A birder’s view of choosing your path in life

Binoculars are essential to all birders. Some birding beginners give up because just the binoculars they’re using aren’t satisfactory. They don’t see the birds well enough to make it interesting. Seeing your vision for your life ahead clearly enough is equally essential to a successful and interesting career. Some people give up on their lives or careers because the vision that they’re using isn’t up to the job.

The more you consider binoculars and birding, the more links you see with how people use and choose their vision for what they want from life and work.

Focusing on small areas

Binoculars both improve and limit your view. They magnify a small area far away, so that you see it better, while they restrict your view to that area only. Your “field of view” is greatly narrowed compared with normal sight. That’s why people unfamiliar with using binoculars often find it hard even to find a bird that they know is in plain view. Their viewpoint is too narrow when they look through the binoculars. More experienced birders hold the bird in view with the naked eye while they slowly lift their binoculars into place.

Your vision for your life and career works in similar ways. You are going to look at events, people and ideas “through” that vision, focusing in closely on those parts that it picks out for you. Everything else will be out of focus or out of sight. Like binoculars, the stronger the power of magnification, the narrower the field of view. Beginner birders often buy binoculars that are too powerful and have such a narrow field of view it’s almost impossible to focus on a moving bird. Some people’s visions are also too strong for them, causing narrow-mindedness and bigotry.

Always choose the best that you can

That doesn’t mean the biggest, the most expensive, or the most powerful—and certainly not the most fashionable at the moment.

As I just pointed out, binoculars that are too powerful are virtually useless. They’re too heavy to carry for long and make seeing the birds harder, not easier. Nor are the most expensive brands the best for everyone. The best means the best for you and where you are today. The best vision for your life is what is going to work for you, not what anyone else would choose.

Quality does count in binoculars and life and career visions. Cheap binoculars for birding are a waste of money. They usually provide a poor image and make everything look dull and fuzzy. Advice to new birders is always the same: “Buy the best binoculars you can afford. Never stint. You’ll quickly regret it.” It’s the same with visions. Cheap, tawdry ones produce dull, frustrating lives and careers. Good visions are expensive, not in cash, but in the duties they place on you to stand up for what’s right and the way that they constantly challenge you to do better than feels comfortable. No one ever managed to live a satisfying, successful life on the cheap.

There’s another characteristic that visions and binoculars share. Binoculars must “feel right” to be of any use. Choosing binoculars is an intensely personal business, not something you can easily do via the Internet or mail order. You have to hold them in your hands for a little while and sense if they’ll be good companions on your birding trips.

There are three “big names” in birding optics: Leica, Zeiss, and Swarovski: the first two two German, the last Austrian. I used to use Leica binoculars, now I have Swarovski. I’ve never been comfortable with Zeiss. There’s no difference in optical quality, the price is almost the same, and Zeiss has a fine reputation. Many excellent birders won’t use any other brand. But I can’t bear them, just like I’ve never driven any vehicle made by Ford on either side of the Atlantic that I didn’t want to get out of immediately. It’s just me.

Is it time for you to upgrade?

People get comfortable with their current life vision and can’t see any value in those others that use and love. It’s personal and irrational, just like me with binoculars. People also use that same basic vision everywhere they go, just like I’ve taken my binoculars with me from Australia to South America, Europe and Africa. The trouble is that the vision they have is a poor one. It’s outdated, limited in quality, picked up on the cheap, or just plain inadequate.

I’ve known people whose personal vision for their life is the equivalent of using binoculars handed down from their great-great-grandparents. I’ve also found many people using viewpoints that, if they were binoculars, would be flimsy, battered pairs picked up in some garage sale or flea market. Dreadful shoddy, cheap things, not fit for anything except the garbage.

Take a moment and think about the vision that is currently guiding your life, your career, and the way that you’re looking at the world. How well does it work? What’s the quality of the “lenses” it offers you? Does it narrow your field of view too much? Is it old, damaged, dusty, or well past its prime? Is it time that you swapped it for a better one? Can you afford not to?

Remember the advice to new birders: “Never use poor binoculars. Always get the best you can afford—even if you have to stretch a little. Looking at the world through poor optics is a waste of time and limits you to a dim and distorted view.” That’s very sound advice for life visions as well.

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