Looking Through the Glass

Sept. 12, 2011

Sitting at a traffic light waiting for green, a small pickup truck makes a left in front of me, and as the vehicle passes by my bumper, I see an older gentleman at the wheel. Our eyes meet briefly and we exchange nods. The truck is nothing special, just your basic mode of transportation, but it’s in great shape. It’s the kind of basic/perfect small pick-up that makes me think “old guy’s truck.” I watch in the mirror as he drives off. When my light turns green and I drive up the entrance ramp to the Interstate, I start thinking about this gentleman and his life.

Under the microscope

I guess I was questioning if that would be me someday - working my whole life and ending up driving around in something so simple. Soon my internal “perception police” took over and I remembered meeting a gentleman several years back who shared some of his life stories with me. Memories of those conversations about everyday life helped me arrange and understand my thoughts.

For a moment I had put that older gentleman in the pickup under a microscope, one that we are all under at any given time. You may not be aware of its presence, but we all use it too. We have all looked through that microscope and made presumptions about someone because of what believed we saw. Yes, I said “believed.”

I was at a race years ago and a friend introduced me to one of his friends. “Bob” was an older gentlemen wearing a ball cap, nylon jacket and blue jeans and sporting a large white beard. He was definitely interesting to talk to, very funny, and frequently leaning towards the trash can to sputt chaw juice. Over two days we talked a lot and laughed even more.

After his departure Sunday evening, I commented to my friend that I really enjoyed the time with Bob and thought he was a really neat guy. My friend said “Yeah one of the coolest things about him is that you would never guess his status.” When I questioned his remark, he informed me of Bob’s great wealth and said “You would never know it would you?”

Getting past negative perceptions

I was amazed and thought even more of Bob because he treated me just as I had treated him. Never once did he even hint about his wealth or make remarks to put himself above anyone else. The next time we met, Bob felt comfortable enough to speak about this. He told me stories of how others looked down on him because of his appearance, because of who they perceived him to be. He would chuckle at those situations and remark of their blindness.

That microscope I mentioned earlier is very real and very powerful, and it can become consuming if not controlled by rational thought. Its power has changed many lives and the health of many businesses, and not always for the better. How many of us out there look through that microscope each day and judge others because of what we believe we see? Have business decisions ever been made because of a desire to be like or not like other people without knowing their whole story? Have short cuts been taken just to be perceived as one of the group? Has a potential customer been passed by due to perception?

The perception microscope is in fact a very deceitful looking glass because it knows no truths, only beliefs. In our business, it is best to learn how to not use that looking glass to view other individuals or other businesses, especially the customers and companies we serve. In the end it will only cloud our vision and alter our thought patterns.

I recommend using only two types of glasses: those that block the sun and the one that holds our daily intake of H2O. 

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