Zoom Out

“The closer you look, the less you see.”

That line comes from Jesse Eisenberg’s character in the movie Now You See Me. Eisenberg, who plays a magician, says that line in regards to noticing a magic trick.

I think that line can also apply to our everyday lives.

We get so involved with our daily projects that we often miss the bigger picture. Especially when the unexpected happens.

One time, when I worked for a sports marketing company, I had a deadline fast approaching to submit a newspaper advertisement for a college basketball game we were running. I was up against the clock, but wanted to take care of every little detail to make the perfect ad. I made sure the font was just right and the images were spaced out, but not too spread out across the page.

Only problem is that I looked so closely at the ad that I made a critical error. I forgot to put the date of the game.

Any person off the street could have taken one look at this ad and realized that it was missing something. But I could not because I only zoomed in. I didn’t zoom out.

Bestselling author Jim Collins writes that we often have to zoom out from what we are doing so that we can see the whole picture.

He uses the example of a rock climber, who in the middle of a climb doesn’t know what holds are coming next. From the ground, the climber thinks he knows the sequence of good holds that will be needed to reach the top. But then the climber gets up on the side of the mountain, his forearms start to shake and all of a sudden he can’t find the next grip.

“At that moment,” Collins says, “our natural tendency is to zoom in. You start zooming in on that hold and try to grip it tighter and try to hang on to the holds you’ve got in your hands. What you have to do when you’re in that climb situation or an unexpected, duress situation and your heart rate is elevated and you’re scared, is to do the exact opposite of zooming in. You have to view the situation through a wide-angle lens: ‘What holds am I missing? What am I not seeing? How should I think about this?’ Once you’ve done that, then you come in and execute on the moves. If you do this, you’ll see you may have missed a big foothold or something that’s just off to the left.”

Collins has found that the best company leaders are really good at responding to the unexpected. When they are hit with something unexpected, they have the ability to zoom out to see the whole situation and then they can zoom in, refocusing their energies into executing objectives.

In Now You See Me, Eisenberg’s character says that the trick to explaining magic is not to look too closely. Rather it is to look so far that you see 20 years in the past.

In our lives we might not have to look 20 years into the past, but we can all benefit from zooming out.