The Hidden Value of Noticing Everything

People don’t know exactly what is going on in my head.

Some commentators would suggest that this is a good thing, and I would tend to agree.

Our thoughts are where our competitive edge begins, and I have spent my life trying to harness the power of the information that I take in from the world around me. I am fortunate enough to have encountered many unique situations and people over the past few decades – so these memories are mine and mine alone. Although there are a good few that I would rather forget, they all somehow merge in my subconscious to inform the decisions of tomorrow.

When you try to notice everything, you have a rich pool of knowledge to draw upon.

While you might want to share this to teach your children, coach your colleagues or argue with your partner, it is impossible to adequately communicate the entirety of one’s experience. 

Much of our thinking bubbles away at the back of our mind, and even when we do think about something actively, very little of that thought is turned into spoken or written form. The vast majority of our thoughts remain hidden from the world, but it does not mean that they are worthless.

If you lead a life of observation, your internal dialogue will overflow with insights that can be packed away and accessed when required. You do not have to communicate a thought for it to be meaningful. Notice something once, remember it, and it will serve you for life.

Astute observations echo long into the future.

I remember back when we were growing our first business J&M Fast Food in Wellington. My brother Michael and I took it over from our parents – we modernized the look, extended the trading hours and introduced a home delivery service. When it got busy, we helped out on the home delivery side too. That was possibly my favorite part of the job.

You see, whilst driving around Wellington at night, I got to know the city like the back of my hand. I had always had a passion for Real Estate, and after a while it was a simple matter to track the fortunes of the various districts, businesses and residential estates. I had always enjoyed chatting to and serving customers in the restaurant, but taking my business across Wellington offered me the deepest insights into the city.

That was the point where I strived to notice everything. I knew that it might matter.

It is important to mention that the variety of observations plays a key role. If you surround yourself with the same people and do the same things for ten years, your perspective on life will be far from rounded. There is much to be said for embracing change and seeking out different opportunities – when every day is different, the scope for learning is unlimited.

When you don’t stop moving, you never stop observing. Be unstoppable.

This is a word that I like to associate myself with. In one sense, unstoppable might mean that I don’t let others get in my way, but in a deeper sense it means that I don’t let myself get in the way of me either. There have been many tough times in my life (like when my parents sold their house and my whole family moved into a commercial building that we were having difficulty leasing), but if you let something stop you, then you start to stagnate. 

Investing in new experiences and observing how they unfold will ensure a constant stream of learning. It is without doubt that we are a product of our experiences and environment, so it is critical to be mindful of everything that is evolving around us.

However, continuously seeking to constantly cultivate rich sources of insight does not mean that the actual decisions themselves have to be prolonged. 

Some of the best choices are utterly intuitive.

Malcolm Gladwell talked about the power of thin-slicing in his bestselling book Blink. This term describes the ability to find patterns in events based on narrow windows (or thin slices) of experience. The effectiveness of this technique has been proven in many walks of life and for me personally it often starts with a brief sense of “I’ve been here before.” If you spend your life trying to interpret the patterns flitting briefly around you, it is far easier to make intuitive judgement to put future events into context.

Learning from what is going on right now is the best possible investment in our future, but sadly too many of us are buried in our devices to look up (I realize the irony as you read these words). Behavior on social media differs greatly from the real world, and I sometimes worry that our powers of observation are waning. We might be physically present in a situation, but if our minds are elsewhere, so much is missed.

I am going to be writing a blog every couple of weeks to help myself process a few of the things that I have noticed through my life. I hope that the blogs will be as interesting for you to read as they are for me to contemplate. 

As I plot our path to $2bn in assets over the next few years, I am vigilant to continue my mission of noticing everything that is happening around me.

Those snippets of observation could make all the difference.

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