16Novelty Is Not Your Friend

Imagine that you're watching a tightrope walker. You're watching her walk from one pole to another across a thin wire, occasionally changing speed. Though her wire flexes a little bit, she is light on her feet, almost dancing. By objective measures, that is a pretty amazing accomplishment.

But if you were at a circus, watching this acrobatic person walk across a tightrope, how long would it take for you to turn your attention to the lion tamer or the man who launches himself out of canons? How quickly would you lose interest in the great walker and her impossibly thin rope?

Cartoon illustration of an acrobatic person walking across a rope with a stick in his hand.

Probably, if you're like most people, pretty quickly. We have seen tightrope walking, either in person or online or in documentaries like Man on Wire. In the latter, the film's subject walked on a wire poised, illegally, between the New York World Trade Center's twin towers.

Still, it is worth wondering why you would be distracted away from something that most people could do only at great personal cost – away from something that is actually an amazing human achievement. It is worth tracing the same impulse – to scoff at or ignore amazing, show‐stopping, magical performances – across our personal and professional lives. Indeed, we do the same thing with our phones, with our jobs, with our cars, and in our streaming media accounts. We flip from thing to thing to thing. Sometimes ...

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