We look down a lot.
The average Briton checks their phone every 12 minutes and spends 2.5 hours a day online. That’s 38 days a year looking down. This will likely increase as we become more digitally dependent.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing (I’m a massive LinkedIn addict, get inspired by following the crazy 3am workout routines of Mark Wahlberg on Instagram and am a sucker for a crazy dash-cam video on Twitter) but by looking down so much of the time we are in danger of missing out on amazing things occasionally happening around us.
19 years ago something amazing happened when I looked up and it changed my life.
Having travelled 200 miles down south from Manchester to London, I arrived one morning at Euston train station on my way to an interview.
I walked through the station with my head buzzing getting ready for the questions ahead and some stuff going on in a work project on at the time.
I was so oblivious to the world around me that I walked across the concourse area in front of the station to look for the tube entrance. (Which is actually inside the station and shows how distracted I was at the time).
Suddenly a stranger in front of me smiled directly at me, pointed straight at me and then pointed up.
What was this all about?
I looked around and took in what I had not noticed right in front of me – literally hundreds of people were standing still and all looking up into the sky. It was like a scene from a sci-fi film.
Then I looked up…
The sky was gradually going dark. Everyone went quiet. The temperature subtly dropped. All the traffic had stopped. The volume of the world reduced.
Time seemed to stop. It was peaceful. I stopped thinking about the interview and my work stuff and just looked up in excitement.
A total solar eclipse was happening. (I found out later it was the first one visible in the U.K. in decades, and the next one will be in 2090, so a rare event).
I remember there were some people who carried on regardless of the magical event that was taking place right in front of us.
Then a few minutes later the clouds parted like the opening scene from the Simpsons and the lights came back on. Everyone then went back to doing their business. The traffic started again. The volume of the world went back to the normal din.
I went over to the pointing man and thanked him. “You almost missed that!” he said smiling and walked off. I then went and found the tube to get to the interview.
We all live busy lives. Busy projects, busy programmes, deadlines to hit and new stuff always happening around us. Smartphones and social media add more distractions. Switching off is a challenge. It can sometimes feel like a crazy never ending plate spinning contest.
But like the saying from Ferris Bueller goes: “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it”.
I got the job by the way. Call me superstitious but I always think that moment looking up outside Euston had some part to play; getting that particular job changed my life forever.
Look up. You never know what could happen.