Not Paying Attention Nothing New

With all the hoopla about not paying attention because of texting and talking while driving, one would think that this is a new problem. However, there have been other classic examples over the decades of people’s paying attention to the wrong thing.

  For example, one of the greatest jockeys of all time and the first to win over $100 million, Willie Shoemaker, was on his way to winning the 1957 Kentucky Derby riding Gallant Man. In the lead coming around the final turn, Shoemaker assumed the pole ahead was the finish line. But he wasn't paying careful attention and in reality it was the last pole before the finish line. He stood up in the stirrups in triumph and as he did, Iron Liege passed him and won the Derby.

  Adam and Eve did not pay attention to God’s instructions not to eat from one particular tree. Instead they paid attention to the deception of the serpent and were expelled from their idyllic life in the Garden of Eden.

  Sometimes we don’t pay attention because we become complacent with the familiar. For example, a Churchill Car Insurance poll a few years ago revealed that drivers on familiar roads experienced a "switching off" syndrome which is a common cause of car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a 2008 study found that over half of auto accidents occur within 5 miles of home. Have you ever driven a familiar route to work or school and when you arrived did not remember how you got there?  We get to thinking about the day and our various responsibilities and simply do not pay attention to driving at 70 mph.

  Thus you can see that inattentiveness is not simply due to the technology of recent decades, but lack of attention has been common as long as humans have followed life routines. In order to counteract those around us who are not paying attention, we must be extra-diligent to be alert and on guard in all situations.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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