Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lessons From 14,000 Feet: Part 3

I've had some pretty vivid dreams in my life, and when medical reasons call for Codeine, I used to get these really strange dreams. But, I've never hallucinated to the point of not being able to tell reality from hallucination. I've talked to people who have used LSD and talked about the effects of it, but never really understood what it meant to hallucinate until I was in the last half mile of the ascent.

Because of my physical conditions, my eyes weren't focusing well. It wasn't like I was losing my vision, but things were a little fuzzy around the edges and I had to really concentrate to focus my sight on something. So, as I climbed hand over hand up boulders, my eyes looked at the granite chunks of rock that my feet were treading on.

As I stepped over one small gap between the rocks, I looked down and noticed a fuzzy caterpillar wriggling in the shady spot caused by the rock in front of it. I moved my other foot up and started climbing when I thought to myself that it was kind of strange to see a caterpillar up so high. Being the curious and ever inquisitive person that I am, I backed down the rock to get a closer look at this future butterfly. It took a second for my eyes to lock on it when I realized that it wasn't a caterpillar at all, and it certainly wasn't moving. It was part of the rock itself. Thousands of years ago, some kind of mineral deposit made a black spot in the granite, which to be honest looked nothing like a caterpillar at all.

A couple of more minutes passed and I was struggling for the top when I noticed another caterpillar, this one crawling across the rock in that way caterpillars kind of bunch up, then stretch out. Surprised to see another caterpillar this high, I stopped to look, when I remembered that there was no first one, so this couldn't be another one. Sure enough after I shook my head, blinked hard and forced myself to focus it turned out to be another black spot in the rock.

Fortunately for me, I was seeing fuzzy, cute caterpillars and not some kind of scary snake that was chasing me off the mountain. However, it still spook me a little to think I'd pushed myself that hard.

The business analogy in the story is that when you are pushing yourself hard to grow, or especially save your business, you think you are becoming acutely aware of every little detail that is important. At the rapidly quickening pace you are traveling, you find yourself noticing all kinds of potential problems or solutions or things that you think are important. You are sure that you have some kind of hyper-sensitive super power to zoom in on the exact detail that needs to be paid attention to so that you can turn your company around or take it to the next level.

In reality, your mind is playing tricks on you. You really don't see what you think you see. Your brain wants to find the solution so badly that it begins to connect dots that shouldn't be connected. In essence, in your state of fatigue and/or panic, you begin to see caterpillars, when all that is there is a naturally occurring dark spot on a rock.

The key to surviving this isn't avoiding seeing the caterpillar, it's going to happen to most people. The key is to carefully analyze each caterpillar, forcing yourself to focus on it - analyzing it. If you still see a caterpillar, then get a second opinion. In your current state of mind, you may not be able to focus hard enough to separate reality from hallucination, where an independent set of eyes will bring a different perspective.

Perhaps it really is a caterpillar, but nothing would be worse than acting on something that doesn't really exist.