"A person starts to live when he can live outside himself."
-- Albert Einstein
Recently I was walking in the woods with my friend Gregg Patterson and my black lab Sophie. We were on the Lake Overstreet Trail, which is a little more than five miles, shaded and picturesque. We have taken this walk many times, so we know the trail well.
When we were about halfway through the walk, Sophie stopped and refused to go on. She tends to do this if she catches the scent of something different, like a bird or small animal, so I did not think much of it at first. I just tried to pull her leash to get her going. This usually does the trick, but this time she would not budge. Gregg and I knew this was something different. We stopped talking and followed Sophie's gaze about 15 feet off the trail behind us where a large deer was staring at us.
This was a big deer, but we had just walked right by it without seeing it. We would not even have known about it at all if Sophie had not alerted us. Once we knew it was there, it was impossible to miss.
As I reflected on this experience, I knew the reason we had missed seeing the deer was that we had walked this trail so many times we had become oblivious to anything around us. This complacency really bothered me because I wondered how often I become so comfortable with the way things are that I fail to see how things are changing.
As business owners and managers, we have to be aware of what is happening around us at all times, but we often lack the requisite skills and training. Hunters usually have this skill as they are constantly watching for any small movement in the
woods around them. People in law enforcement are also trained to be aware of their surroundings.
Those of us who are not hunters or law enforcement officers, however, can cultivate these skills simply by making a conscious effort to observe everything -- even seemingly small things like how you walk, talk, breathe and eat. The more diligently you watch, the more you will start noticing.
To help this process, try to do something different every four hours. This keeps your mind from relaxing and becoming complacent. Walking a different way to the office or ordering something new for lunch are other wonderful ways to do this.
One entrepreneur I am working with did this and now realizes how much he was previously missing in his business. Even his employees have noticed this positive difference in him.
Make sure you have the skills needed to see the deer you have been missing in the woods.
Jerry Osteryoung, a consultant to businesses, is Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.