I was about to slip more than 1,000 feet down a cliff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. My husband Lewis and I just arrived on the island of Kauai and we couldn’t wait to hike the Nā Pali Coast with its ancient Hawaiian foot trails. The Nā Pali is on the North Shore of the island and has the most amazing views of tropical mountains juxtaposed against the navy blue ocean. Many of the scenes in the TV series Lost were filmed there. My misstep occurred because I was anxious to get to the next vista. I was still operating on “mainland” time and concentrating more on what I was going to see rather than the beauty surrounding me. I tripped on some roots which were blatantly sticking out of a banyan type tree. I caught my balance in the nick of time. I could feel the adrenaline flush my face.
This “almost fall” was the first of three lessons that I experienced while on vacation. I call this first experience, “stay here to get there successfully.” I’ve been aware of the benefits of staying “mindful” or acutely attuned to what is going on in the present moment. You enjoy eating a meal more when you savor each bite; you appreciate your friends more when you just hang out with them; and you play tennis better when you focus on connecting with the ball. Mindfulness has been taught in Buddhism, meditative practice and the martial arts. It’s also become part of the Western formula for getting more out of your life (it’s the journey, not the destination). Just as with individuals, organizations can fall prey to living so much in an anticipated future, they lose concentration on what’s going on in the present and jeopardize the company growth on many levels.
Take a fast growing company I know which I’ll call Zoom (fictitious name) that built its success on innovation and providing an engaging environment for its employees. The leadership of the organization saw a great opportunity with a new offering and began to push the people and the organization’s capacity to the limit. There was no time for new thinking, collaborating with each other or for downtime. Mistakes began to happen because everyone got tired. Good people left because the company had changed. The top line grew temporarily, but the company lost its soul in the process. Living in anticipation of the future and overriding an appreciation for present accomplishments can rob you and your organization of its life blood and ultimately, its true success.