Don’t Miss the Obvious

Last week, the newspaper said that it would either be the greatest meteor shower ever, or it wouldn’t happen at all.

I’ve always been a fan of outer space, so anything that happens up there gets my attention. When Saturn is in the evening sky, I pull out my telescope to study its rings. The five moons of Jupiter always capture my interest. I’ve studied enough full moons that I could probably find my way around.

I never get tired of watching the International Space Station glide across the sky, even though I’ve see it happen hundreds of times.

Meteor showers are special. They don’t happen very often, so I’ve set my alarm for some time after midnight and stood in my yard a number of times. It’s often cold, and my neck hurts from staring straight up.

But it has never worked. All I get is a stiff neck and insomnia.

It’s probably because I live in Southern California, so there’s too much light. It’s tough to see many stars, much less a meteor shower.

But when my friend Will texted me about this one, I allowed myself to hope. There were two things that would be different about this one:

  1. Based on a mathematical formula, it had the potential to be the greatest meteor shower ever (or a complete dud).
  2. It would occur while I was above 6000 feet at a cabin in the mountains where there were no streetlights.

StarsSo at 12:30 AM, I bundled up and went outside the cabin. It was cold and crisp, and the loudness of the wind blowing through the forest was uncanny. Looking straight up, I could see the black silhouettes of the tree tops dancing against the star-crusted sky.

I stood there for about 10 minutes.

There were no meteors.

I thought, “OK, just one. If I can just see one meteor up here, I’ll be happy.”

That one never came.

Finally, I heard myself say aloud, “Well, that’s a disappointment.”

But immediately, I realized the irony of my statement.

I didn’t see any meteors, so I was disappointed. But that whole time I had been so focused on the meteors that I had overlooked the majesty.

Usually, the sky I see at home is black, with occasional stars perforating the blackness. But here, there seemed to be the opposite. There were so many stars that the night sky seemed to recede into the background.

I hadn’t seen that many stars since I was a kid, looking out the window as my parents drove through the Arizona desert in the middle of the night.

So here I am, focused on the most amazing scene possible and saying, “Well, that’s a disappointment.”

I bet I do that more often than I realize. I go through life looking for a unique event that’s exciting, but miss the everyday miracles while I’m doing it.

There’s majesty all around us – in nature, in our relationships, in our opportunities, in our faith, in our jobs, in our conversations, in our passion.

Meteors are great, but they’re so unpredictable.

Let’s enjoy them when they come, but not count on them.

Don’t miss the majesty.

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books – including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys,” “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions,” and “Dealing With the Elephant in the Room.” (See Book page)

  • Paul Schliep

    Mike, it is so common for me to do just this. I’m looking for meteors and missing the universe. It happens with relationships, but it also happens with opportunities. Thanks for reminding me. I’ve always loved the apocryphal story about Holmes and Watson:

    Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson once went to the mountains on a camping trip.
    After enjoying a delicious meal, they retired to their tent for the night. Around midnight, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful companion.

    “Watson,” he said, “look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

    Watson, used to Holmes’s tests of observational acumen, observed, “I see millions and millions of stars.”

    Holmes asked, “What does that tell you?”

    Watson pondered for a minute. “Well… astronomically, it tells me that there
    are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is omnipotent and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I
    suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Holmes?”

    Holmes was silent for a minute,
    then said, “Watson, someone has stolen our tent.”

  • So fun! To learn something new about you is fun. How did I not know your love of the sky? I’m also a sky watcher and have been “disappointed” many times when nothing appears. I’ll be reminded next time of the beauty I’m seeing! Thank you, Mike!

    • Always great to find someone else who has learned how to look “up” instead of “down.” Next time I watch the space station go by, I’ll wonder if you’re watching it from the desert . . . !