Tell Them About Your L Train
The shock of this pandemic, the confusion it has caused, and the fear that has resulted have rattled society’s foundations. To say emotions are running high is an extreme understatement. New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, knows this. He is hyper-aware that his constituents are locked into his every word during the Covid-19 crisis and they are tuned into his messages like never before.
Last week, with everyone anticipating more news about the pandemic, he seized the moment to tell them about the L train. It was completely unexpected and stunningly positive news.
It was only a year ago that the rehabilitation of the L train tunnel was expected to shut down this vital New York subway artery. Doing so would leave many Brooklyn residents without a convenient commuter line and would deal with these communities and the larger City a crippling blow. With confidence in government at an all-time low, it was widely expected that such a large undertaking would prove endless and endlessly expensive.
Instead, during his daily coronavirus briefing, Cuomo announced that the project was completed three months ahead of schedule and $100 million under budget. He reminded his captive audience that there was a world before the pandemic, with big challenges, innovative ideas, and lots of emotion. “The L train project completion is timely proof that when we are confronted with a challenge, we can build back better and stronger,” said Cuomo. Media outlets jumped on the story, eager to spread the good news and champion his success.
Cuomo gets that, just like the global economy, the “attention economy” has been turned upside down. The core principle of attention economics is simple: each of us has a limited amount of attention. As the amount of information around us proliferates, our attention remains finite. In our information economy, attention has been the scare resource. That is, until now.
People are more emotional than ever, and emotion produces attention. A simple definition of attention is psychic energy, literally the energy of mind, and it’s this torrent of crisis-induced attention that is now locked in overdrive capturing, processing, and making judgments. These emotion-heavy moments of our lives are when lasting impressions are formed.
While this moment of crisis may feel endless, it won’t last. Normalcy and routine will return, and our collective attention will revert to pre-pandemic levels of shortage. The richness of life and all the distractions the world has to offer will once again render our bandwidth a scarce commodity. Governor Cuomo’s news conferences will return to remote cable channels, out of sight and out of mind.
In this singular time of mass attention, what accomplishments should you be championing? What are the challenges your organization has overcome through innovative thinking and bold execution? What are the principles that continue to power your career and your company? What perception do you want to be seared into the minds of your listeners?
While we’ll all be managing hardship for the foreseeable future, now is the time to dust off the trumpets. The trumpets of vision, pride in capabilities and services, and a commitment to a higher purpose.
They’re listening. Seize the moment. Tell them about your L train.