Nov 292014

Dr. Earl R. Smith II

You think you see. But do you really? Look again.


That was how one of my early mentors once challenged me. I was dealing with what I thought was the problem before me. It was frustrating because I couldn’t seem to make any progress. So I wandered into his backyard and plopped down on one of his beach chairs. One look at me and he headed inside to return with a couple of cold beers. “What’s biting your insteps, grasshopper,” he asked.

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We had known each other for many years and I knew an invitation to vent when I heard it. So out it came. “These people just don’t get it. It shouldn’t be this difficult. How much of the burden do I have to carry just to get the ball across the goal line?” I went on like that for a good half hour. Then I looked over at a grin. My friend shook his head and handed me a cigar.

“You know what your trouble is? You are living in one world while trying to make progress in another.”

“Yeah, well that’s helpful,” I smirked. “What world am I living in and which one am I trying to get along in. And what is the difference.?”

“Its not difference my young friend but indifference that is your problem.”

Now like most people, I like to think of myself as a sentient human being who is, at least minimally, aware of what is going on around him. Here my friend was suggesting that my grasp of reality was tenuous at best.

“You are living in a world made possible by your indifference to the one you were born into. Too much thinking and not enough listening. Too much imagining and not enough seeing.”

We talked for a couple of hours. I finally began to see what my friend was getting at. I had constructed a version of ‘reality’ out of my preferences and selected observations. The world I was living in was a simulation of the one I was born into – and not a very good one at that. The people in my simulated world were charactitures of the ones I encountered in the world into which I had been born. Under the pressure of a hectic life, I had taken a shortcut and assumed that people and situations were as I imagined them.

“You see, the greater the distance between the two worlds, the greater the friction you experience. The world is an easier place than you are allowing it to be.”

That thought stayed with me. I called on it over and over again as I built my companies and worked with coaching clients. Every time I found myself getting frustrated, I would stop and look for the artificial world I had created, toss it away and lead myself back to present reality.

Green_Vest__1ARecently I had a chance to pass on the wisdom yet again. One of my coaching clients was frustrated because his vision for a new business wasn’t working out. Our engagement was focused on his feeling that things were slipping away. After a twenty year success run, he had encountered a rough patch. As a result, he was becoming more anxious and reactive. Hard to get along with and increasingly indecisive as decisions turned into more problems.

I asked him to describe the challenges he was facing. As he talked, I realized that the world he was describing was not the one I recognized he was in. In other words, he wasn’t trying to meet the challenges of the world he was in my living in that world. He was trying to meet them out of the world he had created. It wasn’t working because he has missed the essence of the native world when he constructed the simulation. With a foot in both canoes, they were moving farther and farther apart. Now, they had moves so far apart that jumping wholly into one was difficult.

Once he accepted the idea of the difference between the two worlds, things went much easier. The breakthrough occurred when he finally came to recognize the insidious implications of mistaking the simulation he had constructed for a person central to his interests. the journey continues but the road has gotten much smoother.

You think you see. But do you really? Look again.


© Dr Earl R Smith II

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