Very often we are told that the best way to solve any Problem is to concentrate and focus down and down into it, blanking out everything except that Problem.  The Problem becomes a world all by itself.  By delving into it deeper and deeper, you’re supposed to be able to pull out a solution that should, logically, solve the silly thing.

There are all kinds of books and videos and so on and so forth about this…all kinds of how-to-do-it and do-it-yourself info.  It’s how you’re supposed to do things, and there are a lot of people who will tell you how.

Most of the time, this strategy works fine.  Sometimes it does not.

The thing about this particular strategy is this:  there will be times when you’ll expend a lot of head-achey, heart-breaky effort and you’ll wind up repeating and reiterating the same so-called solutions everyone else who ever focused down on a particular Problem found.

These tried-and-true solutions may not be completely effective.  They may just be “regular” stuff people always do when faced with such a problem.

The solutions you find using this strategy probably will work just about the same way as all the rest of the solutions that others have found.  It’s possible that the old trite answers will fall apart in the same way they have always done as well.

In order to tell when the tried-and-true road is less than optimal, all you have to do is check the results that other people who tried it got.  Perhaps the results they got are not satisfactory for you.  “Good enough” may not be where you’re trying to go.

There are other ways of looking at a Problem that can produce fresh, wondrous, and often peculiar, things.   There are other ways to play.


Now, think about this:  What happens when you take a step back from the thing you’re seeing?  Instead of having The Problem looming large and important, blocking out your entire view of the world, you might, instead, notice the area around the Problem.

Maybe if you pay better attention to how The Problem is affecting the larger spaces you see when you step back, you might notice some detail you missed when your focus was so laser-sharp.

Maybe you’ll be able to notice another way to go next…something that might actually help mitigate the effects of the Problem better than a frontal, deep-drilling, logical approach.

Jumping into the fray before you’ve actually looked at the whole tangled mess as well as the space all around it often means you are ignoring some valuable information – like where all the exits are, for example, and whether there are more than one path that you might like to explore.

Stepping back and checking the spaces all around The Problem can lead you into unfamiliar, exciting new directions…or maybe not.  When you’re exploring new uncharted territory, there can be risks.

“Danger! No Walking Backwards” by Matthew Klein via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]


In this YouTube TEDxMarthasVineyard talk “Step Back and Look Again” the self-styled artist-designer-activist Sebastian Errazuriz details how he has developed and uses the practice of stepping back and widening his focus so that a Problem is just a part of a bigger world rather than the only part of the world he can see.  He uses this mindset to make his extraordinary art/design work.

Errazuriz is internationally acclaimed for standing different.  His work always surprises and frequently enchants.  It also often provokes controversy.  It is “remarkable” —  the subject of many remarks.

His explorations – from his artful public installations and political and social statements (some of which he talks about in the video)  to his product designs that include experimental furniture that move and flow gracefully; fashion designs that include fanciful 3-D printed shoe-sculptures that recall past relationships as well as a fur coat made out of (gulp!) teddy bear skins and a dress made entirely out of zippers; and transportation options like a motorboat coffin – have been celebrated in over forty international exhibits or featured on magazine covers and in assorted books and catalogues, and critiqued or exclaimed over in thousands of articles and on television.

There is even a book about his work, THE JOURNEY OF SEBASTIAN ERRAZURIZ.

The man’s body of work asks you to “look again,” to see what is hidden in front of your eyes and to really notice how extraordinary this world can be.


Stepping back and taking another look apparently opens up the possibility that you will be more likely to see other ways of doing things that don’t involve getting caught up and trapped in a particular Problem.

Your visions and the things that grow out of them will probably be very different than what you’ve thought before.   Perhaps you’ll discover some interesting lessons (also known as “mistakes”).  Perhaps this way of Un-Seeing might lead to your finding uniquely effective solutions.

Step back….look.  What do you see?

Here’s a poem:



I’m really liking where I’ve put my head…

I’m standing here, looking at this World of Dust,

Seeing it as a mirror,

A kaleidoscopic construct of shards and tiles

Made of fun-house mirror glass –

Each one reflecting an image

That is quintessentially human.


Every bit of it shines.

Every movement of the one standing in front of it

Is echoed in that mirror-mosaic that

Repeats a captured image endlessly…

Maybe into infinity.


If you stand too far away from the mirror that’s the World,

Then the thing is just a lovely bit of shiny…

Mildly interesting in a sort of kitschy, impersonal way,

But not particularly arresting because,

Let’s face it…f’r real,

The way us humans are built,

The most mind-catching thing

Is pretty much our own selves.

If we’re not in it, whatever it is doesn’t mean much.


Step close enough so

You can see yourself echoed in the glass

And the mirror-wall becomes

An animated interactive thing…

Interesting – fascinating , even.


But if you try to encompass it all,

Try to see the bigger picture

Of you and everybody else reflected in it,

Your monkey-mind goes boggling off,

Gagging on the overload.


The crazy bent-glass bits

Distort the images they capture

And send them back bent out of shape,

Warped into patterns

That merge and dance before your eyes.

You can’t make sense of what you see,

But your diligent little monkey-mind keeps trying.


Step in too close and focus

On one little bit and you

Miss out on the impact of

The beautiful play of movement

Across the patterns of that glassy wall.


