I cycle past things that I don't notice all the time. I know this because when I am sensitized to looking for something in particular, there it is.
A little while ago, I read another of Jon Regosin's great Natural Newton blog postings, this one about tent caterpillars. I have never (knowingly) seen tent caterpillars before, but during my very next bike ride, I looked up when huffing and puffing up a hill, and there were several such tents, right there above my head.
Of course, this is the same in many parts of my life.
In my venture capital world it is often my partners at Sigma, or an entrepreneur at a portfolio company, or even a lawyer working on a transaction for us who will mention to look out for a particular issue, and there it is, all around me. We develop checklists for all the things to look out for, and then we don't see the next (often important) thing, because we have not been sensitized to that.
Someone once said that an executive makes four important decisions each year, but the trick is knowing which four, of the many to be made, are the important ones. We can be sensitized to the issues which have been important in the past, but still not see the next issue, the next opportunity, because we have yet to really learn of its importance. Within a little while its importance becomes apparent. That learning sometimes comes at a cost, and sometimes brings a smile, as with tent caterpillars.