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Sometimes You Think It’s One Way, But It’s Clearly Another

Insights From Kevin | April 23, 2019 

Have you ever had the shocking realization that something you believed to be true was completely false? You were absolutely sure that something was one way, then you suddenly discovered it wasn’t that way at all; you just thought it was. This certainly happens in life situations, but it also happens in business situations where an assumption was made, decisions were made based on that assumption, which then turned out to be a bad assumption. It could be an assumption about the market, a trumped-up assumption about a buyer’s interest for a product, underestimating your competition. But nevertheless, you place a bet on how you saw that situation and it turned out you were dead wrong. This can be very costly. 

Daniel-san, not everything is as seems.

Mr. Miyagi, Karate Kid

Here’s an example ~ and while it’s not a business example, it highlights what can happen when you don’t see the bigger picture. Way back when I was dating someone and early on in our relationship, we took a vacation trip to Kauai (the Garden Isle in Hawaii). Though a small island, Kauai has many different features, including the wettest spot on earth, the dramatic Napali Coast, and Waimea Canyon, which is a mini-version of the Grand Canyon on this small tropical island. The island is very peaceful, serene, and calm; not much commercialism makes it a perfect place to “chill” with a very relaxing vibe. 

One day the two of us went for a drive around the island exploring. As we were traveling up one of the winding roads, we noticed off to our right a young couple was just coming out from a trail on the side of the road with big smiles on their faces. The trail looked interesting, so we pulled over and asked them what was down the trail. They said there was a beautiful waterfall down the trail about a mile hike away along the streambed. If we just walked along the rocky bank of the stream, we would find it. So we took our day packs and headed down the trail in search of the waterfall. Just as they told us, after about a half a mile we could hear the powerful rushing sound of what turned out to be an absolutely picturesque waterfall. As we approached, we saw a deep blue tropical pond beneath the waterfall. For a moment we stood there amazed at its beauty. Since no one was there we had this little moment in paradise all to ourselves. And with nobody around we decided to skinny-dip. My girlfriend fancied herself as a bit of a goddess-type ~ you know, the type that wears flowy garments and floral headbands (retro-hippie genre). 

This for her was a very sacred moment. She’d be able to be free in nature and be “one with the universe”. My girlfriend happened to be quite attractive and particularly curvaceous. And as she headed out into the middle of the pond where the mist of the waterfall sprayed in the air, she floated there still in nature fully naked. We spent about an hour there together. After some romantic carrying on we dried off, put our clothes back on and headed back up the trail to our car. She exclaimed that this experience was “one of the most extraordinary moments of my life ~ to be alone in a private paradise and to be ‘at one’ with nature”. 

We drove up the road about a mile and as we approached the top of the mountain road, we noticed there was a look-out point where about 5 large tourist buses were parked. We were curious ~ something must be interesting. We got out of the car and joined about 100 Japanese tourists loaded with cameras and video cameras who were taking in and recording the sights below. When we peered over the rail what we saw was the very pond we just left. Unbeknownst to us, during our “private sacred time” it was now clear that 100s of Asian tourists were capturing our sacred moments on camera and video. Yes, they were documenting the goddess in all her glory, naked, floating in this exotic pond. My girlfriend’s face froze. She looked like she’d been hit with a Taser. By this time, I was already laughing hysterically and seeing the humor in this, turned to her and said, “You are now a porn star in Japan.” She did not find it funny. Fortunately, this was before the internet and YouTube had taken off, so I don’t think she ever made it onto the social media scene. 

However, beyond the obvious, we both learned an important lesson that day. Sometimes how you think a situation is isn’t how it really is. Making assumptions based on what’s in the foreground and not considering what’s in the background and beyond can lead to very surprising and potentially dangerous consequences. Keep your eye on the focus of your project, but step back and see the larger picture in your industry before committing your resources. Sometimes you think it’s one way, but it’s clearly another.

Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. If you want more on this conversation or the firm, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com