“Driven to Distraction” is no longer just a title to a book that covers ADHD, but it is also a phrase that describes how many of us feel in our day-to-day lives. The opportunities and choices are enormous and they can easily overwhelm our capacity to make order out of our everyday world.
David Brooks’ opinion piece in the New York Times earlier this month titled “The Art of Focus” provided advice to beat this challenge. “The lesson from childhood, then, is that if you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.
“The information universe tempts you with mildly pleasant but ultimately numbing diversions,” Brooks wrote. “The only way to stay fully alive is to dive down to your obsessions six fathoms deep. Down there it’s possible to make progress toward fulfilling your terrifying longing, which is the experience that produces the joy.”
This experience of digging deep into obsession is the topic of a new book written by Len Forkas, “What Spins the Wheel: Leadership Lessons from Our Race for Hope.” Forkas tells the story of finding out his son has leukemia, starting a non-profit, Hopecam (to connect children with cancer to their classrooms) and participating in the Race Across America (a 3,000-mile bike race) to raise money for Hopecam.
“Children who connect with Hopecam will tell you the most important part of seeing their friends on the webcam is the simple reminder that they have not been forgotten, and they are not alone,” Forkas wrote.
Providing the gift of connection. Humans need to know that, rather than being alone, there are others who are willing to stand with us during our times of trial.
Forkas tells the story of how he found his obsession: “Sir Ken Robinson’s book, ‘Finding Your Element.’ Robinson suggests that using your strengths in such a natural way that things begin to flow is the key to creativity, happiness and transformation. Reading and thinking about his message forced me to look deep inside myself and think about how I was able to use my strengths to reach a goal — first, helping Matt, and then later, helping other kids with cancer.
“During RAAM (Race Across America), I was in my element. I’m not fast or agile. My cycling technique isn’t tuned to maximum efficiency. I’m not an exceptional athlete. I am a father, husband, business owner and someone who wants to make a difference. My son is alive. I owe it to these children to help them. If there is anything that differentiates me from others, it’s that once I set a goal, I don’t quit. How fortunate I am to have found happiness doing something that I love and using it in a way that benefits others.”
Forkas’ drive to complete the 3,000-mile event was fueled by his desire to connect children fighting cancer with their friends; to allow them to retain and cement friendships that otherwise might fall to the wayside during their personal struggle; to provide the gift of connection.
“Even if there is no immediate crisis we have to deal with, it seems that all of us are striving to make a difference in the world,” Forkas wrote. “By looking deep inside ourselves, we can identify which unique and God-given gifts we can use in service to a meaningful goal. That’s how we create opportunity out of crisis, and spin the wheel from negative to positive. That’s how we walk the skybridge across that dangerous and unknown abyss that connects our old and familiar life to what’s waiting for us on the other side.”
“What Spins the Wheel” is about more than leadership and achieving goals; it’s about a father’s love for his son, his determination for his son to be able to connect not only with family but also with friends during his battle against leukemia and about how one person’s obsession can improve the lives of many others.
Connection, knowing that we are not alone, that we are loved, might just be the best gift that a parent can give a child.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers, visit www.creators.com.