Want To Have The Best Memories Of Your Life? Then Put Down The Camera.

Peter learned a life lesson about appreciating beauty in arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth—Rocky Mountain National Park, outside Boulder, Colorado. Perhaps not too surprising a place to learn a lesson about beauty.

But the way he learned the lesson was far less expected: he forgot his camera.


How Forgetting His Camera Taught Peter A Lesson

Peter visited the park the summer of 1983, just before his senior year of high school, as part of a two-week church trip.

On one of those days, their agenda was a full-day hike to Bear Lake, one of the most popular locations in the park. They left their campsite first thing in the morning and wouldn’t return until 4 p.m.

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About one hour into the hike, Peter realized he’d left his camera in the tent. He was crushed. Of all the days to forget his camera, he had to pick the day of the hike to Bear Lake?

When they arrived at the lake, all the other kids began madly taking pictures of the amazing vistas. All he could do was watch. This was before the days of digital cameras, so it wasn’t like his friends could easily send him copies of their pictures. He simply wasn’t going to have pictures today.

So he decided to try something else. He sat down, faced out across the lake to the stunning mountain peaks on the opposite side, and just stared.

One minute…two minutes…three minutes. Just stared.

Then, he closed his eyes and tried to remember what he was just looking at. He couldn’t remember enough detail. So he opened his eyes again.

Four minutes…five minutes.

Then he closed his eyes again. He did this until he could see in his mind’s eye every jagged cliff, every snow-capped peak, the timberline where the trees stop growing and the barren rock begins, even the shadows of the clouds as they drifted across the side of the mountain.

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Thirty-two years later, Peter still has wonderful memories of that entire two-week trip. And he has hundreds of pictures he can show you if you have time for him to dig them out of a closet somewhere. But there’s only one scene—one amazingly beautiful scene—he can describe to you in breathtaking detail. And it’s Bear Lake. The only place in Rocky Mountain National Park he doesn’t have a single picture of.

The Takeaway

To truly appreciate something of beauty requires the one thing we seem to have less and less of these days: focused attention. In a typical vacation, we’re so rushed to snap photos of every possible thing of interest that we fail to actually take interest in the things we’ve rushed to see. What Peter learned through that experience is the value of truly being in the moment. Stop. Truly see what you came to see. If you do it right, you won’t need pictures anyway.


Paul SmithPaul Smith is a bestselling author who’s newest book, Parenting with a Story, documents 101 inspiring lessons like this one to help you (and your kids) build the kind of character anyone would be proud of. He’s a keynote speaker and trainer on leadership and storytelling based on his bestselling book Lead with a Story. You can find Paul at www.leadwithastory.com and follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Photo by Daniel O’Donnell (Supertramp)

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