Of all human abilities, one stands out, the ability to see the Big Picture, the things that are important in life, and not to be distracted by small, trivial, and irrelevant things; the intelligence to separate the message from the background noise.
‘The Big Picture’ is about the grand goals; the big dreams and aspirations people treasure in every stage and aspect of life. But how can you grasp and hold on to the Big Picture? What does it take?
Six rules that have been successfully tested in business and everyday life:
1. Get your Priorities Right
Setting priorities right is about making intelligent choices, deciding what goals to pursue in which order, which takes vision and foresight. Intelligent people rise over the hills and valleys of the present to gaze over the hills and the valleys of the future and see the invisible and the challenges it holds. Renowned entrepreneurs like Microsoft MSFT +0.23%’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) founder Bill Gates, Apple AAPL -0.15%’s founder (NASDAQ:AAPL) Steve Jobs, and Facebook FB +%’s founder Mark Zuckerberg had such vision and foresight; they could see how technology could change the lives of everyday people; and came up with products and services that will turn their vision into reality.
Getting your priorities right is about choosing whether to go to school, start your own business or working for somebody else; whether to get married or stay singled; whether to have children or not; whether to stay married or get divorced; whether to remarry if widowed or divorced; and you have to choose how to spend your money.
2. Use Resources Wisely
Using resources wisely is also about making intelligent choices. It is about deriving the most value out of limited resources; shopping around for the right merchandise by asking three simple questions: Do I need this piece of merchandise? Is the price right? Is this merchandise the best use of my money?
In some cases, using resources wisely means more than shopping around for bargains for the right merchandise. It also means paying the least interest and finance charges for the things you buy on credit. Shop around for the lowest interest rates on a home mortgage; refinance when interest rates fall sufficiently; and stay away from consumer debt and finance charges that add to the price of the merchandise you buy.
3. Stay Focused
Staying focused means sticking with your priorities and goals; focusing on the message, not on the background noise; and executing. Take the right steps to reach your goals. That’s all that matters in the end.
It takes patience, persistence, and discipline to stay focused. Patience to overcome the hurdles that stand between you and your goal; persistence to overcome the failures, setbacks, and temptations that may take you off course; and discipline to play the game right, to comply with all the rules: know what you are doing, be punctual, and work out all the details.
4. Develop the Right Relations
Reaching a certain goal requires moral and psychological stamina. It takes skills and resources no single individual possesses. This means that in pursuing personal success, people need friends and partners to overcome the many obstacles that stand between them and their personal goals. At school, friends can provide the moral and psychological support to endure and overcome the pressure that comes with class lectures, homework, exams, and term paper deadlines. Partners provide the information and expertise to go over complex concepts and to complete coursework projects, sharing of class notes, participating in discussion groups.
At work, friends provide the moral and psychological support to endure and overcome workplace-related stress, meeting project deadlines, handling customer complains, and dealing with internal politics. Partners provide skills and expertise to complete complex projects that require cooperation among several parties.
Friendships and partnerships is a trait shared by many successful company founders, including HP (NYSE:HPQ) founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
5. Don’t be Greedy
Greed is the idolization and relentless pursuit of something that lets people distinguish and set themselves apart from others—money, power, status, and so on; the feeling that they never have enough of it, and nothing can stop them from amassing and accumulating it.
Greed is an obsession that—like alcohol—numbs people’s senses, blurs their vision, and makes them lose sight of the Big Picture. Greed leads people to live a life of imbalance and disproportion, a life of reckless and dangerous behavior. People who want everything in life fail to negotiate with others and compromise, and end up losing everything. People, who want everything from personal friendships and partnerships and become selfish and arrogant, end up destroying them.
6. Don’t be Complacent
Complacency is the opposite of greed. It’s the idolization of things people have accomplished, the feeling that they have reached the telos(ultimate destination).
This may sound contradictory to what was argued earlier about staying focused, but success isn’t an entitlement. It cannot be taken for granted. Successful people cannot afford to be complacent because good times do not last forever, especially in a rapidly changing world. That’s why complacency is dangerous. People who are complacent with their accomplishments fail to catch up with the rest of the world and are left behind. At school, students who are complacent about their performance at the beginning the semester eventually lag behind their peers and end up failing the course. At work, workers who become complacent and take their jobs for granted fail to keep up with the demands of the marketplace by upgrading their skills and are the first in line to be laid off in an economic downturn. In marriage, people who become complacent about what they have accomplished and take each other for granted, end with apathy and indifference for each other.