Missing What’s Right In Front of You: Lessons from Kiwiland

As I travel through Australia and New Zealand, I’m learning about the history of the area.

For example, the aboriginal people in New Zealand arrived here only about 800 or so years ago. We’re in Dunedin, NZ right now, named for Edinburgh, Scotland (Dunedin was an old name for Edinburgh), and the old city of Edinbugh is older than that.

Europeans arrived in New Zealand less than 300 years ago, bringing with them all kinds of things, including disease and the ubiquitous sheep you see everywhere in this country.

This area was first “discovered” by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who left Indonesia and discovered Fiji, New Zealand and the southern Australian island that now bears his name (Tasmania). However, in spite of all of this, he never found the continent of Australia–though it was right in front of him.

Capt. Cook sailed around New Zealand and looked right at Milford Sound, yet never came inland because from what is now known as the Tasman Sea, the Sound was not visible–it appeared like just more ragged coastline–yet it was right in front of him.

Lest we blame explorers in this part of the world, remember that Christopher Columbus reached what we now call the West Indies, thinking he’d found India, yet totally missed the continent of North America. Had he gone a little further north and west, perhaps Ohio would now be located in Columbus, instead of the other way around.

All of these explorers missed the big prize of what was right in front of them because they couldn’t see the bigger picture. They had a set of working assumptions based on what was known at the time. Had they been able to break free of these, they might have made discoveries beyond their greatest imaginations.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. How many times do we miss what’s right in front of our face because we don’t think it’s supposed to be there?

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