The Forest and the Leaves

In college, I took a “History of the American Presidency” class which focused on the historical perspectives of each President. My professor was a delight, and was prone to having little sayings for each president. One that always stuck out to me was in reference to Jimmy Carter.

My professor said that Carter was so focused on the minuscule details, that he was not only unable to see the “forest for the trees,” but he was unable to “see the trees for the leaves."

This idea brings attention to detail to an entirely new level.

In the creative world, we are responsible for noticing the little things. For focusing on the details so others don’t have too. It is our job.

But, is it possible that we can get too focused on the minuscule?

I can remember a time or two where I have let details nag my impression of a finished project. “If only I had this angle on that shot,” I would think to myself. As people enjoyed the video, I found it unbearable to watch, all because of that one stinking shot.

In a live moment, I can remember times where someone missed their cue, or came out of the wrong side of the stage. It would bug me to no end! Of course, no one in the whole auditorium realized anything was wrong, but I did. The details wore me down. I couldn’t see the trees because of the leaves. 

Obviously, we need to focus on details. It’s what we do.

At some point, however, we need to be able to let the details sweep past us, and enjoy the beauty of the trees. We can narrow our focus so much that we can miss out on the wonderful things all those details add up to create. 

During this season, allow yourself to see the trees. Enjoy them. Sit in awe of them. It’s okay to not have to count every leaf. Just see the beauty that all those little leaves create.