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Seeing the “Big Picture”, a very useful Lifehack!

I’m a “big picture” kind of person. I know that.

I know that because over the years many people have told me that I’m missing some little details that I overlooked. Initially, I know the details need to be done, and I’m good when I’m focused, but sometimes I un-focus and forget the little details in pursuit of the big picture.

Gulf of Thailand scenic view.

The big picture defined:

The big picture is the sum total of all pieces of the puzzle relevant to whatever you are doing. You might be looking at a problem. You might be looking at a certain scenario that is hypothetical, but if you can make it work, that hypothetical might become reality. You might have an idea and you want to evaluate it. Seeing the BIG picture will help you see everything that could possibly be involved in what you’re looking at. It might even pull in extra information that “might” be applicable.

Every piece of the puzzle I call a “factor“. Like factors in an equation. If you’re going on vacation then the amount of money you’ll spend on gas to drive there is a factor. Time driving is a factor. Free time once you arrive at the destination is a factor. Having extra money for your vehicle breaking down is a factor. EVERYTHING is a factor, that when added together – equals the BIG PICTURE.

When I explain things to people – I usually start off by explaining the big picture. I want others to know the “WHY” of what I’m talking about. People aren’t always with me when I start off this way – and they look at me dumbfounded like I’m from some far-away moon-like “Pluto”. Factoid: Pluto is not a planet anymore.

Some or even most people I think start off talking about the steps leading to the big picture. If you do that with me – I’m lost. If you do that with most others – it’s fine, because some of them don’t care about the big picture. Good managers know about the big picture and different types of people.

To me, there is nothing more important in any discussion about anything other than:

1. The big picture… I want to know – what are we leading toward… what is the goal? What is the whole POINT of whatever we’re doing?

2. The WHY. Why are we talking. Why are we “doing” something? Why is it important that we’re expending effort?

If I didn’t cover those two things during any business or involved conversation I have, I don’t feel like there was any point in talking at all.

Usually, people talking about their emotions bores me. Don’t get me wrong, if someone is describing something really important – on a deep level – I am always engrossed in it. I’ve worked for 7 years as a mental health counselor and talked with people that murdered their kids, their landlord, twins that murdered their mother. I have had quite a lot of very important in-depth conversations and to me, that’s what life is all about.

What I mean when I say I’m bored with people talking about their emotions is, I can do without the “frivolous emotional talk”. I don’t want to hear someone sharing their emotions about how worked-up they got over their dog, their new car, or their daughter that decided to marry the punk-rock singer.

I don’t “do small talk” at a party very well. I don’t really want to talk about what was on television over the past week or what is coming up. I don’t care. I don’t want to talk with someone upset about politics. I don’t care. I don’t want to talk about the new bar or club that opened up in town because… yeah, I don’t care.

Most people like to talk about things that affect their emotions – negatives and positives. For me, few things affect my emotions that I feel like sharing. I’m not a robot, but I can’t see the point of bringing someone else down with any problems I have. If I feel like sharing something about me it will be something positive. Why not bring positivity to the conversation?

If someone is asking me to do something at a job. I can listen to them explain something over and over but, until they tell me the WHY – I don’t really “get it”… and I’m not really listening because I keep waiting for the person to tell me the WHY and the big picture. When I ask the WHY and the person looks back at me – like, there IS NO why, or it just IS – forgets about the why – he or she has lost me.

There must be some good reasons behind WHY someone is asking me to do something. I want to hear them. It makes a lot of difference to me because if I know the WHY then I can usually figure out a better way of doing something or at least contribute something that helps the whole process. I see the big picture, so, when others tell me the WHY I get excited because I start to see some other possibilities for ways of going about something.

The WHY gets me revved up because once I know it, I can assess everything that could possibly influence the results in the big picture and contribute somehow. I love to contribute. I love to take a look at something and figure out every possible factor that may influence that idea or problem and assess how likely it is that the factor contributes positively or negatively to the outcome of the idea or problem.

Am I weird?

I’m wired that way. I don’t know why. My dream is to be part of a “think-tank” someday, solving the world’s problems, or at least offering suggestions. That would be a dream job. Sitting at my desk in a cozy open-aired office in Kailua, Hawaii (on Oahu) and thinking about the 1 problem for the day. No, make it 3 days. My job would be to think of every possible factor that could relate to the problem and how much influence each factor might have on the overall problem.

