I’ve written a lot about “the big picture”. I pride myself on what I consider to be my ability to see things from a bigger perspective, and guide my life accordingly. Life is lived in incrementally small steps, but you need to at least be heading in some version of a “right direction”, knowing full-well that the course-correcting along the way will make that path anything but straight.
This is a lesson… a concept… that I try to teach my kids continually. Think big picture. Put yourselves in someone else’s shoes. Look at it from their point of view. Look at it from all points of view. Consider the implications not just for the immediate future, but medium and long-term as well. Add that into your mix before you make decisions… etc etc.
I have countless examples – from myself, from people I know, from the world… but the following example came up in conversation last night, so that’s the one you’re going to get. It was from when my son Oscar was in grade 5.
It was Sports Day of that school year, so he was 10 years old. One of the last events of the day was a race for the entire grade… 800m… a couple of laps around the track.
The race started off with everyone at the starting line, all at once, but it became evident pretty quickly who the standout athletes were, who the average kids were, and who was really going to struggle.
Oscar is not an elite athlete, but he was holding his own… somewhere in the top third, in a group behind the future track stars.
But at some point, he looked back and saw one of his friends a little further behind. So he slowed down till he was even with him, and they ran together for a bit. And then he noticed another friend, even further back… so he eased off the gas pedal and slowed down to match that friend for a while. That happened yet again… and then, one final time, with a friend who was struggling all alone at the very back.
So Oscar dialed it all the way back, and ended up walking it in, tied for dead last. That friend was huffing and puffing. Oscar had barely broken a sweat.
I went up to him after the race… and I wouldn’t say I was mad, but I was pondering how to ask the obvious question without sounding angry.
“Hey… so… do you really think that’s the right way to run a race?”
“Who cares, dad. Nobody cares. Nobody’s going to remember who won that race. And anyway, I just felt bad for my friend.”
Hmm. Yeah, true… grade 5 Sports Day. Nobody, except perhaps those elite top-3 athletes at the front – will remember who won. Nobody will care, not even those three because one day they’ll go on to real high-school track meets, where it really counts… and possibly college scholarships. Today, this? Irrelevant.
I had some version of “you might not be expected to win, but at least try your best” or “all that’s asked for is an honest effort” or “you can’t just phone it in when you feel like it”… I don’t really recall, because I didn’t actually say anything other than… “Huh. Yeah… ok. Well done.”
Yet, big picture… those friends, especially that last one, might remember it. Oscar remembers it, but when it came up last night, he remembered it as no big deal.
This whole post is a bit of a counterpoint to yesterday’s, where, in response, some people said things like “keep an open mind”.
There is “big-picture thinking”, and there is “open mind”… but I also do draw the line at “doctors”, quoted by no less than The President, saying things like… there’s already a cure, but it’s being hidden from us… and that alien DNA is being used in medical treatments… and that some medical conditions are the result of people having sex with demons.
In the grand scheme of things, most certainly keep an open mind and be open to possibilities. As per my Sports Day example, sometimes we’re too narrowly focused on what’s typically expected, maybe because it’s all too familiar… and it prevents us from seeing the big picture. Keep in mind… no matter what nudges you into that way of thinking… the big picture always has a lot to offer. And so does common sense.