What Do You See? Your Vision Determines What You Can Accomplish (5020)

The other night was listening to music (shocker, I know!). Specifically, I found myself listening to some older rock and roll. Dexter Freebish’s “What Do You See?” popped into my ears. It’s not a great song, but the question is a good one, and one I often work hard to help people wrestle with in my day job of executive coaching. Here are the lyrics to it:

You might think you could be happy someday
But you don’t know how to look the other way
What do you see
When the rain falls down onto the ground each day
What do you see
When the sun don’t shine and you cannot find your way
You work a crap job, you don’t know why
You listen to them scream and you listen to them yell
You watch them create your own little private hell
You follow your orders, you never blink an eye
But you don’t know how to look the other way
You might think you could be happy someday
What do you see
What do you see
When the sun don’t shine and you cannot find your way
When the rain falls down onto the ground each day
You wonder how you’re gonna make it through the week
You go to bed, but you cannot sleep
You finally doze off, you fall into a dream
You are the puppet who wants to cut its strings
What do you see
When the sun don’t shine and you cannot find your way
What do you see
When the rain falls down onto the ground each day

Vision versus blind spots is a common theme for me. It’s something that comes up daily in my work. But it also seems to dominate my personal life. That whole “it’s what you don’t know that’ll hurt you” thing.

My entire life I’ve fixated on what I know versus what I don’t know. My curiosity is driven by it because I’m painfully aware of how ignorant I am about so many things. Ignorant, not stupid.

Ignorance is a willingness to learn. Stupidity is the inability to learn.

Well, that’s not entirely correct, but it’s kinda sorta correct. We’re all ignorant about many things, but they’re things we could learn if we’re willing. We’re all stupid about some things, too. Like me and calculus. I lack the ability to learn it. I also lack the interest to learn it. Some things are just beyond me because of the depths of my stupidity.

Time is my enemy with ignorance. There are so many things I’m ignorant about, but I’m willing to correct many of them. When your ignorance is so vast, time is the issue. I need to live to be about 1.000. I’m resigned that I’ll die not knowing many things. I’m okay with it. Mostly because what am I going to do if I’m NOT okay with it?

But today, it’s not about time. It’s about sight. Namely, it’s about what you see versus what you don’t see. Which is largely the same thing as what you know versus what you don’t. Or what you believe versus what you don’t believe.

September 2, 2017 Saturday's Smile - LEANING TOWARD WISDOM

Since this Ballard Street was published some years ago I’ve joked with people, “I’m Nelson.” It’s true. I’m a lifelong dot-connector, always trying to make sense of things. Even things that make no sense. Especially when it comes to human behavior. And I’m often reminded that sometimes people behave crazily, to which friends will admonish me.

“If it made sense to you, then you’d be as nuts as them.”

True. Yet I can still go crazy trying to figure it out.

Largely my life is a commitment to the quest – to figure it out. Whatever IT may be.

Think of a time when you thought you had it figured out, but something shocking happened, showing you that you were way off base.

I know it’s happened to you. Perhaps it happened about another person. You thought you understand the context of their life but realized there were important things you did not know. Things that completely altered how you viewed them.

There was a sportscaster on TV once whose ongoing Ted Knight impersonation drove me crazy. He had that stereotypical announcer voice. It wasn’t personal. I didn’t know him personally, but I disliked his professional demeanor. He was fake and phony. Just not very good.

Then one day I discovered something awful about his childhood. I don’t recall what it was, but it instantly changed my view of him as a person. When the story broke about his past, something he had no part in…I reached out to him via Twitter I remember. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember instantly feeling bad for him. I hadn’t judged him personally, but my judgment of his professional demeanor had created a viewpoint of him as a person that I wasn’t aware of until I learned something I didn’t know.

That’s how it goes when you think things are as they seem. And that’s another daily thing I think about. A question I’m constantly asking myself, “What if things aren’t as they seem?”

Then while I was pondering this topic (just this past Sunday) 60 Minutes did a story about a man who lost his sight. He was, and still is, an architect. A blind architect? Yep.

His name is Chris Downey and it’s a very interesting story. Watch it here at the CBS website.

As soon as the doctor told him his blindness was permanent a social worker advised him on considering career alternatives. No time to even process the news he’d just received. Talk about an insensitive dolt. The social worker, not Chris.

He didn’t consider it. Instead, he leveraged his blindness to become a better architect. He lost one sense and gained others. Well, to be fair, he leaned heavily into other senses that were lazier because like most of us, he relied on vision – literal eyesight. Watch the story. You’ll be inspired. I was.

