Here’s the thing: Either I suck at geocaching, or (and I’m kind’ve hoping this is the case), there are mastermind villains out there stealing caches and webcasting suckers like me wasting our lives looking for bits of garbage hidden in the woods. If you’ve noticed a bald patch of forest half way up Mt. Si, that’s geocaching fallout that I suspect is the result of one of these black-hearted pranksters. At least it’s not just me falling for it. There are enough people spending a good amount of time circling the moving dot on their shitty iPhone GPS to flatten a few hundred square feet of nature’s bounty.

A forest

Despite my suspicion that many caches have been hijacked, I keep doing it because of an interesting side effect. Actively looking for anomalies has trained my brain to filter in and focus on specific types of observations.

Here’s a quick DIY experiment to show you what I’m talking about.*

  1. Pick a color.
  2. Now look around, saying it over and over in your head.
  3. Watch how that color pops out from everything.

Trying this on stadium crowds is a total mind bender and how I sanity maintained through many a football game.

A forest


My few rounds of geocaching have resulted in similar, but larger scale, highlighting effects. I found myself inadvertently eyeing dark nooks and corners, zoning in on anything that stood out as different from the things around it, scanning detailed areas for tiny oddities. Like, what’s that baggie on top of the schoolyard wall? What’s the hidden yellow doorway on Summit between Pike and Pine? Yeah, I still hope it’s a geocache, but it’s equally exciting when the answers are seedy neighborhood insights. For Capitol Hill, baggies tend to be drug paraphernalia or soggy kleenex. Yellow doors are members-only, no girls allowed bathhouses.

So what? Right. Well…here’s my hypothesis:

Learning to see patterns is like Sherlocking life. 1. It makes the daily grind far more interesting and 2. The more you observe the unspoken rhythms, the better you can anticipate what’s coming and plan your next move.

Example: Try listening to all the comments in your office about a particular topic - something general like “i hate it when…” or “i was using….” or even just facial moods. Can you tell what percentage of the people around you are happy or doing too much late night CrossFit? Or pay attention to when and how often your client glances at their watch. Is it every time Rick starts talking about interactions or every time you mention your wearables strategy?

Personally, I’ve been struggling with what to write for these blog posts. Since it should be about our interests as a company, I started eavesdropping for phrases that would make good headlines. Now it’s all I hear and, frankly, my next post will probably be about figuring out how to turn this brain-laser-scanner-thing off.

It’s my new favorite anecdote thought for how technology can literally reprogram the way our minds work and affect our behaviors. You’re welcome to it if you’re over that whole “my baby treats the refrigerator like a giant iPhone” tiredness. Ironically though, in this case, the less I used technology, the better I got at finding caches. The idea, the app, and the act itself it just trained my brain to do what my GPS was sucking at and now I’m pretty okay at finding hidden treasure in life at large. Score.

Best find I found while not looking for it so far: Golden angel coins at one of the Seven Gates to Hell. See it? Can you find the geocache?

Try saying “blue” and looking again. Cool, now go find your own.

Main image by Flickr user rbanks