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Coaching to a New Orleans State of Mind: A Multi-Tasking City and Mind-Set

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A colleague of mine recently sent me an article on the dangers of multi-tasking—an article that pointed to the neurobiological findings indicating the damages in terms of attention deficits that can be done when trying to do too many things at the same time.  While the admonitions are justified and the advice given is to taken seriously, I was reminded of my yearly stay at a time-share in New Orleans. There is a kind of “multi-tasking” that takes place as I wander the streets or sit at an outdoor café in this remarkable city located on the Mississippi River. It is a state of mind that I cherish and that I think should also be cherished in the lives and minds of the men and women we coach.

This focus on New Orleans might at first seem a bit ironic. This is a city, after all, that has a reputation for laid back living (it is called the “Big Easy” for some reason). It is also (at the opposite extreme) noted for many years as an “unsafe” place to be (given its rate of crime and reputation of corruption and scandal). It is also a city that is rebuilding itself after a devastating hurricane. The single-minded, sustained concentration on the rebuilding is widely admired (though the crime and reputation for corruption and scandal also linger in New Orleans). Yes, New Orleans is filled with many ironies and contradictions. I suspect that this is one of the reasons I am pulled to The Big Easy every year. As Stephen Heuser (2013, p. K1) has recently noted (after the Boston Marathon bombing) with regard to the allure of many major urban areas that are also quite dangerous: “what we felt this week [after the bombing], the collective vulnerability, is an exact reflection of what makes cities work in the first place, what makes them productive, and vital, and almost unimaginably resilient . . . Increasingly we are recognizing that when new things happen, they happen in cities: the places where people stand shoulder to shoulder, meet strangers, have conversations they didn’t expect. Where they accept unpredictability.”

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