passes before we both get tired of this game and move on to something else.

I've often wondered why children so strongly crave attention from their parents. Who are we that they should care so much? It's not like we're the greatest people who ever lived. I've thought and thought about that. Why does a kid want a parent to watch while they ride their bike down a driveway?

A while back, it became obvious to me. They love us. And by paying attention, we show that we love them too. Their feeling is reciprocated and that makes them feel great.

Ever love somebody who didn't love you back? It's the worst.

Now, a different scene.

My brother Brian is standing at the front of a big conference room. The room is on the second floor of the municipal building in the town of Huarango, located in the northern Peruvian jungle. The big open room is filled with white, plastic chairs. Brian is next to an easel with big sheets of white paper resting on the stand.

He is giving a presentation to cacao farmers. While he talks, he draws diagrams in thick black marker on the big, white sheets. He is explaining how joining our project will benefit the attendees.

Off to the right from where Brian is standing, there are large, uncovered windows. It is too hot for the windows to be covered. The heat would be suffocating without fresh air filling the room. Looking out from the windows, you can see the plaza de armas of Huarango. It is town square.

The courtyard is filled with green grass, small bushes, and small trees. White stone walkways, paved with big, white octagon shaped stones are laid through various sections of the grass. Near the center of the park, there is a water fountain that shoots water straight up into the air. There are several covered gazebos with concrete stairs and concrete floors.

Back behind the square, far in the background, there are rolling green mountains, covered in trees, and at the foot of the mountains there are cacao and coffee farms. Flies and mosquitoes and fat green beetles come in through the open windows and fly all around while Brian is talking.

One by one, cacao farmers slump in their white plastic chairs. The heat lulls them into drowsiness. They've heard the gringos give this presentation far too many times already.

There is no breeze, and the still heat wears them down until they fall asleep. Now light snoring is added to the buzzing from the insects and the sound of Brian's voice. If we don't convince cacao farmers to join our project, we won't have a business. But Brian can't convince them if they aren't paying attention.After every meeting, the few who stayed awake and are interested in learning more approach Brian for more details.

Prior to 2020, I was our company's accountant and a business-to-business salesman, selling fine chocolate to high end restaurants and chocolatiers. When COVID forced us to pivot into becoming an e-commerce business, I had to learn about marketing. Specifically, I had to learn how to advertise.

To educate myself, I took courses and read books. I had the opportunity to hear one of the world's leading marketers explain his methodology.

"I day trade attention," he said. That phrase has stuck with me as something odious. The whole point of day trading is to buy cheap and sell dear. You are looking for something undervalued that you can take advantage of.

It is one thing if you are talking about a ticker symbol. It is an entirely different thing when you are talking about somebody's life. For all intents and purposes, what we pay attention to is our life.

That is all life is, experience through attention. That is the totality of consciousness.

This guy is looking for people willing to give away their attention, meaning their very lives, cheap, so that he can snap it up and sell it at a profit. He appeared to be a very rich man.

There must be a lot of people willing to give away their attention for a pittance. We all know what it feels like to really be living. It happens when you find yourself caught up in something that you know is meaningful.


In those moments, your attention could never be day traded, because it has already attained its highest possible value. You've priced yourself out of the market. And that is a good thing.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!