gaining perspective

A few years ago, I facilitated a workshop with managers struggling to stay positive during a very difficult time. We discussed the choice we all have: either we can focus on a problem and let it overwhelm us, or we can keep things in perspective and re-frame what’s wrong within the much larger frame of what’s going right.

To illustrate the point, I drew a large, heavy blue dot on a clean flip chart page. I then talked about how we can narrowly focus on just the dot by zooming in on the problem and ignoring the rest of the page. I demonstrated this by forming a circle with my index finger and thumb, encircling my eye with it, and thrust my finger and thumb encircled eye right up to the dot on the flipchart page. With closing my other eye, the blue dot was all I could see.

I didn’t realize the marker was leaking, and blue ink was all over my index finger. When I pulled back from the flipchart and looked back at the audience, instead of seeing participants enraptured with my graphic demonstration, I got hearty laughter. There was a very large blob of blue ink around my eye. A participant in the front row offered me a moist cloth. I began wiping around my eye as I continued to make my point about how our focus becomes our reality.

More laughter. I’d smeared much of the ink around my eye and the side of my face. This time I was given a mirror and more wipes and paper napkins. The group continued laughing at my attempts to clean off the ink. I reduced the ink, but never did get it all off my face until I got home. Maybe I could have joined the Blue Man Group.

This messy experience turned out to be an accidental and excellent illustration of an even bigger point. When we get overly focused on a problem, we can’t see much else. We often smear ourselves and make an even bigger mess. We can easily go from having a problem to making ourselves blue.

We’re going through blue times right now. It’s easy to lose perspective and develop a serious case of the blues. If we pull back to look at the bigger picture, there’s much reason for hope in 2021. The incredible speed of vaccine development is one reason for celebration of what’s right with our world. Helen Branswell, one of the top infectious disease journalists in the world, calls the arrival of the vaccines “extraordinary.” “It’s astonishing that 11 months after the posting online of the [genetic] sequence of the new virus, that vaccines were designed and tested all the way through Phase 3, and were produced and are starting to be used.”

Tomorrow we publish my December blogs in the January issue of The Leader Letter. We lead with my seventh annual New Year reality check on how our world continues to get better and better — even with the enormous COVID Cloud blocking our view. 78 trends in a new book show the relentless march of humanity’s continuous — but not without setbacks — improvement.

A new year is always a great time to look back at lessons we might apply to move ahead. This issue applies 2020 hindsight to the blog posts that stand out as the most critical changes, challenges, and choices of our chaotic year. How we respond to turbulent change shows. – yet again – our success and happiness results not so much from what happens to us, but what we do about it.

Customer service has always been important. For many organizations, it will be critical in the rebuilding that lies ahead. We’ll help you determine if you’re squandering money on acquiring rather than retaining customers. A high-performance service culture is a vital element. Visioning a high-performance culture without effective action is hallucination. Talk without strong follow-through perpetuates the delusion.

In her bestselling 19th century novel, Middlemarch, Mary Ann Evans (writing under the pen name of George Eliot) warns, “Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the blot?”