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How distraction nearly destroyed my successful business

(EDITORIAL) Communication is my passion, my life’s work, but it was a distraction that was suddenly killing my thriving business. Here’s how I overcame.

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the distracted mind distraction

I have ADD. As a child, I never took medication. My parents weren’t against it, but they didn’t feel it was necessary. I could work well enough in spurts that my grades were still fine. I learned how to cope.

Until I started my first business.

A few years out of school, I started a company doing what I loved most in the world: helping people discover, craft, and share their message with the world. Every day, I worked with NFL players, TV personalities, and Olympians to help them communicate better to their audiences.

Me with Peyton Manning – yes, that’s actually him and no, I’m not really that short.

It was my dream job. It should have been the best time of my life. Instead, I was miserable.

It wasn’t the work that was the challenge. It was that I’d look up and I would have 43 different emails started, two text threads going, and not have a clue whether my checkbook even balanced. I couldn’t focus on the things that were critical to actually create a successful business.

Communication was my passion, my entire life’s work. And now it was also destroying my business.


Related: 4 strategies to turn your brain from distraction to action


Eventually, I hit a breaking point. I was two weeks late on a major deadline I had promised to a client–an NFL Hall of Famer, no less. What’s worse, the hall-of-famer was my grandfather’s favorite football player of all time.

What’s even worse, is that same hall-of-famer had, at my request, just recorded a personal video for my grandmother on her 90th birthday.

And here I was ghosting him. This is the third “just checking in” email he sent me–the previous two I completely ignored. It looks friendly–but it was a clear indictment.

“What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I get the work done?”

I knew it was either: get a grip on things or move back home with my parents. Something had to change.

It turns out, I’m not the only one struggling. Distraction in the workplace is an epidemic.

  • The busiest hours of Facebook are 1-3pm during the working day.
  • 60% of purchases online are purchased during working hours.
  • 87% of people admit to reading and being involved in political discussions on a weekly basis during work.
  • People lose anywhere from 1-3 hours on average every day due to personal distractions. In some industries, we lose as many as 6.

And we carry the effects with us, at home and in our bodies. We spend 60% more time connected to digital media than we do in conversation with our significant other. A study on workplace stresses found that the more pressure we feel to be available, the more likely we are to take sick days.

But there’s a way out.

Over the last ten years, I’ve been on a journey to answer the question: what does it look like to thrive in an age of constant distraction?

Using myself as the lab rat, I experimented constantly with new approaches to manage and focus my attention. I spent thousands of hours researching and interviewing CEOs, managers, and employees. I recruited a team of experts way smarter than me: an Ivy League PhD professor, a psychologist focusing on ADD, and a pastor.

Together, we discovered a surprisingly simple but profound truth: we have lost our ability to control where we place our attention. And if we are ever going to recover it, we have to revisit every aspect of our work and life. We have to learn to become wise in the way we allocate our focus–placing the right amount of attention at the right moment and in the right context.

It won’t be easy, but it is possible.


On October 9th, my first book is being published by Wiley: Can I Have Your Attention?: Inspiring Better Work Habits, Focusing Your Team, and Getting Stuff Done in the Constantly Connected Workplace. It’s the culmination of everything I’ve learned about the science of attention and how to utilize it in the workplace: a comprehensive and holistic approach to become focus wise in the way we approach life and work. I can’t wait to share it with you.

Curt Steinhorst loves attention. More specifically, he loves understanding attention. How it works. Why it matters. How to get it. As someone who personally deals with ADD, he overcame the unique distractions that today’s technology creates to start a Communications Consultancy, The Promentum Group, and Speakers Bureau, Promentum Speakers, both of which he runs today. Curt’s expertise and communication style has led to more than 75 speaking engagements in the last year to organizations such as GM, Raytheon, Naval Academy, Cadillac, and World Presidents’ Organization.

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Opinion Editorials

If Reddit goes IPO, will it have to shed its soul?

(EDITORIAL) Reddit is known as a firebrand, a bastion of free speech, but if they go public, will they be able to remain as they are now?

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reddit

Reddit, the eighth-most popular website on the Internet, is reportedly considering an IPO. As a site valued at over 1.8 billion dollars, this is great news for the company itself – but how much of Reddit will remain if the IPO goes through?

Reddit’s history is steeped in controversy, from minor incidents such as invasion of privacy and a few creepily quirky community members to allegations of child pornography and egregious hate speech. While Reddit’s policy has allowed it to tighten posting restrictions regarding the latter two, the fact remains that Reddit – for all its usefulness – is viewed by many as a ticking time bomb.

An IPO would certainly lend back to Reddit a degree of credibility not seen since its inception, but the problem is that Reddit itself (the haven of free speech and original content that made it so popular in the first place) might not survive the offering. Given the platform’s controversial past, many believe it likely that stakeholders would move to tighten further the restrictions on the platform, ultimately ending a significant era in Reddit’s history.

