Of Forests and Trees

nature-3294681_640I saw a commercial for Disney World the other day, and it brought to mind memories of a family trip we took there many years ago. I’ve always loved Disney World. Growing up, I lived close enough that our family went several times. As an adult, I was just as excited to take my own kids to this Magic Kingdom.

As we were walking between attractions, my eyes drifted from one scene to another. I marveled at the architectural details incorporated into the park. I wondered about the conversations I witnessed taking place all around me in numerous different languages. I smiled as I watched my children’s excitement constantly overwhelm them.

And then my eyes caught something different.

There on the ground just in front of me was a twenty dollar bill. People were stepping over it and on it as they walked. It was impossible to know who had dropped it. I picked it up and announced my find to the rest of the family. I remember making some remark about the magic of Disney and we walked on.

But then it happened again. This time, my eye spotted a folded up bit of cash. I went to throw away my empty drink cup and there it was, on the ground right next to the trash can. Close to $50 was added to my wallet this time.

In that moment, my kids were transformed. No longer were they interested in the rides, gift shops, or costumed characters. They weren’t even in interested in watching where they were going. All eyes were trained downward; searching for potential money on the ground. They ran into people. They scrambled to examine every bit of paper they saw. And because they were looking so hard, they couldn’t possibly see what they were looking for.

So many people walk through life with a narrow field of view. They are so focused on looking for one specific thing that they become blind to the possibilities around them. I didn’t find money that day because I was looking for it. I found it because my eyes were simply open. I was drinking in everything around me, enjoying the variety of scenery and activity in the moment. Because I wasn’t intent on finding any specific thing, I was open to seeing them all.

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” This is often used to describe someone who is good at detail work, but tends to miss the bigger picture. They are too focused to understand what the team is trying to accomplish or how a particular task fits into the master plan. Their eyes aren’t open to possibilities that might lie right in front of them.

Our challenge as sales people, as customer service agents, and as leaders is to operate with eyes wide open. As we move through the day, we need to allow our senses to drink in what’s going on around us so that we can act on those opportunities others tend to miss. Subtle cues and clues can lead to sales. Unspoken needs can provide windows to serve. Casual interactions can open the door to meaningful mentoring.

Yes, we have tasks to perform. Yes, we have priorities that have been laid out. But we can’t be so singularly focused that we fail to pick up on fleeting chances to do something significant. The more we allow ourselves to enjoy the moment, the more able we are to see the magic.

After a while, my kids stopped looking for money on the ground and the joy returned to our vacation experience. That afternoon, we stopped and sat on a bench in order to review the park map and determine our next activity. Suddenly one of the kids jumped up and ran to the opposite side of the walkway. Something had caught his eye. He returned with a big grin on his face and a shiny quarter in his hand. “I wasn’t looking for it,” he said. “I was just looking around and there it was.”