I would need to put together 6 ways to solve the problem and then find: 1.) The most cost-efficient way to solve the problem. 2.) The fastest method to use to solve the problem. And, 3.) The most simple way to solve the problem.

There would be 2 other people in the same office doing the exact same thing – but we wouldn’t talk about what we’re working on – because that would influence the others’ results. At the end of 3 days, the company would have 18 ways to resolve something and ONE OF THEM must be a winner, you know? Someone must want to pay for this sort of thing, yes?

So, enough dreaming.

I think that seeing the big picture is a gift.

Just like seeing the small details and being able to track the details and loving that control over the small details is a great gift. Unfortunately, it’s a gift I don’t have, perhaps due in part to my having attention-deficit disorder which inhibits my focus sometimes, and to have a career in a job that requires attention to detail – programming C++ for instance, would drive me insane quickly and very efficiently!

Seeing the big picture gives you a better grasp of reality. I like reality, it’s good to know that I spend a lot of time there. Hopefully, it’s a shared reality that others’ are experiencing too sometimes – but you know what? Our realities are all phenomenological (specific to ourselves). I think it’s rare that what I think is reality is what most other people think is reality also.

I try to share things about what I think – and frequently I’m met with blank stares. I’m not quite like other people. I know this. If this blog actually gets wings I’ll be falling down with surprise because I don’t think there are many people in the WORLD that think like I do… maybe you just read so you can laugh at my world?


Seeing the big picture will help you get through life easier. Seeing the big picture is a VERY useful LIFEHACK because you’re not going to get blindsided by some factor relevant to the problem or idea that you didn’t see. If you can’t see the big picture no matter how you try, you need to be talking to someone that does see it. These people are invaluable because they will save you from making possibly huge mistakes further down the line.

There was a bridge – and for the life of me, I can’t remember where right now – but there was a bridge that was built that, when the wind blew at a certain speed it would cause the bridge to swing in a pattern resembling sort of a sine curve because there was just enough flex in the design of the bridge to permit that. While some of the engineers of this bridge saw the small picture, they didn’t see the big one. The multi-million dollar bridge was destroyed by some small wind that turned the bridge into a rolling sine wave of motion that corresponded to the frequency of all the materials used. The bridge fell to pieces and needed to be rebuilt at a cost of millions of dollars.

Here are a couple examples of how seeing the big picture can help:

Example 1: E-commerce Venture

You have a product or service you want to market on the internet. Let’s say you created some e-books and you already created a small website that you think looks good and you now you want to have someone optimize the site using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques and get you to rank highly in Google on searches for your books. You also want visitors to buy the books on your site and you want to add a blog to one of your subdirectories on the site so you can write a daily note about how the e-books will help people solve their problems using your lifehacks.

If you were a “big-picture seeing” kind of person you’d have started to see the big picture much earlier on in the process than deciding after your site was done that you needed SEO. Chances are you knew you needed SEO but, you didn’t take the time to find out – to ask someone that can see the big picture for e-commerce enabled sites and the relationship to SEO. You created your site in PHP, ASP, or some other active-server page type format which aren’t indexed all that well in Google without a lot of effort.

A couple years ago I was recommending that my clients change hundreds of pages of an .asp built site to HTML pages so they rank well in the search engines. These days it’s less of a problem and easier to change, but still… It is MUCH easier to implement SEO from day one as you’re building your new web site. In the big picture, SEO needs to be planned from day 1. The names of your e-books should even be taken into consideration as should the names of pages on your site, directories, domain name, subdomain names, and 600 other things. If you had someone in your company that was “in the loop” and that was a big picture kind of thinker – she or he would have let you know from the start and you’d save a lot of money, time, and probably have better search engine rank.

Example 2: Thailand Vacation

You plan a vacation to Thailand for a week. You cannot plan it longer because you are jam-packed with new business and you want to just spend some time seeing the country. You’ve planned 8 days of vacation.

Day 1 in Ubon Ratchathani
Day 2 in Udon Thani and Khon Kaen
Day 3 in Korat
Days 4, 5, 6 in Chiang Mai
Days 7 and 8 in Bangkok.

