Focus, But Don’t Forget to Look Up

When I was a young guy a friend of mine shared something I have never forgotten. We were in Colorado at the time, and he said “the Rocky Mountains are enormous, but all it takes is my thumb close enough to my eye to block them out.”

focusI am not a detail oriented person by nature, so when I am called to work in great detail I occasionally forget the big picture. I experienced this first hand several years ago.

I was on a business trip that was quite important, but I was also asked to complete a depreciation schedule for my company. It turns out that trying to both travel and do this particular work was a bad idea. (Honestly, I’m not sure I ever heard the term “depreciation schedule” before being asked to do one!)

Arriving early at the gate, I decided that it was time to get to work on my project. I was sitting about 30 feet from my gate, facing the counter and the door.  With commotion all  around me, I opened my computer and began to get into the gory details of depreciating office furniture. Head down in a spreadsheet, I was intense and getting a TON of work done. I was excited about my progress until I looked up and realized what you already know…

I missed my flight.

Yep….30 feet from my gate and I missed the announcements and the lines of people entering the plane. I can imagine they were probably even calling my name. I missed it all because of something usually valuable but sometimes crippling.


If you google “the importance of focus” you’ll get a myriad of results that espouse the virtue of getting granular in the detail of your goals, your planning and your daily work. You’ll read about all the famous people who harnessed their brilliance by their singular focus. While I believe all this is true, I have seen how the religion of focus can also, predictably, lead to missed opportunities and a certain myopia that excludes innovative thinking. It can also reduce people to tasks….we forget to listen and treat people like, well, humans.

Does this mean that the purposeless chaos most of us live in should win the day? Absolutely not! Focusing on important goals and tasks will make success more predictable. That being said, there are many reasons it’s important to take the advice of my friend. After all, life is more than goals and a measurable version of success. The intangibles that lead to success in both business and our personal lives are served well by a simple phrase…

Look up.

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