In these days of global, instantaneous, communication, we are much more aware of what is happening in the higher circles of government. We know what bills are making their way to the House floor, what debates we will see in the House of Commons and how the latest tax law changes will effect us. That said, due to this better communication, we often overestimate how much effect these large governmental organizations have on our day-to-day life. In the worst cases, we can begin to ignore what is happening in our own backyard, in our own families, in our own careers. It is important to remember that your daily actions will have far more effect on your life than nearly any governmental action.
When we over-focus on what the President, Pope or Prime Minister is doing we lose sight of more immediate — and I would say, possibly more important — issues close to home. Should you ignore government entirely? Of course not, but you also shouldn’t let it become the daily driver of your thoughts and actions. I can guarantee you that there are much more pressing issues close at hand that desire — and require — more of your attention.
In some cases an excessive focus on high-level, external issues is often just a way to avoid facing the issues that are close at hand. Every day I see people worried about this policy or the other — and how it might effect then — when their own immediate household is in disarray. Sure the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve is certainly important in the grand scheme of things, but shouldn’t you be more concerned with the fact that half your staff is so unhappy they are on the verge of walking out? Shouldn’t you be more focused on the fact that a big order for very important customer is about to be late and cost you thousands of dollars in future sales? Yet, I still see people spending hours of their time discussing, arguing and even obsessing over the big picture while ignoring the small.
In some ways I think this behavior comes from a bit of arrogance. We like to think that since we are aware of these governmental policies more than ever before, we can effect them more than ever before and they effect us more than ever before. The truth is, governmental policies often only effect us in small, incremental ways and we can often effect them in very small ways. It is rare (although not unheard of) that a policy will remove your ability to do business. On the other hand, though, a major crisis in your own office, factory or startup could effect your viability directly and quickly. Where should you be devoting more of your attention?
You have the power in your hands to directly effect your life, your business, your career every day. The actions you take — from the smallest to the largest — will decide how successful you are in all of these areas. Don’t allow yourself to get too tied up in the machinations of governments (and large, far-flung corporations). Focus on what is happening right in front of you first. It is here where you can have the deepest impact. In some cases, your immediate, local, direct actions can have effects far up the chain of government. Just as employees are challenged to “manage from below”, your actions at the local level can have far reaching effects.
The world can be a frightening and confusing place sometimes. As we gain access to more and more global information, we can feel somewhat powerless to effect higher level policy and actions. While it would be great for all of us to feel more powerful in the management of our government, that fact is our biggest power still lies within us. It lies in the direct effect we have on the people and and world immediately around us. Don’t lose sight of how important that can be to both your life and career. This direct effect — not the actions of Presidents, Popes and Prime Ministers — is what will define your life and legacy.