But then it hit me:

The construct’s really just a wall, you know.

You don’t get to step inside it

Just by looking at it…

No matter how hard you try.


It’s a reflecting mirror-wall, silly,

All it does is bounce back images at you

And the images …

Well, they’re just little bits of

The you who is dancing there

In front of it.

It’s not SUPPOSED to enfold you.

(Who wants to get hugged by a wall?)


And then it occurred to me…


Somewhere in that wall,

There’s an entryway –

Some secret door or

Maybe a hidden panel

That you press.

Maybe you can’t see it if

You’re dazzled by the image-dance.


And maybe that is why

You have to reach out and

Touch that wall…

Run your hands along it,

Making fingerprint smears all over it,

So you can find that hidden door

The one that opens up into

The Mystery that

The world-wall surrounds….


Ho, wow!

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Mirror Wall by Jason Meredith via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.








16 thoughts on “STEP BACK AND SEE

  1. Life Built Poems
    Really thought provoking approach to problem solution I think I can use! I really enjoyed the TedX video what a creative approach and very well explained and presented.
    Your poem at the end was very unique and fit in well with your website.
    Do you have a book of your poems published?
    Thank you
    Craig Rutherford

    1. Hey Craig:

      Thanks for the visit and your comments. I’m working on the book….

      Please do come again….

  2. Another lovely post. This time it speaks to me in the midst of some problems I am going through. I have long avoided asking others and I always thought it’s my pride but you have highlighted to me maybe I have never been satisfied with the outcome of other’s advice. Thanks for introducing that TED talk from an artiste who has shown us how to look (or relook) at problems. Your post open my eyes to something new. Love the insight. Thanks

    1. Hey Rags:

      Welcome back! Thanks for your visit and your comments. I am glad that the post resonated with you. Please do come again….

  3. The whole concept of stepping back to look at the problem from a different angle reminds me of the Sedona Method, which is basically a form of meditation or relaxation in which you try to “let go”. In letting go we find a space of peace which allows us to find more creative solutions, or sometimes, realize that the problem stressing us out, isn’t a problem at all. Beautiful poem, thank you.

    1. Thank you for your visit and your comments, Layne. Please do come again….

  4. I think that we all need to step back and see the mirror wall that our lives represent sometimes. I think the play at different angles was really good. We all need to be flexible enough to see things up close with a small focus v’s stepping back so we can see the bigger picture. Thanks for opening up my eyes to this new approach. What was your #1 take away from this video. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Glenys:

      Thanks for the visit and for your thoughts.  For myself, it was a validation of a way I’d been developing for some time when I realized that my habit of focusing down very hard and sharp on a problem seemed to make me vulnerable to getting blindsided by things I didn’t notice in the periphery.

      It’s a bit of a challenge walking this way, I think, because so often the stepping back gets misconstrued as disinterest, perhaps, or uncaring.  But, often, the best and most effective solutions come as a result. 

      Please do come again.

  5. Todd Matthews says:

    I think this is an issue for many as when a problem arises, they see it as this barbaric monster in front of them rather than stepping back and seeing the entire thing from a different point of view, or seeing what’s around the problem. Those that approach problems and obstacles calmly are able to do so, and those ready to freak are the ones who definitely need to take that step back and focus on what’s around the problem, as they may see things in a completely different manner, which might just lead to a solution. 

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing our thoughts, Todd.  You’ve summarized exactly the value of stepping back and really paying attention to what is in front of you.  Thanks!

      Please do come again….

  6. Antarctic Adventures says:

    Yes, I love this! It’s so important to just take a step back sometimes and see what you can’t see. 

    You might also enjoy Earl Nightingale. He talks about an Acre of Diamonds and how we are all in one but we have to learn how to look at problems and see the solutions! 

    Thank you for sharing

    1. Thanks for the visit, Antarctic Adventures.  

      Earl Nightingale is one of my heroes.  His radio broadcasts were a part of my childhood (which tells you, sort of, how old I am) and I really enjoyed and agreed with his thoughts and ruminations.  He was a big influence for me.

      Please do come again.  

  7. Ladyrose87 says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article on how to step back. It reminds me of the book ‘The Secret’ and how it encourages positive thinking to send out positive vibrations into the universe to attract back the same. Too many of us Procrastinate over things when really we should do exactly what you said and ‘take a step back’

    Great poem that resonates with exactly what you have spoken about.

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, Ladyrose87.  I’m pleased the post was helpful to you.

      Please do come again.

  8. LineCowley says:

    One can easily get bogged down into the nitty gritty details of a problem, which can make it difficult to find a solution. I have often found that if I step back, and tackle something different, that I can then go back to the initial problem and look at it in a different light. Thinking of it as a challenge, rather than a problem, has also helped me to solve it and overcome the challenge. 

    It is very much like not seeing the wood for the trees. One can be so involved in the details of something, and so they do not notice what is important about the thing as a whole. 

    Thank you for once again sharing one of your beautiful and thought provoking poems. 

    1. Welcome back, LineCowley.  You bring up a very good point.  Doing shapes your answers to your dilemmas but only if you have a clear idea of what you’re dealing with. 

      Please do come again.

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