Zoom Out For The Whole Picture


Mark's note: Today's post is something I asked my friend Brian Buck to write up here. He wrote one previous guest post back in 2010.

For context, Brian had shared the following on LinkedIn:

I shared an example from some podcast stats of mine as a comment on his post… so I asked him to elaborate a bit on the LinkednI post to turn it into this blog post, to give it a permanent home that's not behind the LinkedIn wall. Thanks, Brian!

Perspective matters in everything we do. How we choose to see our situation will greatly influence how we respond.

The truth is, you will not always win.

We get things wrong, sometimes the timing isn't right, unexpected things throw off our expertly crafted plans, we experience unfairness, systems work against us, or all sorts of troubles come our way.

We need to remember:

Setbacks do not really set us back.

When you zoom out, you can see how far you have come. Sliding a few steps back rarely returns you to your original starting position. Having the perspective of your total progress shows that you are still trending in the direction you want.

When you look back at your journey, you will see other bumps along your path and how they did not derail your progress.

Success is never linear. The ups and downs are natural, normal, and expected.  

Choosing a wider panoramic view helps us avoid overreacting. If we focus only on a few current data points, we might quit, drastically change direction, or reduce our efforts. Mark teaches this very well in his Measures of Success book and related posts.

Imagine if Mark only looked at this limited dataset for his “My Favorite Mistake” podcast (as he shared with me in a comment on the LinkedIn post):

He might make his own favorite mistake by quitting production or changing the format to something completely different because he didn't zoom out and see the full story! The graph below shows, over the full context of time, the plays are actually increasing overall and the few dips above are not indicative of the positive direction the data ultimately shows.

If you are experiencing a dip right now — or your team is struggling with data not going the way they desire — I want to encourage you to zoom out and see the challenge is temporary. You are still further along than if you never tried or quit. Learn from temporary setbacks and recognize you can get back on track again, so you continue to rise!

About the Author: Brian Buck is a long-time friend of this blog and he is a business transformation coach that helps organizations with 500 or fewer employees fully engage their teams, improve their quality, save them precious time, and increase their profits. He hosts the People, Purpose, and Profits Business Coaching show which is part of the #LeanCommunicators network.

Show link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG_2cTHd1D_6rM2yxi60lCQ

Brian's site: https://about.brianbuck.org/

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Mark:

    I thought this was a very informative post and I took away many notes from it! I often find myself being distracted by a “bad day” or “bad week” – and will lose focus on all that I have accomplished. I definitely need to remember this moving forward in my career jourey!


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