In fact, I was ashamed. Here I am, fully sighted. And I fear more often than not blind as a bat. It made me wonder more about what I don’t know, what skills I’ve yet to develop – and worst yet, what knowledge, understanding and growth I may never achieve. It made me want to put my head on my desk and weep. πŸ˜‰

If you struggle to be persuaded that what you see isn’t always what you get, then think about your own life. This is almost guaranteed to work.

Think about the people who are your harshest critics. People who just don’t like you. Particularly people who don’t like you because they perceive you one way – a way that you don’t think is accurate at all. But it’s how they see you. It’s what they see when they look at you.

Do you ever think, “If only they knew?”

There’s evidence that how we view the world and our place in it, and how we see others, determines how we behave, what choices we make and how we choose to live. That makes it super important. If it has that big of an impact on our life – and it does – then doesn’t it make sense that we correct our vision as much as possible?

This subject is so pervasive that it’s a hard topic to handle in a single podcast episode. But don’t fret. I’m not about to create a series! πŸ˜€

Show business partnerships prove it. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were a remarkably successful comedy team back in the late 1940s and 1950s. But their relationship on screen didn’t accurately portray their personal relationship when they weren’t performing. There are all kinds of realities like that. We see it in bandmates of our favorite music. We see it in celebrity married couples we adore. We see it in sportscaster duos. It’s all around us. People front one thing, but behind the scenes, there’s something entirely different going on. It’s always disappointing to fans.

What do you see? What don’t you see?

Beliefs. Convictions. Perspective.

Bias. Opinion. Assumption.

I’m increasingly curious about the things – the drivers or whatever else you’d call them. The things that shape our vision. And the things that hinder it. And how it so wildly differ among us. How you can see things one way and I may be able to see them in a completely different way.

Place. Time. People. Experience.

These are the things that help define us. They shape us into who and what we are. I don’t mean that our fate is beyond our control. We have a say in the outcome. We determine our course. But to think that what we see is solely determined by whatever we decide is to avoid the fact that our decisions are shaped. By Place. Time. People. Experience.

Willis Alan Ramsey was a kid from Dallas who released one record in 1972. A terrific record. In another life, I did a show about it. One song was about Woody Guthrie, entitled, “Boy From Oklahoma.”

I too am just a boy from Oklahoma. Place. It’s foundational. The geography of your life matters. Culturally. Emotionally. Ethnically.

I’m wired to remain here where my roots are. I’ve lived in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas. I’ve had opportunities to live elsewhere, but I could never seriously consider it. It just didn’t feel right. I’m still just a boy from Oklahoma (even though I’m living in north Texas). There’s honestly not much difference. Texas is just Baja Oklahoma anyway based on Dan Jenkin’s novel of that same name. πŸ˜‰

I’m a baby boomer, born in 1957. A teenager from the 70’s. It’s a major part of my context and just like place time impacts just about everything.

I was born to a stay-at-home mom and an oil-field working dad. My paternal grandfather was a wildcatter oil guy. My maternal grandfather owned a tire store. And my grandmother – my mother’s mother – had the biggest impact on me of any grandparents. There were other people, but my context is largely determined by this element. People.

Ever wonder why you were born into the home you were? And not in that home where those kids down the street live?

My parents weren’t alcoholics. Or drug addicts. Or criminals. They were Christians. God and faith were important.

I’ve often thought about how drastically different my life would have been had the people in my life not been these people. My family.

I’ve crossed paths with many kids who have suffered significantly different people. Parents who were imprisoned. Or worse, parents still at home drugged out their minds most of the time. Why was I advantaged by the people who surrounded me growing up? I don’t have a good answer. Fact is, I don’t have an answer. I just wasn’t.

All those factors – time, place and people – determine that last one, experience. Well, kinda sorta.

And then all of them together contribute to make us who we are.

I believe in our hardwiring. I also believe in our environment. Enough little kids have surrounded me through my life to know that even babies display distinct personalities. The smallest kids show off distinct personalities. Their families and others have some impact on that. Hopefully, we foster all the best and help correct the bad in all the little people who surround us. Hopefully, somebody did that for us. But maybe not.

We get to choose. Our lives are ours to live as we want. Now we’re getting to that infamous lead I’m so fond of burying.

β€œThe pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand.” – Dr. Irene C. Kassorla (she’s a psychologist)

Irene is right. I’d push it a bit harder. The pen that writes your life story IS held in your own hand.

You can see it different, but you’d be wrong. Foolish. And stupid.

The Avett Brothers have a new single out, Roses And Sacrifice. The ending chorus says…

I’m not slowing down
I’m not waiting for anyone anymore
I know just what I want
And I know just what I need
I know just what I want

This year has begun for me with a strong, strong emphasis on accountability and responsibility. We own our outcomes. Period.

