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Your Passions Provide Peripheral Vision

When you take a timeout to shift your attention from the stressful stuff to something uplifting and apparently unrelated—particularly if it's one of your passions—your state of mind improves. Enduringly successful people find they get many great insights when they're playing at something else—or somehow not wrestling with problems directly. Don't shortchange the subtle power that comes from purposely changing the subject of your attention in the middle of the week.

It's like peripheral vision, enabling you to see more angles on an idea or new dimensions of an issue when you're not looking directly at it. This may seem nonintuitive or odd, yet we all have these experiences—ideas that show up in the shower, or while we're pushing a child on the swing, playing a favorite game, or daydreaming during a long drive. As long as there is a connection to your portfolio of passions rather than just a focus on obligations or an attempted escape in wishful thinking, you can take advantage of what we call, peripheral thinking. Peripheral thinking has the potential to connect you with a higher authority. Many people have creative breakthroughs (a.k.a. Aha! moments) in prayer, or meditation, or even playing basketball.

"I love the game," said lanky, athletic-looking Richard Kovacevich, who takes this principle to heart in his life and work. He said he has always been at his best when he applies what he learned on the basketball court to his day job as president, chairman, and CEO of Wells Fargo & Company. Kovacevich is one of the most respected leaders in business at one of the most successful financial services companies in the world.

"I've made every mistake there is in life as a manager," he said. "I was an engineer by background, although I got an MBA, but I have an MS in engineering. And as an engineer, I thought, just sit in a room with my slide rule and just run your linear program and the answer would pop out. Then just send the answer to the troops telling them what to do and it would get done. Well, in my first real job, I did all that and nothing happened," he said. He tried that a few times. "And they nodded and said 'Yes,' and it still didn't happen. And then I said, 'Well gee, this is not working too well, is it?' And so you learn. And what you really find out is it's all about people. Although I was this geek, this engineer, I also spent four hours every day of my life for 21 years playing sports. You learn very quickly playing sports that it's all about (the) team. It's the best five players that win the basketball game, not the five best players. I learned more on the field of sports than I did in my calculus class. And you start applying those types of experiences, combined with business knowledge and you say, 'Wow, this is what it's all about.'"

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