Once You See Something, You Can’t Unsee It

Portable bluetooth speaker

Recently I heard something that really stuck with me. I can’t quote it perfectly, but it basically went something like this, “Once you see something, you can’t unsee it. And once you hear something, you can’t unhear it.” That’s profound. Truly. Much more so than one of my least favorites, “It is what it is” (perhaps the topic of a future article).

Like many of you, I occasionally get a song stuck in my head. Often, it’s annoying. This is especially true when it’s a song I don’t really like. But, there I go singing the song in my head over and over. Why? I’m not certain. Okay, it has a catchy tune, but there has to be more to it than that, right?

Ever seen a really bad accident on the freeway or the ski slope? You can’t get it out of your mind. You play it over and over. Years later, something triggers the memory and you replay it again repeatedly for several days. This can happen with accidents, fires or any type of event that causes a strong emotional response. You may temporarily put it aside, but it never truly goes away.

Once a family member said something to me that wasn’t pleasant. Decades later, there are still times when that memory comes out. I haven’t fully shaken it. I’ve forgiven the person and they have since passed away, but those words are somehow stored in my brain forever.

Of course the flip-side is true it well. Words of affirmation. Encouragement. Praise. Songs that are tied to a positive memory. Great events, songs and sights don’t ever truly go away either. I’ll never forget the moment when I was married or my children were born.

Our senses are amazing! Sight, smell, touch, sound and taste. Our senses create strong and lasting bits of information that are stored in our brains. And good or bad, we can’t completely get rid of them.

So what’s the takeaway? It’s simply this. Be careful. Be thoughtful. Be deliberate. Think about what and who you listen to. Think about the places you go. Think about your surroundings. Where you hang out. Your friends. Your music. You movies. And so on. Once you see something, you can’t unsee it. Once you hear something, you can’t unhear it. The same for touch, smell and taste.

Great leaders are deliberate about where they go, what they read, what they watch and what they listen to. They’re also deliberate about the same things for their organization, their kids and their team.

In my life, there are many things I wish I hadn’t seen or heard. There are fewer things I wish I hadn’t touched, tasted or smelled but there are those as well. And, of course, there are many things I’m glad I saw, heard, touched, tasted or smelled.

But the point is, our interaction with the world around us, via our senses, create deposits that we can’t undo. So be deliberate, be wise, be aware, be thoughtful and chose what you take in. Chose those interactions that are positive, helpful and value-added. Be wary of interactions that aren’t. Unless you live in a bubble, you’ll take in enough negative things just by living life. But that doesn’t mean you need to compound that by putting yourself in negative or dangerous situations. Be wise.

The picture above shows a speaker I use to play music. I choose songs or playlists or stations or sporting events carefully. I’m selective in what I listen to because once I hear something, I can’t unhear it. The same is true for all my senses. I’m selective and deliberate. I hope you are too.

Have a great week. Be careful what you take in through you senses. Put yourself in the right places and avoid being in the wrong places. Easy enough, right?

is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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