The Myth of 30,000 Feet

January 02, 2017

The Myth of 30,000 Feet

I often hear people in business use the phrase 30,000 feet. With few exceptions, it is never heard from visionaries, and rarely heard from successful entrepreneurs. Yet, the phrase persists in its everyday use, and its understanding by many as a place to visit – just for a time.

There is a reason for this disconnect, and it has everything to do with our internal definition of the phrase. Some would define it as a level of detail, but is is much more accurate to define it in terms of the angle of view. The angle of view to 30K feet of someone who is grittily delivering the details of a startup is decidedly UP. And if you think about it, logic would say that in a startup, it is highly likely to be right view. After all, it seems one would have to look up from analysis, look up from code, look up from employees, rent, funding, and so much more. The details, the uncelebrated details seem to be aligned with Edison’s 90% perspiration rule. And so, the 30,000-foot metaphor was born, and was immediately seen as a place to go and visit, and not for too long. After all, that is not where the details are – and details are important.

What is often missed is that the angle of view from 30,000 feet is OUT and decidedly not, down. And, the view has important and rich detail about the road ahead that is often significantly more important than your current product or market approach. The richness of this kind of detail is a way that you can look OUT while you analyze, code, employ, seek funding, etc…. Looking out is the kernel of what successful entrepreneurs will describe as they tell you about their breakthrough story. Sadly, it is also what is missing from many stories of difficult learning experiences.

It is tempting to say that one should strike a balance of both angles of view, but we are humans – and will have a bias. What do you think?