How many “f’s” are in the following paragraph:

“The necessity of training farmhands for first class farms in the fatherly handling of farm livestock is foremost in the minds of farm owners. Since the forefathers of the farm owners trained the farmhands for first class farms in the fatherly handling of farm livestock, the farm owners feel they should carry on with the family tradition of training farmhands of first class farms in the fatherly handling of farm livestock because they believe it is the basis of good fundamental farm management. Total number of f’s is………?”  (The answer is at the end of the article.)

If you found less than the correct amount, you probably ignored the f’s in the word of. If you missed the count, you probably said, “Of course, it was right in front of my eyes the whole time”. Many times in life we see things and automatically know what we’re seeing without any cognitive processing whatsoever. For example, who doesn’t recognize the famous coke logo?



Ordinarily we do not make the fullest use of our faculty to see.

We are aware that we move through life looking at a tremendous quantity of knowledge, objects and scenes; and yet, we look but do not see. By the way, the logo above the article reads coca-coca not coca-cola.

PAY ATTENTION. Paying attention to the world around you will help you develop the extraordinary capacity to look at mundane things and see the miraculous. Really paying attention to what you see will enable you to develop a kind of binary vision where you perceive what others see but, you will notice something different as well.

Engineers in George Westinghouse’s heyday knew more than he did about natural gas, railroads and electricity. Yet, they looked but did not see. Westinghouse paid attention. He became intrigued with the ordinary water well and took it apart. He examined the separate parts, modified some and reassembled it into a way to transmit clean natural gas thereby creating the natural gas industry.

Estee Lauder was an obsessed young woman desperately trying to puff out her products. She paid attention to everything going on around her searching for an answer. What could make a breakthrough? What could make the difference? Is it product, distribution, marketing? Then she hit on her “gift with purchase” strategy, which she calls the highlight of her life. From that flash of genius, she created a marketing marvel valued at nearly $2 billion. Lauder, at 81, is still paying attention by sniffing out new fragrances and new products for her company.

An idea can be found anywhere. Maybe it’s up in the hills under the leaves or hiding in a ditch somewhere. Maybe it’s never found. But what you find by paying attention, whatever you find, is always part of the missing, and that in itself will lead to something. With paying attention comes intense  interest, and after interest comes tiny truths and after tiny truths, comes passion and with passion comes a will to create. Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds, paid so much attention to the mundane french fry that to him it became almost sacrosanct.

Edwin Crosby Johnson II, one of the creators of the mutual fund industry, expressed the market in terms of passionate rhapsody: The stock market was like a “beautiful woman endlessly fascinating, endlessly complex, always changing, always mystifying……the market represents everything that everyone has ever hoped, feared, hated, or loved. It is all of life.” When Forest Mars met for the first time with executives of his newly created Mars Inc., he announced, ” I am a religious man.” Then he dropped to his knees and intoned: “I pray for Milky Way, I pray for Snickers……”

Following is an exercise designed to help you improve your ability to pay pure attention to the world around you. This exercise was developed by Minor White who taught photography at MIT.

Select a photograph or picture that gives you pleasure. The more detailed the photo or picture the better. Get comfortable and relax. Set a timer or alarm for ten minutes. Look at the photograph or picture until the timer goes off without moving. Don’t move a muscle. Stay focused on the image. Do not allow your mind to free associate. Pay attention only to the photograph or picture in front of you. Concentrate only on the image before you. After the timer goes off, turn away from the image and recall your experience. Review the experience visually rather than with words. Accept whatever the experience is for what it is. After your review and your experience becomes kind of a flavor, go about your everyday work, trying to recall the experience whenever you can. You’ll begin to experience an intense awareness that you can find only by paying pure attention. Recall the experience frequently and recall it visually.

(The number of F’s is 37. This includes the last F in the last question at the end of the paragraph.)

For an effective brainstorming tool check out Michael Michalko’s Thinkpak.