Day 1 in Ubon – everything is great, you are amazed at the friendliness of Thailand’s people. You see the city and wonder why everyone is buying squirt guns at the stores. Some kids are squirting small squirt guns in the streets at passing cars, and you walking around town. You think “it’s cute”.

Songkran Water Throwing Festival in Thailand.

Days 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 you spend being absolutely DRENCHED with water because you came during Songkran – the water throwing festival. By failing to see the big picture you came during a time when Thailand is utter chaos with everyone hurling water at everybody else. Nobody is spared. If you ride a bus, motorbike, car, walk, train, whatever, – you’re covered with water and cursing the world if you weren’t prepared for it.

Days 7 and 8 are spent in Bangkok where MILLIONS of Thais and foreigners alike are returning to after spending Songkran in their home cities outside of Bangkok for the last 5 – 7 days. Traffic is insane.

Things like this happen! Seeing the big picture is really important.

I could go on and on with examples, but I’ll let your mind create your own examples.

Is there something you’re working on now – in the process – and you are not quite sure what you’re doing?

If you don’t see the BIG PICTURE it is possible, and maybe QUITE possible that your project will come undone because you don’t fully realize all the factors that are essential to the equation. If you haven’t researched very thoroughly what you’re doing you might be horribly surprised. Best to either research thoroughly or, pay someone that is an expert in the field to tell you everything you need to be aware of before getting started on your project.

Most smart companies hire consultants for all their projects.

The role of a consultant is to make his employer aware of all the factors that contribute to the big picture… and to facilitate making everything work.

Use consultants, they are there to help you avoid catastrophe!

Ok so, in review…

If you see the big picture you are most of the way towards completing whatever project you want to. Details are easy to do in small chunks.

For whatever you’re planning you have two choices:

1.) You can see the big picture yourself by researching intensively on the internet. Read personal experiences from people that have already done what you endeavor to do.

2.) You can pay someone that already knows all the factors that contribute to the equation that will result in a project that is a success.

Up to you which one you choose. But, to be successful you need to choose one or the other!

See the Big Picture! (here’s another Big Picture post >)

Best of Life!

Find me at Twitter HERE >

Nate Whitehill liked this post and gave it a “Powerful Post” award! Thanks Nate!

18 thoughts on “Seeing the “Big Picture”, a very useful Lifehack!

  • at 10:11 am

    I am more than please to kick this thing off with a Wowie Zow, what a fantastic read! I am every bit like you in that I see the bigger picture and leave out the menial stuff simply because it’s small change. I let the small change specialists do the fussing over that stuffola.


  • at 10:06 pm

    Ha! Thanks for the great compliment… I hope you like some of the other writing here. I’ll ramp it up more once I get settled back in the states or setup camp back here in Thailand again. I’m in-between deciding what to do! Thanks for visiting… Vern

  • Pingback: The Big, BIg, BIG, Big Picture!

  • at 1:33 am

    Thanks, Vern, for a great blog.

    I found this by searching for “big picture” because I have been noticing how most people are blind to it, and I wondered if anyone else noticed–so it was great to find this piece.

    To me, the big picture is the point of view of the “artist” personality. We have to see how pieces fit the whole, whether it’s a design, a melody, or a phrase. And it seems fairly rare.

    Thanks again!

  • at 9:06 am

    Hi, I chance upon your site as I have big problems seeing the big picture. Looking for ways to change that as I realise my mistakes. Thanks for the post…it is very useful.

    • at 9:24 am

      Thanks – I enjoyed writing this one. It’s how I’m wired… I need to know and see and agree with the big picture if I’m to work on any project within its scope. 🙂

  • at 8:06 am

    I find this (blog?) post a bit…disappointing. I was expecting it to contain some instruction on -how- to see the big picture, but more or less it seems to be you reaffirming to yourself and the reading public how much you esteem your ability to do so.

