Think Outside The Box – Take The Time To Look Up

Think outside the box. How do I do that? I suggest you take the time to look up

A personal story to illustrate my point:

On the Deerfield River, in western Massachusetts, fly fishing, and so intent on the cast, the drift, the possible take, that nothing else mattered. Nothing. And it wasn’t going well. No strikes – a fouled leader, snagged in a tree. Damn! All the equipment and fishing bad spirits seemed to be aligned against me. What was I doing? Why was I here?

And then something made me look up. And I looked around. And what I saw was a glorious fall afternoon – high clouds in a blue sky, a river lined with mixed hardwood and pine forests, bright, clean moving water that glittered with light from the reflection of the sun. The river partially in shadows.

And then something magical happened. Fly fisherman call it ‘the hatch” – the time when insects that have lived underwater for a few months to a few years swim to the surface, and become winged insects.

First one at a time, and then by the hundreds, then by the thousands, these flies came off the water, glowed in the sun, and helicoptered into the trees, where they would metamorphose into the last stage of their life, and return to the water, and lay their eggs. Many didn’t make it off the water – trout started eating them – and showing their location. The fly fisherman’s dream.

And I took a deep breath, and just stood there – loving every minute of being in this special place at this special time.

I’d like to say my fishing fortunes changed – they didn’t. But I fished on until it was too late to see, and the late fall temperature had dropped to the point where I could see my breath, and a mist was coming off the water. I loved that day – and I’ve had a lot of them since – and most of them have had nothing to do with fly fishing.

That day taught me a valuable lesson. I started to look up – not just when fly fishing, but at other times. Things I had seen as chores I found had value that I had not thought of before. Presentations I had been making to groups in the company I worked for took on a uniqueness that had been missing. Routine things I had to do became opportunities to think and process complex issues.

I was learning to look up and see the opportunity, the value, the utility of things I had seen as objects and obligations. It helped me get through some very tough times – it still does. It helped me think outside the box – although I have a hard time explaining exactly what that means. But we all know it when it happens.

We can all benefit by taking the time to look up. and see things in a different light. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time – some of the best insights and value shifts can take place with lightning speed. And they don’t have to be giant shifts. In fact, very little in our lives creates big shifts in values, attitudes, behaviors, skills. But those little shifts – taken by looking up and seeing what has always been there, are what can make our lives so much richer – in whatever way we define that term.

Try it – look at something you are doing right now – think of it in different terms. Perhaps it’s value to others; it’s contribution to your enterprise; it’s value to your family and to yourself. If you’re stuck in the thick of thin things – perhaps some of those thin things – things you have seen as having little importance to you – can be seen as something different – something with impact and value. You’ll be richer for the exercise. You’ll find your own Deer field River – your own special place. Then make looking up a habit of thought – think outside your box.

Start today