The distractions of the rough edges

Just before we buy something, the rough edges stand out to us.

That book at the bookstore may have a slight crease on its cover. The table that the waiter suggests is too close to the entrance. The music playing at the restaurant is a touch too loud. That foreign movie we are streaming has subtitles that distract us from the scene’s action.

If the book turns out to be an absorbing read, the state of its cover becomes entirely immaterial. Once we are immersed in conversation at the restaurant table, we don’t notice the music playing in the background. Similarly, a few minutes into the movie, the act of reading the subtitles turns into an automatic action.

Rough edges become prominent especially in the face of choice. If the book were a gift, if the restaurant were crowded and if our friend had purchased the ticket to the movie with subtitles, none of them would have stood out.

The merit of a good book lies in how well it engages its reader. A dinner at a restaurant is about the conversation at the table, or its food and service. Great movies tell immersive stories. We’d be better off if we directed our limited attention at those things rather than the distractions that surround them.

That is why we pay attention. Because it is scarce.

As Stephen Covey says the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Especially in a world where choice keeps expanding.

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