Is it time to go to the balcony?


If you’re like most people, you’re a “get stuff done” kind of person. If you see a problem, you likely have an answer locked and loaded before other people realize it’s an issue. Your manager, peers, and employees come to you when they have a problem that needs to be solved now. You’ve likely built your reputation and career on your excellent judgment, responsiveness, and problem-solving. You’ve become the go-to person in a crisis.

It feels good, doesn’t it?


I've got bad news for you. This constant movement and problem-solving are preventing you from thinking. We’re not talking about the rapid response thinking that you do effortlessly every day. We’re talking about deep thinking. The kind of thinking that allows you to explore possibilities, learn new things, and raise powerful questions.

Cal Newport, in his book Deep Work, defines it as “focusing persistently and without distraction on a cognitively demanding and valuable task.” When was the last time you did this? 

Most of us rarely do it, and the reason is simple. We don’t have time for it. We’ve allowed the emails, meetings, and smartphones to distract us from the value we were meant to create.

So what are we to do about it? 


William Ury says it best: “go to the balcony.” From the balcony of our lives, relationships, and work, we can see all the moving pieces at their appropriate scale. It allows us to recalibrate our emotions and energy. We can calmly assess and value each situation and circumstance. From here, we can begin to ask questions, which aren’t easy to answer without space and depth.

But how do we get on the balcony? 


Bill Gates spends a few weeks a year locked away for what he calls “Think Week.” He’s found the practice so useful that he institutionalized it at Microsoft. A whole team of leaders goes off on their own to review ideas that have been submitted by employees through the year. No interruptions, just time to read and think about new ideas.

He’s a pretty important guy with a lot to do too. If he can do it, why can’t you?

Too bold you say? How about this?


What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and were sick? I mean really sick, not the “go to work anyway” sick, but Ebola virus sick. You would call in sick, and the team would … survive without you.

They would figure it out and go about solving problems. They might do it differently than you would have, but it would get done, and life would go on. If this is the case, why couldn’t you call in sick a few weeks from now? Schedule a time on your calendar to be out of the office and away from distractions just to think. 

Can’t do this either?


Your day is full of meetings with other people already. You’ve been double-booked more times than you can count. Why not schedule an hour or two in a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. All you need is a pen, a notepad and a question? What am I not giving my attention to today that could change everything?


Here’s what happens if you don’t do it. Nothing. Life will go on, and you can be pretty darn successful in your career. However, if you never get up on the balcony, you won’t make the meaningful difference that you are destined to make.

Sure, you will keep the machine moving, but you won’t ever change it for the better. It’s a shame because you have potential beyond what even you know. Just try it. The view is much better from the balcony.


Just imagine the impact you would have if you knew exactly how to be more strategic in everything you do and every decision you make. That is why I built See the Big Picture: Nine Steps to Being Strategic. It is a 15-page guide loaded with simple ideas to help you transform into a strategic leader. Get your free copy here.

Jeff Shannon