Distractions 101: You Can’t Win the Evolving Shell Game

You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Put blinders on and plow right ahead. ~ George Lucas

Remember the shell game? Where the ball is put under one of the three shells, the shells are shuffled and you’re to guess which shell the ball is under. Inevitability you never pick the right shell.

Bad luck?

No. The game is rigged. Yes, the operator cheats. But in your defense, the operators are master manipulators who are very savvy in slight of hand.

So what’s the shell game got to do with life?


The shell game is an analogy of the everyday challenge of staying focused and not getting distracted. If you stay focused on only one task, then you won’t find yourself trying to guess which shell (the multiplicity of distractions) conceals your ball (your primary focus).

Yet, the analogy gets even worse (sorry). Today, without even trying, we get bombarded by more and more shells (distractions) and every time we get distracted, we lessen our chances of getting back to the ball; which is our primary focus.

Example: It’s 7 a.m. EST right now as a write this. I heard the first mockingbird of the day start singing and I’m inclined to step outside and get a breath of fresh air. My cell phone just vibrated and I’m wondering if there might an important text message that came in. Oh, as I looked at the phone I noticed my coffee cup and I quickly thought that I should put it in the microwave to heat it up. And while I’m up, I might as well go use the bathroom.

Now as I’m writing all this, I hear a jet fly over and I think, “I wonder where it’s coming from…hmmm, isn’t it time for me to plan my next vacation?

The mockingbird (who’s undoubtedly mocking me at this point) just sang again, and as I look up from my laptop, I notice that it’s starting to get light out and there’s a full moon setting this morning. I should go take a peek at it.

Oh, I’m starting to get hungry too.”

And what was I writing about?

Distractions and Distractions…
See what I mean?!

The original three shells (a.k.a. a “normal” dose of three distractions) vying for your attention has exponentially grown to eight, ten or even twelve. Watever it was you were trying to focus on, at the very least, got diluted. At worst, you leave yet another project unfinished.

Or maybe this is just me (I know this isn’t true because almost everyone I’ve worked with over the last 30 years has complained of having difficulty following through with their goals).

This was frustratingly brought to my attention yesterday when I was listening to the news and the coverage kept bouncing from one story to another and another and another even more.

I kept asking myself, “What happened to the original story?

Or maybe I’m not supposed to ask that question. Maybe I’m just supposed to get caught up in the intriguing distraction of the next sensational and emotionally enticing story.

When I first introduced the concept of “boundaries with yourself” in Marry YourSelf First, I had no idea I’d be telling on myself like this. Just goes to show that I’m still 100% perfectly imperfect in my humanness.

Oh, now there are many mockingbirds singing. I wonder what song they’re singing? Everybody Plays The Fool?”

Damn, now my coffee IS cold.”

And I really have to go to the bathroom.”

What’s for breakfast?

When will I ever find the time to finish this post?

And when will YOU find the time to fulfill your life purpose?

Today’s free advice: Pull down your mental blinders and get to work…and don’t turn on the news. And stop reading this…Marry YourSelf First!

About Ken Donaldson

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