    Might I suggest that “seeing the big picture” requires these talents/skills/habits/undertakings:

    1) Understand what your goal (or the organization’s goal) is in its simplest form.
    2) Personal Knowledge of what Resources will be required to meet that goal. This requires research and/or a consultant.
    3) Assemble the Resources that you’ve just determined from research you will need.
    4) Set A Deadline. Knowing the costs in resources, effort, and time for each process enables you to determine your overall project timeline. And also enables you to determine how much any errors or processes will cost you if you run behind.
    5) Ability to Monitor the Progress of the work being carried out and determine its efficiency. Are there too many processes involved? Can it be simplified? Or…will more resources be needed?
    6) Prioritization. The Ability to Understand Which Processes are Most Important to Meeting the Goal. Also, it’s The Willingness to kill a process that isn’t necessary–or AS necessary–in meeting your basic goal.
    7) The Ability to continuously hold in your mind “the big picture” a.k.a. the End Goal–and to evauluate every decision with it in mind.

    If I collapsed your essay into its basic essence, it’s seems like you’ve made three statements. 1) I can see the big picture; 2) I mind the details; and 3) I deem these two things important.

    This seemed kind of circular logic. And I was disappointed because the tone of your writing suggested you want to help others gain the skill of what you do naturally.

    I myself struggle to see the big picture at times, but your post definitely helped me identify what I do wrong. I either perform poor research at the beginning, or forget to constantly evaluate my decisions and determine if they’re efficiently helping me meet my end goal.

    Thank You for Posting 🙂

    • at 1:42 pm

      by the way… mindingthedetails’ response is the essence of the inability to see the big picture. My polar opposite lol. But im glad that we are all so different. Sometimes I wish I could see details so well.


      • at 1:55 pm

        Hi Tim,

        Thanks for writing. I think seeing the big picture is rather rare. I don’t know too many people like me in that regard either. Yes, you feel out of place because nobody is talking to you about the stuff that matters – the entire idea, not just the details. I can see the details – as they make up the big picture, but I sure don’t like to focus on them. If forced to focus on them I’m obsessive about getting them perfect because i know that in the big picture, even the small details matter. You ARE a genius Tim. 🙂 Cheers, Vern

  • at 1:40 pm

    Excellent piece. Thanks for sharing.

    I’ve always been a ‘big picture thinker,’ and only lately, have I become to understand why sometimes I feel out of place. Im only 23, and sometimes it’s hard to explain to people what I see- sometimes I wonder if they even can. I go to a fairly reputable university, and in some classes (typically writing, philosophy, art, language, etc) my teachers and peers look at me like im some sort of genius… even though i might think its all rather simple. But the corollary is illustrated when im in classes like math, chemistry, etc… where I might be the stupidest person out of the entire room. NO JOKE.

    I have many great accomplishment and many great failures lol. But all in all, I am confident that my abilities are a unique set of tools that not others have. I only wish there was more information on this stuff… advice and what not…

    thank you again


  • at 9:07 pm

    What a great piece! I’m so happy to have found this. I was also blessed/cursed with the ability to see the big picture. It’s a blessing because we see and understand concepts that other people may NEVER understand. They just cannot see what we see – a very frustrating experience I’m sure for those who know what I’m talking about! With that said, it is also a curse, because we will usually be misunderstood. I go to a prestigious university, but find it hard to talk to others who get bogged down in the details! And I try to explain things to people and they start talking about details! And this word and that word! They miss the big idea, the abstract concept I am attempting to convey. I’m glad to find people like me and I agree 100% with the article. I feel very comfortable around big thinkers like me – we need to stick together, because we understand each other.

    • at 2:56 am

      For me it was a revelation because, suddenly a lot of my life became much more clear to me. That and I took Myers-Briggs in grad school – you know the INTJ type thing INFJ, etc? I’m INTJ which is the weirdest of the bunch too. I relate well to very few people when talking about deep subjects… lol. It’s not so fun to work on seeing the details – but, if you can do it, you’ll round yourself out better. Thanks for writing Larry! Cheers!

  • at 10:39 am

    wow… the way in which you think is EXACTLY me too. I love focusing on these gifts rather than the attention deficit because i am so with you that there so many gifts in ADD. i am so glad to have stumbled upon your blog because it’s as if you’re speaking to me in virtually every post. will keep referring to it for inspiration. feels SO good to know i am not the only one wired this way. have always felt lonely because i struggled to relate to others. this sure helps, though.

