Have you ever heard of Benjamin Percy? He’s a 36-year-old writer who has won several awards for his novels and short stories. His newest novel, The Deadlands, was just released. He is currently adapting his previous novel, Red Moon, for Fox, and is writing a new television series — Black Gold — for the Starz cable network. His favorite current project is writing the newest version of Green Arrow for DC Comics.
In a recent interview, Percy offered the following advice to aspiring writers:
Writing is not an indulgence. You give up other indulgences to be a writer. You don’t watch the game. You don’t go out to the club. You don’t join the poker game. You say no. A lot.
In response to the question, “If you were a superhero, what would your power be?” Percy answered, “Deep focus.” He then added, “It’s not a sexy superpower, but it serves me well.” (His comment implied that he believes that he already possesses this so-called superpower.)
Have we gotten to the point where deep focus is considered a superpower?
Unfortunately, in today’s modern world where most people are unable to focus on anything for more than 20 seconds, I suppose it could be considered a superpower.
Last week while I was in the adoration chapel, a woman started talking out loud. I turned to see who she was talking to and noticed that she was talking on her cell phone. Since I didn’t hear her phone ring, my assumption is that she had it set on vibrate and answered the phone when she received a call.
The woman told the person she was talking to that she was in the chapel and would call her back later. The other person apparently didn’t care where the woman was and continued the conversation. The woman attempted to keep the volume of her voice low, but I could still hear what she was saying. It took her several minutes to end the conversation.
There was an article in last week’s Inc. magazine that reported that the management of the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers had reduced the amount of time that the football players had to sit in on meetings. The author of the article, Ilan Mochari, wrote, “When the average age of your employees is 25, you can either make your millennials conform to tradition, or change your ways to increase their buy-in. Here’s how the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers chose the latter.” (Millennials are generally described as Americans who were born between 1980 and the mid-2000s. All seven of my children fit within this classification)
Mochari reported that the 49ers had reduced the time the players were required to attend meetings to 30 minutes. Before the change, meetings sometimes lasted as long as two hours. The reasoning behind the change was that each player needed a 10-minute break between each 30-minute meeting to allow him to “grab [his] phone, do [his] multitasking, and get [his] fix.” Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of all time, would have never tolerated this type of rule for his players, regardless of their age or beliefs.
I have a one-on-one meeting with each of my five key employees at least once a week to go over pending court cases and other client-related matters. Two of the employees are millennials. Our meetings frequently last between one and two hours. During the meetings, no one is allowed to interrupt us. There are no breaks for phone calls, multitasking, or getting a fix. We accomplish a lot in our meetings. Why? Because we focus exclusively on our work, with no interruptions.
Earlier this year, I wrote about a recent “Internet Trends Report” that revealed that the typical smartphone user checks his or her phone 150 times a day. It’s impossible for a person who checks for phone messages 150 times a day to focus on his or her work for any reasonable length of time.
Thirty years ago there were no mobile phones so no one had the ability to carry a phone into a chapel, restaurant, or locker room. How were people able to manage their lives without mobile phones or the Internet? A lot better than today.
So when Benjamin Percy, an extremely successful and prolific writer, tells us that the ability to focus deeply is equivalent to a superpower, we should listen to him.
Here’s my question for you: If you were being interviewed and were asked the same question that Percy was asked — If you were a superhero, what would your power be? — how would you answer?
How do you think the Blessed Mother would answer that question? Or Saint Joseph? Or any of the other saints?
Don’t read any further until you think about and come up with an answer as to how the Blessed Mother and the saints would answer that question. What would they say?
My best guess is that their answer would be, “If I were a superhero, my power would be a deeply focused, humble prayer life.” God loves humility above all other virtues.
Do you know what a saint really is? A saint is someone who has been designated by God and His church as a superhero. The good news is that we all have the power to become superheroes. The first major step in becoming a superhero is to develop a deeply focused, humble prayer life, like all the saints did before us.
But in order to do that, we will have to frequently decide against watching the game, going out to the club, or joining the poker game. We’ll also have to decide to keep our cell phones in the car when we attend Mass and visit with our Lord in the adoration chapel.
If we want to be superheroes in the eyes of God, we have to learn to say no to the indulgences we have become accustomed to, especially the desire and addictive need to constantly be connected to the world through our cell phones or through Facebook and the other social media websites.
No wonder it’s so hard to become a saint.