Charlie worked at a factory that manufactured all sorts of things. He liked his job, and so did the gate guard, Albert.
One Friday, when everyone was getting ready to leave for the weekend, Charlie showed up at the gate with a wheelbarrow full of straw.
“Where’d you get the straw, Charlie?” Albert asked.
“Bought it,” Charlie answered, producing his receipt. Sure enough, he had bought the straw.
“What are you gonna do with all that straw?”
“Feed my horses,” Charlie replied.
Albert was suspicious. He was pretty sure Albert didn’t own any horses. “Mind if I take a look?” he asked.
Charlie waved his hand towards the wheelbarrow. “Help yourself.”
Albert poked through the straw, making sure nothing was hidden inside. Sure enough, he didn’t find a thing. “Have a good weekend,” he said, waiving Charlie through.
The following Friday, Charlie showed up once again at the gate with a wheelbarrow full of straw. Once again, he had a receipt and Albert didn’t find anything hidden in the straw. This went on for twenty years, with Charlie leaving with a wheelbarrow full of straw and nothing else. Albert was pretty sure Charlie was up to something, but he couldn’t ever figure out what it was.
Over the years, the two became close friends. One day, it was to be the final time they’d perform their weekly ritual. Charlie was retiring, and that Friday was going to be his last day.
Charlie came to the gate. Albert didn’t even bother checking the wheelbarrow; he knew he wouldn’t find anything hidden in the straw.
“Charlie,” he said. “I’ve seen you walk out of here every week for twenty years. I know you’ve been stealing something, but what? Now that you’re retired, tell me what it is. It’s driving me crazy.”
Charlie simply smiled and said. “Sure. Wheelbarrows.”
Wheelbarrow theft may or may not be your biggest concern, but even if it’s not this message still applies. Sometimes, the biggest threats are hiding in plain sight. Sometimes, what we assume is our biggest concern is actually only a distraction.