  • at 2:16 am

    Hi I also see th big picture and IM latino by the way! 🙂

  • at 7:53 am

    Being a big picture thinker your blog is great to read and see that others see the world from your view too.

    I turned my gift to look at the sporting world and it’s amazing what you can come up with that no one else has seen, especially from a coaching aspect though getting others to see what you can see in a detail orientated world can prove a challenge.

    If you want a big picture problem to work on, go with, how do you instill a growth mindset into the majority, for if you can do that a lot of societies problems and issues would disappear.

  • at 2:21 am

    Dear Bigger Picture Guy . . .

    I have read a couple of your articles this morning, as I have been on a search for specific articles that pertain to a class assignment goal; but it is a goal that is also part of who I am and what I am considering and learning about. This particular topic began with minimal considerations of why people vote or do not vote; mainly this is about presidential elections, but all election purposes are included. My personal ponderings were at the base of my researches and have taken me from the history of the constitution of the United States, the establishment of the current voting systems to the current day, in those foundational practices that have been executed for so many years.

    This is not about political controversies and people groups, but about the bigger picture I See concerning the whole political and big government democracy versus people run democracy. I have focused on the issue of why people vote or do not vote and have come across a plethora of wonderfully genuine reasons for both perspectives. Sorting the opinions from heartfelt beliefs and convictions, without diminishing the importance of one over the other, has been interesting and eye-opening for me. But, I am not settled on a focus. Inside me Sees a bigger picture that I have been unable to put into a pro and con question that I can zero in on about voting at all.

    I am unable to encourage people to vote in a system that many feel is not fair and equitable, to put it politely, and I understand the perspective that if we vote, then we are not only condoning the actions of the people in office, we are enabling the imbalances and misuses of the governmental system to continue and we actually make ourselves accomplices by voting. It is a very dysfunctional family kind of scenario that has produced co-dependencies that are hurting the people while the rich get richer. I do not say any of this with unkindness, but with objective blatance. And, when the almost majority of people do not take part in the voting process, for whatever legitimate reason, then we are encouraging the major imbalances that come from the results of the remaining voters, because no one but census takers can determine who among the non-voters and undecided voters are party particular or not.

    For me, as an older-aged citizen who became excited about voting in her early thirties, but is now, thirty years later, more reticent to vote (for some of the same reasons I have listened to other people talk about and I have read about) this networking political controversy about systems, parties, big government, popular vote versus electoral, etc. . . has now gone beyond assignment mode. (I do still need to do the assignment, but I want to make a difference for so many of the younger students I have met in my classes who are dealing with these important scenarios…and they are way younger in physical years. I am concerned for the bigger picture that people do not seem to See, but I understand that we need to still live and decide from the reality of where we are.

    I have to leave for awhile….I do not know who you are of course, and I am risking sending this, but am going to do it anway….having a short dialogue with someone who might really be able to See bigger picture aspects, that will help me zero in on what I desire to accomplish in my little corner of world, is encouraging.

    Have a good morning….


    • at 2:40 am

      Wow Jean…

      I won’t be much help – I’ll say that straight off. I haven’t voted since I put Reagan in office about 27 years ago.

      My own reason for not caring what happens is because I cannot possibly know a person personally, before I vote for them. If it’s my brother – I’d vote. Aunt – sure, I’d vote. I don’t know my aunt nearly as well as my brother, but, “enough” to know what kind of person is underneath the fluff.

      I think maybe young people… have an idea in mind about the government… it goes on to do whatever it was doing before. There is little difference someone with just a casual once every year or 4 years interest will be able to make to change the government. Unless we put our heart – soul – and mind into changing government in a way we see fit – there’s little point at all giving it any thought. I’ve given it probably less thought than some absurd percentage of the American population beyond 99.9999999. Even to think for 2 minutes about the subject is wasting my time because I have absolutely no interest in dedicating enough time to changing anything… to finding out what someone is truly about – before voting for them.

      See – not much help.

      I don’t see the big picture so well about that subject… just because I’ve purposefully focused on many different areas of life…

      Sorry if I’ve disappointed you…

      You could try to post that same comment in a political forum and I’ll bet you have some responses.

      Best of Life!

      Vern – 2012 Goal? Break the top 100 stair climbers list. – Living in Hawaii – the ultimate way of life!


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