As you and I go through our daily lives, it’s hard to put ourselves in the place of others, and it’s hard sometimes to relate to the problems others may be having. Recently a friend told me a story about having dinner with some friends, one of whom is a famous billionaire business leader. Their discussion led to how they stay healthy when they are on the road, because they all travel, eat out a lot when traveling, and find it challenging to find time for exercise.
A Billionaire Perspective
Suddenly the billionaire chimed in and said he sends his personal chef to the locations he is traveling to a day before he arrives, which gives the chef time to shop and prep for his meals. He talked about how it eliminated his bad eating on the road.
But then he said something awkward: “Do you know the problem with having a personal chef? You only eat what they know how to cook.” They all had a laugh about it. But there is truth to it for all of us.
We only eat what we know how to cook.
Stuck in a Kiosk
At a meeting last week a bright entrepreneur was sharing some of his ideas about growing his business. Because his dad had worked in kiosks in shopping malls, that’s where this man launched his business. As we were discussing his ideas, it became clear that he had blind spots. Most of his ideas for growth had to do with selling out of kiosks. Bigger kiosks. More kiosks in more places. New kiosk designs. No matter what he brought up, he related it back to kiosks. Though my friends and I kept throwing fresh ideas, he kept coming back to how to do them in kiosks. Kiosks were his blind spot. He could not see beyond them.
We happily live in our little worlds in the arena of life. We can see what others can’t see, but we don’t know what we can’t see ourselves. We all have filters that color our approach to life, and those filters create blind spots.
I’m a Magazine Guy
I’m very guilty of this. The filters that color my blind spots tend to be my areas of comfort. For instance, I think in terms of magazines, of events, of videos, of books, and in art and radio because of decades of experience in those areas. If you were to throw a challenge to me, chances are I’d try to solve that problem by proposing a magazine, an event, a video, a book, or some kind of an art solution.
How many generations of cops or firefighters carry on in the tradition of their parents and grandparents? It may be about carrying on a passion, but it may also be their blind spot. It’s what they know — it’s their comfort zone.
My Bias Solves All Problems. Not.
Professionals have blind spots too. My chiropractor thinks all things can be solved with chiropractic. My dentist points out how dental health impacts the whole body. Some lawyers want to solve everything with litigation. Teachers often think all problems can be solved with education. Athletes solve problems with exercise. We default to what we know.
What are your blind spots?
I am not suggesting blind spots are bad in themselves. I’m really good at putting things into my blind spots and helping people in my areas of expertise.
Trapped in Core Beliefs
Most of us will spend our lives trapped in our own core beliefs, yet if we can find ways to go outside those beliefs, we are no longer trapped and we can find more success in areas we never knew existed.
What Einstein Says
To get unstuck, you have to get out from under your core beliefs. All too often our solutions are natural things we apply to problems time and again. Yet it becomes like Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same things and expecting different results.
There Is Wisdom in Multiple Counselors
Though this seems simple, it took me decades to figure out. We all need a personal board of advisors who will tell us the truth from their perspective. The more experience the board has in differing areas, the more you’ll get new perspectives. I have people I call to help critique my paintings, and I have people I call to bounce ideas off of who I know will tell me when my idea is stupid.
I’m All Ears
My life changed when I surrounded myself with the perspectives of others and put on my listening hat. An artist I interviewed recently told me that she had been approaching painting the same way for decades and assumed it was the way things had to be done, yet after seeing several approaches at my convention, she changed to a new way and had breakthroughs in her work. It’s the idea of fresh perspectives.
Hey, Look at Me
We all like to think that we hung the moon and we’ve got all the answers. I used to think that, but thankfully I matured to understand that the more I know, the more I don’t know. To get beyond ourselves, our mental limits, and our blind spots, the best medicine is a fresh perspective. It’s why we need new friends, new advisors, and new approaches to problems. It’s why I attend conventions, and conventions outside my expertise — because I want different perspectives.
What Don’t You See?
My goal is not just to see what you and I both see. I want to see what you see that I don’t see.
I also want to see what both of us don’t see. I want to know my blind spots. The only thing you and I can’t see is the future — yet there are people who seem able to, and I try to spend more time with them.
What do I not see that I should see?
What do others see that I don’t see?
What have others been trying to tell me that I’ve failed to listen to?
Where do I continually make the same mistakes over and over because I’m making the same decisions?
Who else has the same kind of problems in a different field of interest?
In what ways am I bored and wish I could see or try something new?
Talk to Strangers
One of my favorite things is to strike up a conversation with someone who does something different from me. Though we find common ground, I also ask myself: What if I applied their blind spots to my problem or my situation? Their blind spots might be just what I needed to hear, which is why we all need variety in those we surround ourselves with.
We all have great abilities in our area of bias. It can be a real benefit and tool to others, and we can’t be good at everything. But we can also grow by moving into new fields for new insights.
We all tend to come up with answers to our questions way too fast. We tend to lean into our own bias, but if we apply thought, ask lots of questions, and don’t just grab whatever we think of first, we will create more choices, and that will help us break out of our blind spots.
PS: What happens when you combine your bias with practice? We have been led to believe that practice makes perfect, but that’s a big fat stinking lie. Practice makes permanence. We’ve also been led to believe that there is good in trial and error. Wrong. If you want to DO better, you have got to GET better. Smart people learn from the mistakes of others. If, for instance, you wanted to learn painting, you could practice bad brushstrokes for 50 years, or you could keep trying different things, but if you really wanted to get better, you would find the people who best do what you want to learn and go spend time watching them. Suddenly the light will go on and the barrier to your problem will be gone. You may not be able to define the problem, but you might be able to know that someone out there is doing what you want to do, and doing it better. Go find them, and your life will change.