As we all go along in our professional lives, it is important to not lose perspective. One way to do this is to be mindful of the people with whom we share our paths.
I am often aware of my tunnel vision; I see a goal and sort of charge toward it like a race horse with blinders on. I do it when I’m backpacking and I do it in my career.
One of my favorite images of this comes from David Foster Wallace’s speech This is Water. To paraphrase, there are 2 fish swimming along and a third fish passes them saying “water’s nice today!” The one fish turns to the second and says “what the hell is water?” When we lose perspective, not only do we miss the beautiful things in life, but also we can lose track of who we are.
Some of the most memorable experiences I have had on the trail have been related to the other people I meet. There is something magical about hiking along and minding my own business only to realize that someone else has a very similar itinerary to me. Even though we each have our own personal goals, we momentarily share the path to those goals.
It is these kinds of interactions that we must pay attention to. In some ways this is a blog post about networking but it goes deeper than that. Networkers view the people who share their path in terms of what they can get out of them. Hikers just have an open mind about their fellow wanderers and sometimes end up learning something amazing from them.
This is the kind of mindset we need to have about professional relations. Rather than trying to get something out of people, just walk with them and keep an open mind. When we share a path with someone, we can learn so much from each other if we just pay attention.
We have to be mindful of the tunnel vision. We can learn a lot by walking alone but we can also learn a lot by walking with others. We have to do both if we want to be successful.