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Paying Attention or Paying Distraction?

Updated: Apr 18

We live in an attention-economy world! Whether we pay attention or pay distraction, either way we are paying for results.

According to Jim Wilder, "Leadership is Creating Engagement in What Matters."

Intentionally focusing ourselves and our people on what matters is the grand challenge of leaders today! The big problem is that our current world increasingly distracts our attention towards what we call Future-Negative FEAR!

"Many years ago, Sir Richard Branson's home of 30 years burst into flames after it was struck by lightning on his beloved private island, Necker, in the British Virgin Islands. During that fateful night, Sir Richard lost one of his greatest business treasures, his handwritten diaries from 30 years of globetrotting.

Apparently, you rarely see Branson at a meeting without taking notes – one of his secrets to staying sane with 350 companies in the Virgin Group."

Journaling in the NHL

I am in no way comparing myself to the amazing entrepreneur Richard Branson, but for some unknown reason, I too began to journal early in my NHL career. My pen & journal would track games, personal performance, and upsetting times (which I now consider Past-Negative learning opportunities). I even began to capture interesting stories. From funny things that happened on the ice, to powerful business metaphors, to the cute words that the kids said when they were 2 or 3 years old. It all ended up in my journal.

I now share some of these on-ice, off-ice NHL high-performance stories at sales and leadership conferences to connect with audiences, inspiring people’s growth for large sums of money. What if I hadn’t written the stories down? What if I had not prioritized journalling?

Where do I still think through and intentionally catalogue our highlights and lowlights? In my journal. Jenn and I are writing our 6th book Breakout and have 5 more books outlined for future focus. Guess where these ideas find their germination? In my journal.

Many of you are the owners or leaders of your companies, teams, and families. That makes you the story tellers of your companies, teams, and families. Allow me to share 9 ideas to illuminate the positive impact of journalling:


1- Metacognition  

2- Story-Capture

3- 4000 weeks

4- Slowing Down Negativity

5- Tracking metrics

6- Logging Gratitude

7- Identifying Mindset

8- Growing Leadership

9- GARAGE Journaling


1- Journaling helps our brains to organize. Metacognition in its simplest form means “thinking about thinking.” Typically, we like to utilize metacognition in a conversational question process to help others grow their thinking. Journalling personalizes this process. It is our opportunity to get our thoughts out of our heads, and increasingly organized on paper.

Journaling metacognition also focuses our thinking. Recent research suggested that when we get distracted (from our FLOW) it takes 17 to 25 minutes to get our Flow Attention back


Leadership growth is enhanced by introspection, looking back at what we did and ahead at who we are becoming. Course-corrections are initiated by metacognition. Some leaders highlight, circle, or doodle, but independent of our drawing talent, we enhance our cognition, prioritize our ideas, and track our progress in our journals. Metacognition pairs perfectly with the fine ingredients of pen, paper, and time-blocking.


2- Story Capture - During my 9 seasons playing with the Montreal Canadiens, we entered and exited the Montreal Forum through the players' entrance. This entrance was targeted by fans young and old as the place to obtain players' autographs. Groups of us would exit together after practice, sometimes into hundreds of people hoping to capture every player's signature.

One of these times I stepped in front of a young guy who really didn’t know who the individuals were but sensed that some of these moving bodies must be Montreal Canadiens. This sweet little guy was standing next to his dad, who looked to be much more excited about meeting Canadiens players than his son was about getting autographs. The little guy looked at me and asked, “Sir, could I please have your autograph?

I told him, “Absolutely,” and scribbled my continuous line signature on the arm of his Canadiens sweater. I gave him a big smile and turned to sign the next autograph. Looking at the scribble, I heard the young guy say, “Dad, who is that?”

I glanced over at the boy staring down at his sleeve and trying to figure out what my name might be. In that moment I saw my signature through different eyes, from this young kiddo’s perspective.

Framed in a new way, through a different point of view, I suddenly realized that I needed to adjust my signature. I started to slow down and shift my style, almost printing my name rather than hurrying the scrawl in order to move on to the next fan. Before my autograph was scribble; today it is 10-year-old-legible:


Young fans no longer need to turn to their fathers and ask, “Who is that guy?” That day, one bright kiddo spouting 4 simple words opened my eyes to a different point of view.

Because the above story is not a significant accomplishment, or a brilliant life highlight it would be easy to forget. It is just another simple, personal happening if I do not take the time to write this in my journal. If I do not write it down, I will have no chance to find its utility later (like in our next book Breakout, from which it has been extracted).


3- 4004 Weeks – The average male actuarially dies at 77 years old. 77 years times 52 weeks = 4004 weeks. This could be a bummer for some of us if we chose to ruminate in a Future-Negative mindset. For others, recognizing the reality of our elapsing time can re-focus our energy on increasing our love toward family and friends.


Fifty-two weeks is much more malleable for me than one more year. Journalling in weekly segments brings hope to my years. Journalling rekindles my Past-Positive memories and prompts me to create Future-Positive dreams, bringing meaning to the thousands of weeks that I have spent, and the hundreds of weeks that I have left, on this earth.


4- Slowing Down Negativity – Science reminds us that the human Negative Bias is alive and well. Our brains can deal with negativity in large amounts at lightning speed. Hence, our tendency to ruminate on mountains of what went wrong.


Negativity runs wild in the fast reactional thinking lane. The obvious construct is to slow down our negativity and give our minds the space to deconstruct why we are ruminating in the Defensive Zone. One of the great ideas that I have been working on recently is to turn my high-speed negative thinking into slower-speed negative writing.


Slow writing our rumblings, potentially introduces more logic, pulling us into the slower more intentional typing lane. The minute you become highly aware of your next negative cognition, pull out your journal and write down your thinking!


We have looked at these four benefits of journalling:


1- Metacognition 

2- Story Capture

3- 4000 weeks

4- Slows Down Negativity

During our next blog we will dive deeper into 5 more big benefits of journalling:


5- Tracking metrics

6- Logging Gratitude

7- Identifying Mindsets

8- Growing Leadership

9- GARAGE Journaling


In the meantime, this is the week! Buy the most expensive Journal possible. Buy a gold pen if you have to… buy an iPad or a ???? Spend money on it; make it so expensive that it becomes important to you.


Push yourself to get started. Allow your journal to become the powerful playbook for this next season of your life!



3 Three principles Richard Branson uses to keep his focus on success


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