The cost of losing perspectiveJul 27, 2023
Last weekend I went on a solo trip and did a bunch of hiking.
It was the first time I’d done this and I learned a lot.
Today I share a story from the trip and 2 business takeaways you can learn from it.
But before we do, our sponsor this week.
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As I crested the hill, I saw what I’d been looking for. Three bison to my left, grazing on the prairie grass.
I was 2 hours and 4.5 miles into a hike on “Bison Trail” and had only seen one bison to this point. It’s called the “Bison Trail,” I thought… where are the bison?
It was also my second hike of the day and dead in the middle of the afternoon. I was exhausted.
But these bison revitalized me. They were still a long way off, so I picked up my pace to get to them quicker.
The trail was a narrow dirt and gravel path. Not because someone had thrown gravel down, but because the feet on this path had worn down the grass to dirt and revealed the naturally rocky landscape. That meant it was just wide enough to put one foot in front of the other.
As I picked my pace, I stumbled. So I fixed my eyes on the trail to place my feet and ensure I didn’t end up on the ground. Thirty seconds later I look up and the bison are nowhere to be seen. They don’t move fast, so I know it wasn’t because they moved. I assumed they were just over the top of the next hill.
I crane my neck to see up over the hill, continuing forward and eyes locked to my left. About the time I think I won’t see them, I looked ahead on the trail and see another trail to my left merging with my trail. As I look back down that trail, I think, “This will lead me closer to the bison.”
I look at my Apple Watch and see 5.01 miles. I’m exhausted, but I want to see the bison. I tell myself I won’t go too far. I trek backward up the merging trail and go over one hill then two. Still no sight of the bison… but the next hill is just a little further. So I go to the next and next. Still, no sight of the bison.
I look down at my watch and see I’ve gone half a mile. Shoot. I decide it’s time to turn back around. I kick myself as I wonder how I’ll possibly make it the additional mile I added to the trail.
As I come back to where the paths merge, I mentally reset. Shake it off I tell myself… just 2-3 more miles and I get to sit back in my air-conditioned car. Only another hour or two…
I walk 20 yards and crest the top of a hill. I pause to get a drink of water and take a break. As I scan the horizon to my right I see them. Less than 50 yards away, the bison stand eating their grass. Just. Right. There.
You see, being in the valley obscured not only my line of sight but my overall perspective. While I thought they were behind and to the left, they were really in front of me and to the right.
I lost perspective of where I was and where my target was in relation to them.
What did it cost me? An additional mile on my tired legs and a little extra time.
Ultimately all I could do was laugh. Of course, I’d make it the extra mile. No big deal, even if it felt like it.
But in business, the cost can be much higher.
We set our goal and see it in the distance. We get excited, we start pushing, but we get caught up in “the walk.” The day-to-day emergencies and busyness where we take our eye off the prize.
The excitement can create bad decisions, then bad decisions compound, and next thing you know we’ve inexplicably lengthened the journey.
For me, that just meant getting back to the cabin an hour later, but for you that could mean lost money, time (and time is money), and damaged team morale.
Loss of perspective
When I think of this, I think of Kodak. In 1975, Stephen Sasson was working in the R&D labs at Kodak and developed the first digital camera.
But at the time, Kodak saw itself as a film company, not a camera company. And they saw the digital camera as a threat to their film business.
The reality is, people don’t care about film. They care about what the film represents. So, by being purists and worrying about their film business, they missed a great opportunity to transform their business.
They lost perspective of the larger picture: they were in the business of creating beautiful photography, not the film business.
This mindset was deep in Kodak’s DNA. As digital photography was on the rise in the 1990s and 2000s, they still rejected it. This ultimately led to them lagging behind industry trends and filing for bankruptcy in 2012.
Celebrating too early
As I got excited about seeing the bison, I started getting pumped up. I rushed. That rushing meant I zoned in.
Zoning in can be great. When used correctly, it’s basically a superpower. It’ll allow you to be more productive than 10 other teammates combined.
But if you let the celebration get in the way, it can cause massive mistakes.
In the early 1990s, AOL pioneered bringing internet access (and instant messaging, amirite?) to millions of Americans. By 2000, they were the United States’ biggest Internet provider and worth $125 billion.
In the same year, they announced their merger with Time Warner, which was the largest merger in US History.
They celebrated this “win” and what they were to become… predicting 33% growth of the combined entity in the next 12 months.
After the stock reached a high of $56.60, it tumbles to $14.81, which was a $200+ billion collapse in enterprise value.
In 2002, the combined entity lost $98.2 billion, which was the largest annual loss ever by a US corporation.
By 2009, the companies had split and gone their own ways.
They celebrated and missed the changing winds:
- Dial-up going to the wayside
- The internet bubble bursting
Much like AOL, we can easily count wins before they hatch.
By being more measured, we keep our eyes on the ultimate prize: long-term value and growth.
Can I get your help?
So, back to my journey. I did a lot of reflecting on this trip.
Part of that was trying to determine where to take this newsletter.
And with reflection comes plans. So could I ask for your help?
If you noticed, the last two weeks were a little different and less finance heavy.
While I love the finance content, I’d like the ability to write other stuff too… ya dig?
To accomplish that, I want to change the format of this newsletter.
That means each week you get more diverse value, instead of just one long piece (though you’ll still get in-depth content regularly).
So, could you take this survey and tell me what sections/topics you’d prefer to hear from me on?
To show my appreciation for taking the survey, I’m giving everyone who fills it out:
- Financial Statements eBook ($40 value)
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This offer is only available for a limited time, so jump on it now. It should only take you 35 seconds (5 questions).
Your feedback is much appreciated!