Partly, this focus is the result of having heard so much whining, complaining and excusing last year. It’s also the result of my own foolishness which I talked about last week. Go back and listen if you dare. I’m not going to revisit it here. Bad things happen and boy can we be quick to dive headlong into excuse-making? Yes, of course. We all can do that. Do you ever just get sick of your excuses? I hope you do. That’s a good sign. A sign of maturity and growth.

During another late night bout of insomnia, I was watching Sideways, a quirky movie. Jack and Miles are on the golf course. Miles, the main character has written a third book and is hoping to get it published. The other two books never saw the light of day and he’s pessimistic that his third book won’t be any different. It’s been days and he’s not heard anything from the agent trying to sell his book. As he laments the prospect that he’s lost another three years of his life in writing a failure, Jack questions him.

“You haven’t heard anything yet, so don’t you think your negativity is a little premature?”

Then he pushes Miles to self-publish. “Just get it out there…let the public decide.”

Jack behaves like an idiot in the movie, but it’s pretty wise advice he gives Miles. Lots of folks behave just like Miles. Thinking the worst thing is going to happen. Going into every new endeavor filled with defeat before they even begin. Miles was basing his feelings on the past. He’d written two other books. Neither of them saw the light of day so why should this one be any different? When he looked at his current book he only saw what he had seen before. Failure.

He was pursuing the New York publishing houses. Miles encouraged him to just get it out there. Miles even offered to help pay for the self-publishing. Jack wasn’t thinking there were any alternatives to getting permission from a big publishing house. His entire future as a hopeful author hinged on some big publisher saying, “Yes.”

He clearly hadn’t read Seth Godin’s work. We’re no longer living in an era where we need permission. Take this podcast. Nobody gave me a permit to start it. I just did.

I’m in a conversation circle the other day with some young business owners. Guys not quite half my age. We’re talking about this whole “going for” notion. And not waiting for somebody to approve, or tell us it’s okay. And I’m standing there thinking of how scared we are. How scared we were as teenagers to ask a girl out on a date. How scared we were as kids to look stupid. I’m listening to these guys talk and I’m sure I broke out in a smile because I was thinking, “Man, the opportunities of my youth were sure wasted on the moron that I once was.” I was wishing I knew then what I know now. But that’s not how it works.

Everything is hard until it’s easy. And sometimes it doesn’t feel like a thing never gets easy.

More and more I’m convinced so much of our life is determined by what we see – and what we don’t. Which is why I’ve been ruminating about this for the past week or so.

We’re all without excuse to know how true that is. Unless we’re very young. By the time we hit our 20th birthday, I’m certain we’ve experienced multiple reality smackdowns. A reality smackdown that showed us, “Nope, you weren’t looking at that quite right.” And because we weren’t looking at quite right, we didn’t make a very good decision. By the time you get to be my age, it has happened so frequently you’d think you’d be seeing everything with 20/20 vision, but our brains are working against us no matter our age (I guess).

You’re afraid of something right now. All because of what you see. Or what you don’t see. It’s creating fear and anxiety.

Let me leave you with a few things I’ve learned – even though I frequently forget them and have to consciously remind myself I’m being stupid and foolish.

Don’t let other people determine your outcome. Sure, they’ll often impact it, but do everything in your power to make their negative impact short-term. And do everything to make their positive impact long-term.

We don’t live in a vacuum. Full control is beyond our reach, but we can control our thoughts, choices, and behavior.

I’ve spent most of my life selling stuff. Yet I’m so not your stereotypical salesperson (if there is such a thing). Mostly, I want to serve and be helpful. I want to make the experience pleasant and positive. I’ve been that way since I began as a teenager. Nothing has changed, except maybe I’m even more intent now.

When you’re showing a prospective customer what you’re selling they can make or break your moment, your day, your month, your year. If you let them. That is, you can be a salesperson who sees life that way and it won’t go well for you. Because it’s a viewpoint where you have no control, or not nearly enough. It’s a victim mindset. If the prospect buys, great. But if they don’t, then you’ve just been victimized by somebody who doesn’t want what you’re selling.

Don’t do that. You don’t have to be selling anything to see the world that way. Everyone is capable of seeing their life controlled by the decisions of others. Playing the role of the victim.

Instead, I’m here to put my best foot forward, show people why they should engage me to help them. If they see it as I hope they will, then it’ll be among the best decisions they ever make. I’ll make sure of it. But if they don’t see the way I want them to, they’ll reject my offer. I can choose to think, “They’re rejecting me” or I can choose to think, “The time isn’t right” or “They just can’t see it right now.” There are lots of views I can hold, many of which are all way more likely than “They’re rejecting me.” Fact is, it’s not personal. I’d go so far as to say it’s almost NEVER personal, but talk to any salesperson 0r aspiring salesperson and they’ll confess it feels and looks personal.