Admittedly, Reddit has come a long way since its early days of supporting user-created content regardless of persuasion: this past year saw entire subreddits shut down for violating the terms of use regarding hate speech, and the platform certainly has cracked down on illegal and abusive content. Unfortunately, the history might be too much to shake off going forward, which is why we think that Reddit’s branding won’t be a part of the final IPO.

The platform’s developers’ dedication to free speech and truth-seeking is what makes Reddit so fantastic, and that’s not liable to change – it’s the most marketable aspect of the site, after all – but perhaps the rationale behind going public lies in a sense of duty rather than routine. 2017 has seen some of the most reprehensible instances of false reporting and deliberate misguidance in recent history; maybe Reddit’s team feels that they can provide a stable news platform at the cost of some personality.

At any rate, the IPO itself isn’t set in stone, and is unlikely to take place for quite some time. As the situation develops, it will be interesting to see if Reddit embraces its past, or sheds it altogether.

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Opinion Editorials

‘Follow your passion and the money will follow’ is bulls**t advice

(EDITORIAL) Following your passion can create success, though it may not be financial. So should you really just “do what you love” and hope for the best?

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follow your passion

If you asked anyone who knows me, they would tell you that I’m a strong advocate for people following their passion. However, when I encourage people to pursue their dreams, this comes with a big asterisk.

I recently heard someone use a phrase along the lines of, “if you do what you love, the money will follow.” Um… no.

While it’s great that you’ve found something you’re passionate about, that’s only a trillionth of the battle. You need to be willing to work your ass off and be willing to sacrifice everything in order to make that enthusiasm into a success.

Most people that have started their own business will tell you that it took a while into the process to begin paying themselves. Again, if it truly is your passion, this is all worth it in the end. But if you like food and shelter, it might not be.

Say, for example, your passion is acting and your goal in life is to become a famous movie star. Now, you can’t pull a Tobias Funke and simply say, “I’m an actor” and then expect everything to miraculously fall into place.

Like any other passion, you need to invest in yourself. You’ll need to get headshots, take acting classes, and find a flexible day job that allows you to go on auditions. Cutting corners on any of this in order to expedite the process or save a few bucks will end up hurting you in the long run.

For the sake of this article, let’s define “passion” as loving something so much you couldn’t imagine doing anything else… you would even do it for free. And, as there is no correlation between having passion for something and money, you just might.

While doing what you love is admirable, be aware that it may take an incredibly long time to see results in the form of numbers. Because of this, it’s wise to always have a back up plan to support yourself financially and pursue passion with a strong business plan in tact.

It is never wrong to want to follow your passion. I personally think that everyone should give it at least something of a shot during the course of their career so that you never ask “what if?” But following passion because you read a cliche statement can lead to major financial and emotional losses, so put on your business hat before blindly chasing dreams.

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Opinion Editorials

Tech CEO tweet ruins years of a young designer’s hard work

(EDITORIAL) With a tweet here and there, thoughtless questions have potentially bullied a young Asian woman in tech out of her career.

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naomi wu tweet

It’s hard enough for women, particularly women of color, to make it in the world of tech, without rude jerks questioning if you literally exist.

Sadly, that’s what happened to Naomi Wu, also known as “SexyCyborg,” a 23-year old cyberpunk superstar from Shenzhen, China who has amassed a huge following for her 3D printing experiments and other techie pursuits. Wu has 140,000 followers and millions of views for her YouTube channel, where she shows off her experiments and provides educational tutorials.

Unfortunately, some rude dudes from America can’t seem to imagine that a young Asian woman is capable of the feats that Wu has accomplished.

Dale Dougherty, CEO of the DIY magazine Maker (and an official schmuck), has cyberbullied Wu so badly that it is said to have damaged her career. He tweeted, “I am questioning who she really is. Naomi is a persona, not a real person. She is several or many people.”

This despite the fact that Wu says that she has actually spoken to Dougherty, and that he knows she is real. “For Westerners who don’t understand the important of reputation in China it seems like a very minor thing,” says Wu, “it is everything here and there’s no repairing this.”

Wu has even lost a sponsorship deal from a 3D printer company over the accusations that she isn’t who she says she is.

Dougherty eventually apologized, but Wu says that “the damage had been done” at that point, and that Dougherty knew the accusations would be “devastating” to her “reputation and professional prospects.”

Wu says that the attack is motivated by white male entitlement to tech spaces.

She says that she can’t imagine Dougherty attacking “a white lady from San Francisco.” Wu has been an advocate for diversity in tech and maker spaces. “I kept pushing for more inclusion – not just me, other underrepresented people,” she says. “They didn’t like being pushed. This is payback.”

We stand behind Wu as she continues to push the edge in tech spaces, and say shame on you to bullies who won’t make space for women and racial minorities. Sorry you’re not as cool as SexyCyborg, but that’s on you and you need to get over it.

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