Vantage Points

“Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain.  An occasional glance toward the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.  Climb slowly, steadily, enjoying each passing moment; and the view from the summit will serve as a fitting climax for the journey.”          ~Harold V. Melchert

It’s much easier for me to become focused on a result rather on a process.  Whether it’s reading a book, working on a project, learning to play the bass, or learning to use new software, my mind easily slips into thinking primarily about the completion of these things rather than enjoying the process of coming to the completion.  While it’s good to be focused on a goal or outcome, I think it’s also important to enjoy the process of getting there.

This year I started learning how to play the electric bass guitar.  I’ve been at it about 8 months now and I’m not very good.  However, I am MUCH better than I was at the beginning of the year!   It’s encouraging when I stop and think about what I know today that I didn’t know a few months or weeks ago.  Stopping to enjoy my progress makes me want to keep working to get better.

If I were only focused on the end goal of becoming a good bass player, without considering the significant progress I’ve made, I’d be rather frustrated right now.  And frankly, I’d likely give up.

If there’s something in your life you’re working to achieve or become, be sure you’re taking time and enjoy the vantage point from the progress you’ve make thus far.  It will encourage you to press ahead.

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What a Bargain

My wife just got back from a business trip and showed me a book on nutrition that she had picked up while she was gone.  As I thumbed through the pages, noting the many sections I want to go read, I was reminded what a bargain books are.

A book represents access to the author’s knowledge, experience, ideas, and creativity that likely took them significant time and money to acquire.  Yet we can have access to their insights for just a few dollars and a few hours of our time.  Think about that; what took someone a lifetime to learn, we can benefit from for a fraction of the cost.  That’s a bargain!

Regardless of whether the format is audio, electronic or old-school paper pages, there isn’t a topic I can think of that books won’t help us do better.

What are you currently working to improve in your personal or professional life?  I’ll bet there’s a good book on the topic to help you go further in that area.  As such, we should see books not as purchases, but rather as investments we make in ourselves; investments that have the potential to offer positive disproportional returns.

What We Don’t Know

We think we know more than we actually do.  Consider the following scenarios:

Scenario What we think
Someone cuts us off in traffic. They are mean-spirited jerks and did that to us on purpose.
Someone is short or rude with us. They are also a jerk, just like the person who cut us off in traffic!  What a jerk.  What a rude jerk!
We reach out to someone via email, text, or phone call and they don’t respond. They must be mad at us.

The “What we think” column sounds rather petty as I write this, but I’ll admit that I’ve often made quick judgments in similar scenarios.   What I’ve discovered is that my quick judgments, like the ones above, are seldom, if ever, accurate.

What if, for example:

  • The person who cut us off in traffic didn’t see us when they were getting over and would have been mortified to know they had done that.
  • The person who was short with me just got a bad medical diagnoses about themselves or a loved one.
  • The person who didn’t respond to an email or text has been preoccupied with an urgent family emergency or has just been busy and hasn’t had the chance to respond, even though they have been thinking about us.

The next time we’re presented with a similar scenario, let’s consider something besides or initial negative judgement; perhaps a response with a little more grace and understanding.  Just like the type of response we’d like to receive.

You Tell Me

I recently heard some colleagues taking about a potential new hire they had just interviewed.  During the conversation, one of the team members turned to their supervisor and asked, “So, are you going to hire this person?”  To which the supervisor replied, “You tell me.”

From a leadership standpoint, I loved this supervisor’s response.  In those 3 short words they conveyed to their team that:

  • This was a decision the team would make, not just the leader.
  • They valued the team’s input.
  • They trusted the team to know best whether someone would be a good fit.

As leaders, it’s important to seek input from those we lead when their insights can aid in the decision making process.  When we do, we not only help our organization make better decisions, we also increase the likelihood that those involved in the decision making process will buy in to the decision as well.

Different Perspectives

It’s easy to put a plan together when you’re the only person creating the plan.  As soon as you get another person involved in the planning, it gets even more difficult, because the other person has their own thoughts and beliefs about how the plan should look.  And you can be assured that their plan is not 100% like yours.

The larger the group, the more challenging it becomes to reach agreement because there are so many different ideas, beliefs, and perspectives that are shaping each person’s idea of what an ideal plan or strategy should look like.  This gives me an appreciation for the work required of a large group to come to an agreement.  And by “large group”, I’m referring to any group with greater than 1 person.

Being aware of differing ideas, beliefs, and perspectives in a team environment reminds me that just because someone has a different idea or plans than I do, doesn’t mean that they’re against my plan or ideas, or that they “just don’t get it”.  Rather, it reminds me that they likely have a perspective that I don’t or a belief that I don’t hold.  Whatever the case, they are bringing a proposal that aligns with how they see the problem, and also how they believe it should be solved.  And that’s good, because without their input, I would not have considered their perspective.

The next time you’re in a group of people that are trying to create a plan or make a decision, resist the urge to become frustrated when people don’t come to the same conclusions that you do.  Instead, see it as an opportunity to understand how another group or person might view the situation.  Who knows, you might even have your own perspective changed.

Becoming More Mature

“Maturity does not always come with age.  Sometimes age comes alone.”

~ John C. Maxwell

We often think of maturity as the natural byproduct of getting older; as something that just happens on a parallel track with our age.  However, there is a big difference:  maturity comes from being intentional, while age is automatic.

Becoming more mature is something we can do at any age.  For example, we can:

  • Be aware of how our actions impact others, as well as how they impact us.
  • Evaluate our different life experiences (learning what has worked for us and what hasn’t) and apply what we’ve learned.
  • Fill our minds with positive content that will help us become the type of person we want to be.
  • Extend gratitude, compassion, and grace to those around us.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list on how to become more mature, it’s a good starting point.

Maturity doesn’t just happen.  We’re fortunate that becoming more mature is a choice we can all make for ourselves.

Let’s choose wisely.

Cursed With Knowledge

We all possess knowledge that we’ve had for so long it seems like second nature.  As a result, it’s easy to assume that what is common knowledge to us is the same of everyone else.  There’s a name for this mindset.  It’s called being cursed with knowledge.

While it’s good to possess extensive knowledge of a topic, the challenge comes when we attempt to explain or teach that topic to someone who doesn’t have the same level of knowledge.  What is elementary information to us is newfound, and potentially confusing, information to someone just hearing it for the first time.

If we’re cursed with knowledge, we can easily find ourselves brushing over basic foundational information because we assume everyone “just knows this stuff”.  This causes frustration for the learner who can’t grasp the basic concepts (because they’re not hearing the basic concepts!).  It’s also frustrating for the instructor who wonders why they just aren’t getting it.

Unfortunately, I’ve been on both sides of this scenario.  As a learner I find it helps to ask a lot of questions and not worry about looking ignorant.  (If we’re learning something new then, by definition, we are ignorant; but we won’t stay there.)  As an instructor, I’m working to be more aware of the curse of knowledge when explaining concepts to others so that I’m not needlessly frustrations someone’s efforts to learn.

It all comes down to knowing your audience.  Seek to communicate with people at a level they can understand.  Your audience will thank you.