Don’t over-estimate your ability to get it done by yourself. Here’s the paradox. You can’t care what others think, but you have to care a great deal what people think.

Discriminate. You have to if you’re going to learn, understand and grow. The people in your life are not created equally. Well, maybe they’re created equal, but they don’t end up being of equal value. You’ve got some ninnies in your life. Toxic people who suck the life out of you. Ditch them. Distance from them.

Here’s the deal. You can’t ditch toxic people if you’re one of them. So I should have prefaced this point with a more important point – be a good person.

That means you need to be honest, fair, authentic and genuine. It means you need to be trustworthy and loyal. If you betray people, lie to people and are always more interested in yourself than anybody else…well, you’ve got an awful lot of work to do. Until you make up your mind to become a better human, then there’s no hope for you. The sooner you realize your hopeless condition, the better. Because until then you’re not going to change. And LTW is all about growth, which necessarily means positive change!

Don’t isolate yourself. Life has lots of adages that people think sound wise, but they’re often taken out of context. For example, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”

You can read that to mean, do it. Do it all by yourself. Don’t solicit or get any help because only you can control this. Wrong!

It means to do what you’re able. It means if you see the need, fill it. Don’t wait for somebody else to do it.

It doesn’t mean nobody can help you because plenty of people can help you. Their help will greatly accelerate your growth.

Be more intentional and purposeful in who you put around you. Be the person others want to have around them, too.

The power of your life is largely determined by the people who get to know you. I know the advice is mostly focused on who we get to know, but I’ve intentionally reversed it because it doesn’t matter who you know nearly as much as who knows YOU.

Think about the caller ID on your phone. You get phone calls from numbers. You’ve got no idea who it is. What do you do? Do you answer it? Do you let it go to voicemail?

Now consider a phone call from somebody in your favorites list. A person you’re close to. A family member. A close friend. Their name pops up on the caller ID. You’re anxious to talk to them. You know them. They know you. You trust them. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

Put in the work to be on as many favorites lists as possible.

These people will make a major positive contribution to help you improve your vision. They’ll help you overcome the blind spots. They’ll help you see things you can’t otherwise see.

As kids we’d urge each other to do stupid stuff, right?

“Oh, come one. Do it.”

I confess I still do that with my grandkids. πŸ˜€ It’s fun. And sometimes funny.

But I remember urging buddies to take chances that I knew might benefit them, too. Fact is, I did much more of that than urging buddies to behave stupidly. They’d usually do that without any prompting. πŸ˜‰

Buddies fearful of asking out some girl and I’d be the guy pushing them, “Go ahead. There’s no reason not to. Even if she turns you down you won’t be any worse off than you are now.” I was always working to influence somebody to see something as low or no risk (if indeed it was). I was also the kid urging friends to avoid doing something stupid by warning them what could go wrong. I’ve always been a risk/reward kind of a guy. Some things never change.

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

I saw this on Facebook the other day and smiled. As an INFJ I know how true it is. For me, I’m able and willing to consider worst-case-scenario, but I don’t get stuck there. I’m just willing to ask and answer it. Most folks don’t answer it. For me, the worst-case scenario is usually not that bad. And often very unlikely.

But we’re all capable of seeing it differently. We can see worst-case scenarios as being highly possible, even highly probable. Even if it’s just not true.

I’ve talked about some of the fears of my grandkids. One was horrified to go onto a soccer field to play soccer for the first time. No amount of encouragement was going to change his mind. Whatever was going through his mind, it was a worst-case scenario and he saw it as highly likely. We knew better, but it didn’t matter what we knew. What he saw is the only thing that mattered.

Sometimes our behavior is equally inaccurate. We see boogie men under the bed and in the shadows. Most often, they’re fabrications of our imagination and nothing more. But they’re as powerful as any prison mankind has ever built.

Today is the day we break out because here’s the truth of what we see. We see a closed locked door, but it’s in our head. There is no door. There is no lock. There are no bars. No security. It’s a wide open field filled with possibilities. Our challenge is to change what we see. To clear our vision so it’s more accurate.

Do you need vision correction? Physical vision correction? I sometimes wear reading glasses. They’re not that powerful, 1.25+. But that small adjustment in magnification can make the difference in me seeing comfortably – being to read text easily – or me not being able to make out a single letter or word.

Apply that to your entire life. Correct your vision. It’ll fix just about everything. I can assure you it will improve everything. It won’t overcome everything. My reading glasses don’t change the words on the page or the screen. But it makes me able to understand them. Without understanding them, I can’t benefit from them.

How does a lack of understanding serve you? How is your life helped by not seeing things clearly or accurately?

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