Experience Life…or Take a Picture of It

I’m often asked why I don’t take lots of pictures of places I visit. Actually, I rarely take pictures of anything in spite of having a perfectly good camera always at the ready right there in my iPhone. And the pictures cost nothing.

When I was much younger, in the age of bulky cameras loaded with film that had to be developed, I took lots and lots of pictures. It was an expensive endeavor: everything from the camera itself to developing the film was costly.

One day, years ago, while lugging my camera and assorted lenses and whatnot along on a hike through some beautiful Vermont mountains and snapping away…I had a revelation. I was capturing something, marking the moment, but I was not experiencing it.

I spent a lot of time in wonderful places looking through a box at a squared off scene while completely missing the rest of what was around me. My focus was on holding the camera steady, focusing it properly, getting the light correct, and wondering if it would be a great picture when I finally saw it days or weeks later.

I was missing the grandeur and splendor of my surroundings, was failing to fully experience them in order to get the perfect picture. I was outsourcing my memory of places and things to little pieces of paper rather than capturing them in my mind, available to see whenever I wanted.

I share this story with clients occasionally. I do so when I realize they’ve become so focused on a single person or other aspect of their business, that they’ve lost their ability to truly see and experience the full spectrum of what is going on around them.

People leading companies, or leading work groups, or for that matter, leading any kind of group big or small need to keep their perspective wide. They need to observe both the individuals and the entire group, the activities going on, and the results of these activities. Peering at one person or thing while ignoring everything else is rarely a path to success.

There’s another reason I share this story. It’s to illustrate how sometimes you discover a way of doing or thinking about things, a way of interacting with the world, that stands the test of time.

Of course, much has changed in the decades since I came to my revelation about picture-taking. Capturing, sharing and printing a perfectly focused and lit visual moment is as easy as pointing and shooting and tapping a few keys.   Doesn’t matter to me. I still rarely take pictures. I continue to find it a distracting exercise that leads me to miss the entire experience. And my life continues to feel richer as a result of simply ignoring the world of never-ending instagramming and selfies and the new technology that made them possible.

Sometimes, in both your business and your personal life, by looking at the whole picture, you come to see that indeed there are old ways that are still the best ways.


















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