“Absent-minded: Showing a habitually forgetful or inattentive disposition.”

We are all familiar with the term and have all occasionally been so absent-minded as to forget our keys in the car or leave the milk in the pantry instead of the fridge. Why is this? It’s because our minds are focused on something either in our memories or thinking toward future plans and commitments. We aren’t focused on the moment we are currently in and often fail to execute simple tasks like turning off a curling iron. We aren’t aware. 

Many of us can correct this with more sleep or caffeine, turning off the phone or reducing the stresses in our lives that causes us to pine over the unforeseen future. Once we do, we can live in the moment and be mindful of our surroundings. This is a great exercise toward living in the moment, but what if you could go one step further and practice being mindful of the void?

To be mindful of the void is to not only to be present in the moment you are in–the sights, sounds, and textures within your space, but to also be scanning your environment for what is missing. Since I write books, I love to practice this in bookstores. I stare at a rack of children’s books and take stock of what type of styles, themes, and colors are represented and then ask myself, “What type of book isn’t here?”

A lazy A&R (Artist and Repertoire) staff member for a record company will scan the Billboard Top 100 and try to find similar artists that will bring them in a quick paycheck for their efforts. They are scanning for familiar sounding artists. This is how we had so many iterations of *NSYNC through boy bands like 98 Degrees and O-Town.

One reason for this is that it is less risk. *NSYNC and many boy bands before them already proved that the model works, so record labels just sought to reproduce this success till the market was oversaturated. Instagram is full of photographers who scan which pictures and styles get the most Likes and proceed to copy the style and, in a lot of cases, the subject right down to a T.

It’s safe. You already know the style is accepted. Someone else already took the risk.

Being mindful of the void is not safe. You may not be popular exercising this concept. When exercising this, you may discover good reasons that the photography style you’ve identified as absent on Instagram isn’t there because no one likes it, but great artists take risks. Great artists go through plenty of pieces that no one ever cared for in search of something truly unique that connects with an audience.

You can use this every day in life:

When at the grocery store checkout, scan the magazines and ask yourself, “What topics or style aren’t represented?”

While scanning the iTunes Top 100, ask yourself, “What type of music is missing?”

When scrolling through Instagram, ask yourself, “What style of photography isn’t present?” 

Once you’ve identified what’s missing, it’s now your charge to fill in the void. Good luck!

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