A question of perspective

A friend sent me this message today.

It prompted a question:

Why is it so hard to step back and take in the broader view? Why do we so often lack perspective?

The classical Greek philosopher Parmenides  described perspective as the relation between “appearance” and reality, i.e., how our points of view are connected with reality.

Perhaps the saying “strong opinions, weakly held” may be a key ingredient to being able to oscillate between paying attention to the nuance and details without letting our focus or more so, our attachment to our views, cloud the out the bigger picture reality.

Is it that we are so caught up with our attachment to what’s happening now, or even more so, the FOMO of what we thought might be happening somewhere else, or whats going to happen next, that we forget to step back and take in the view?

This week, as many might have seen, there was some volatility in the crypto markets.

The price of many tokens within the space swung as much as 50% in value. While everyone threw around the word “crash” and a few even uttered the “it’s over” stance I couldn’t help but notice how little perspective people had. Outside of the maximalists, and the builders, who seem to apply area specific perspective quite well; most people couldn’t see past the instance.

Yet you don’t have to dig very deep to get a little perspective.

Just by zooming out one year (which really is not a long time) you can quickly see a totally different view on the space. If you invested $5000 in Ethereum in May 2020 (1 year ago) your investment would be worth around $60,000 today. Let’s put that statement in context – That’s more than 90 percent of the world makes in their jobs in a whole year. Perspective.

This lacking of perspective may also be at the heart of the kind of “unexpected negative externalities” that have arrived from our other technological advancements. Things like negative feedback loops and filter bubbles on social media platforms. Being able to zoom right out, to 30,000 feet, to take stock of time, place, pace, direction and potential impacts seems like a fundamental skill to cultivate as builders and creators of the future realities.

The more I consider this, the more important of a skill perspective is for all of us to have.

It strikes me that creating the ability to hold two or more different views of the present, simultaneously, when making decisions about how you feel, act or react to anything important in business or in life in general is as important as common skills we all learn like time management, financial acumen, empathy and leadership.

Parmenides described perspective as, how our points of view are connected with reality.

When you think about it this way you can start to see that perspective is more than the art of zooming in and out. It’s also required if you want to prevent yourself from confusing speed with timing, or to not mix up the difference between effort and focus. To understand that the potential of something is not the same as the the likely reality of it.

Just like zooming in and out, understanding the difference of all these things requires perspective.

“Often it isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the little pebble in your shoe.” ― Muhammad Ali

So the next question is, how do we get better at building this as a skill?

I think that there is no right way or one way to do this.

It’s a funny thing, in that it’s not totally intellectual. New perspective is as much discovered in thought, as it is in action. It could be as simple as getting up and walking around your garden for 10 minutes, or as complex as deep market research. For me, personally perspective often starts with inquiry.

I ask myself questions like – What am I missing? What am I assuming to be true or false, that could be otherwise?What would this look like if it worked the way I wanted It to? What would be the most ideal thing I would want this to do? In fact i have a whole list of them that i keep in my phone incase i need some perspective on the fly!

If inquiry doesn’t work – I usually take the day off, exercise, do something fun or get a good nights sleep!

“Distance lends enchantment to the view.” ― Mark Twain

What is it that you are you doing to give yourself some perspective?

The point is, it doesn’t really matter what your what is.

What matters is that it helps you question your assumptions. That it prompts you to change direction, to change the topic in your head, to broaden your understanding.

Then give yourself the space and grace to take another look and relish in the new perspective it brings.