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I’m like Picasso. No, I’m not great at art, but I’m not great at math, either. Neither was he evidently.
During his early school years when the teacher asked him to write the number 4 on the board, he’d see it as a nose, then proceed to draw the rest of the face. The other kids saw the number four. He saw a nose. Such is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. Or the difference between an artist and a mathematician.
Perspective impacts just about everything.
Look no further than this current polarizing Presidential election to prove how true it is. Nevermind that social media platforms *may* continue to feed you information that’s congruent with the viewpoint they know you have based on your Internet behavior. Rarely have I seen (in fact, I don’t think I’ve seen it happen once) a person change “sides.” I’m a Capitalist, which means I’m apolitical. But on one side of me is a person with Biden/Harris signs and on the other side is a family flying a Trump flag. Something tells me they each have a viewpoint that’s not likely going to change. They see the world in certain ways and I suppose they’ll vote based on the signs in their yard.
In my coaching practice, which is slowly morphing to incorporate a group component – I call it THE PEER ADVANTAGE, I often have conversations with people about being part of a professional peer group. That’s a group where all the participants share a major common denominator – for instance, I’m building a group of SMB owners. Dip your toes into the “mastermind” arena and you’ll quickly hear things like, “Find somebody who has already achieved what you hope to achieve.” Or, “Join yourself to people who are ahead of where you are.” Or, “Be part of a group where people are achieving higher success than you are.”
Do you notice the problem?
You’re on the bottom of the totem pole in every case. Which begs the question, “Why would somebody more successful than you want to be part of a group that has YOU as a member?” (Thank you, Groucho Marx!)
But there’s something else to think about.
The more familiar we are with something the more complacent we tend to become. Additionally, the more accomplished we are at something, the greater the threat to not appreciate any variations. It’s the whole “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” syndrome.
One of the value propositions of a professional peer group is the ability to help us see different perspectives. What we see as a four may be seen by somebody else as a nose. Both people are helped by the other viewpoints. You only get that with diversity, not sameness.
Curiosity drives understanding. And curiosity is fueled by wonder, not some certainty that we already know.
That’s why professional peer groups with people who share something important – like being an SMB owner – are highly valuable when there are other big differences like industry, revenue volume, age, experience, and personality.
We so rarely change our point-of-view because we don’t often enough seek understanding. We don’t want to understand a viewpoint different from ours because our familiarity with our own viewpoint has convinced us we’re right and all others are wrong. Or less right. What we know to be right may not be ideal. Or even right at all.
Pick any industry. Go find websites or periodicals (trade magazines) of that industry and you’ll quickly see how everybody in that industry is reading the same things, thinking the same things, and largely doing the same things in the same ways. Some are more successful than others and those less successful are envious of the industry leaders. In some instances, the industry leaders aren’t achieving superior success because they’re doing anything terribly unique, but they found some serendipity. Or they’re in a hot market. Or they’ve got fewer competitors. I’ve seen it over and over again – superior success is often achieved not because of what they’re doing, but sometimes it’s happening in spite of themselves.
Last week I talked about anticipating the ideal outcome. It’s a hot button topic for me because success can be the worst kind of complacency. It causes us to stop thinking about what could be. It fosters complacency and self-assuredness that we’re all that and then some. It cements us in a way of looking at things and a way of thinking about things. If we see a number four we’re unable to see a nose!
Hypotheticals have value. Logically, I think many of us know that. Why then are we so reluctant to ask the hypothetical questions? Why are we even more reluctant to answer them?
What if you were the very best in your field? I don’t mean, “What if you were better?” I mean, quite literally, what if nobody was better at it than you? What would that look like? What would you have to look like? How would that version of you be different than the current you?
I spend more time watching home construction YouTube videos than I care to admit. Sometimes during my late-night bouts of insomnia, I’ll start watching to learn about the new technology being incorporated by the best home builders in the world. One thing I enjoy about these people is their willingness to chase hypotheticals. What if we could reduce the energy consumption of a house by 50%? What about a 75% reduction?
Merely asking the hypothetical sets in motion thinking that seeks what that might have to look like. Not asking those questions fosters no such thinking. That’s why so many home builders around the world are simply copying what everybody else in their industry is doing. How boring!
This past weekend I went to watch one of my grandsons play football. The team was playing poorly and being soundly beaten by the opponent. The opposing team was bigger and faster. Before we got too far into the game my grandson’s team was down by four touchdowns and it was apparent the scoreboard might not have enough digits to display the final score. Enter misbehaving coaches, the scourge of youth sports. The head coach behaved so poorly the officials finally threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct on the sideline. That prompted further tirades from the same coach, who then got flagged again for the same thing. That’s when the officials warned him that one more such call and he’d be dismissed from the game. Enter his assistant coach to pick up the mantle of poor behavior. He barked insults at the officials and at one point when an elderly man there to support his own grandson said, “Come on, coach, you’re hurting the team” he turned and unleashed his wrath on the granddad.
Two grown men whose team was being soundly beaten, choosing to see the officials as the culprit of their team’s poor play. If I thought I had sufficient persuasive power to change their mind, I’d have gladly attempted it. But I knew to leave well enough alone.
I share that story to illustrate how embarrassing a single point-of-view can look. As I watched my grandson’s team lose all enthusiasm for a sport most of them love, and as I continued to watch these men display what immaturity and foolishness look and sound like, I wondered, “What if the coaches decided to remove all the pressure from young boys trying to figure out how to handle this steam roller they’d run into?” And, “What if the coaches didn’t teach these boys that the officials are the reason for their poor play?”
Instead, as you might imagine, the players quickly began to lean on the excuse that the officials were doing a poor job. With few exceptions, it was obvious the sideline was filled with complainers who felt they were victimized by the game officials. That wasn’t true, of course. The other team was substantially better. And my grandson’s team was being coached by men who couldn’t see the game any other way than how they were seeing it. As a result, nobody was accepting responsibility for the outcome that they clearly deserved. Nobody had fun. Nobody learned anything, except how to insult officials.
That’s the power of a point-of-view unwilling to see it any differently. Unable to adjust in order to achieve a more suitable outcome.
I’d like you to think of those coaches every time you find yourself unwilling to question how you’re looking at something. Especially whenever you catch yourself unwilling to listen to somebody else who may not see the number 4, but instead they see a nose. You may be robbing yourself of something very special that can help you immeasurably.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!