Take Seth Godin for example. He is a business guy who seems to be very adept at noticing strange or significant things that others either overlook or are unwilling to talk about. Jesus was the same way (only better at it).
In fact, almost every visionary, inventor, major scientist, and or leader has been able to see things that others don’t. It doesn’t matter if they are a positive example (Nelson Mandela) or a negative one (Adolph Hitler). They see opportunities, needs, causes, weaknesses, wrongs, situations, etc. through eyes that seek a way to capitalize on them – for good or bad.
But it’s a skill that can be learned too…
I believe that a person can and should train themselves so the skill of noticing the typically unnoticed is developed over time. And it’s necessary. Each of us has a unique mix of gifts, skills, and abilities that the LORD wants to use to make a positive difference in the world, so that He receives glory for it. We owe it to Him, ourselves, and the world to develop those things the best we can and see great things happen in the process.
Becoming adept at seeing the unseen is nothing more than developing keen skills of observation, like the fictional Sherlock Holmes in a way… so that you are able to pick up on things needing fixed, adjusted, corrected, or investigated more thoroughly. It’s those kinds of observations that can make a huge difference for how you view the world and how you operate in it.
But it’s also about knowing how to interpret the things you see.
- What are they saying, showing, or meaning for the people around them?
- What impact do they have on the present and the future?
- What would changes to them provide or prohibit?
- How can they be improved to maximize their benefits?
When you learn to do this consistently you’ll begin to see a handful of powerful results.
- You’ll begin to find your place in the world (maybe).
- You’ll find problems to fix or solve.
- You’ll find beautiful, wonderful things about life you didn’t know were there (and therefore more reason to give God praise).
- You’ll begin to differentiate yourself from your competition as you act on what you see.
- You’ll learn to serve customers, clients, friends, and family better.
How to learn to see
I’ve experimented with this concept many times in my life… and have picked up a few tips that I’d like to pass on. These are things that have proven helpful to me as I’ve tried to develop my skills in observation and comprehension.
1. Take time to look
Noticing things takes time… at least at first. Consider your daily commute or a drive you make quite often. Can you tell me the color of the 3rd building you see? What about the type of font used on the sign at the local grocery store? These things may sound insignificant, and may be – but they illustrate how little we truly stop to look around us.
One reason you don’t notice things on that drive is because you’re moving too fast. If you were to walk the same route, you’d have time to see things you normally miss entirely. That’ my problem.. I’m typically in such a mad dash to get something done that I pass right by things in the process.
Over the years I have tried to slow down, at least in my mind. I seek to stop for a few seconds (come on, you CAN afford a few seconds) to assess what it is that I’m seeing. I notice colors, sounds, smells, shapes, textures. It’s mind blowing when you begin to realize all the amazing things that you pass by every day.
2. Take time to think
- Does this work?
- Is it well-built?
- Did the designer think it through well?
- What is wrong with it?
- How could it be better?
- Is there an injustice happening here?
- Is there a need that could be/should be met here?
- Is it enjoyable? What could make it more so?
- Is there a lie or type of misinformation needing to be corrected?
- Is there a beauty that needs to be made much of?
You get the point… stop accepting what is AS what must be and try to imagine what might be. How could your particular insights into the thing or situation make it better?
A silly example
The following picture illustrates one of these “think about it” moments for me. It’s one I’ve had on my mind for a long time.
It’s not something I feel compelled to do anything about, but it does give me a lot to think about in my business and other endeavors when it comes to the issue of customer service.
When I think about this issue I ask these sorts of questions:
Q: Why do businesses insist on buying sandpaper toilet paper?
A: Cost, most likely. Definitely NOT comfort.
Q: Who does that primarily benefit?
A: The company. Of course it may impact the prices the company charges, but not as much as a soft roll of toilet paper!
Q: Is the company showing me that they really care about customer service, or are they showing me that they really care about the bottom line? (no pun intended there).
A: The bottom line is the main issue.
And here comes the really important question for me…
Is there anything I’m currently doing in my business that is cheaper, but not best for my customer.
BINGO! I’ve gleaned the benefit of good observation. I’ve seen something that others miss and it’s going to help me differentiate myself from everyone else out there who is trying to do the same work I am.
And I believe in the end it’s going to help me win and keep clients and be observant and proactive in my parenting and marriage.
Training myself to see what others miss is vital… and a skill I’m still honing day after day.