OTE: Made for listening :) . The transcript is included below if reading is better for you.
A hurricane took away the first thing I bought with my own money.
Not quite a teenager yet, a summer of washing dishes resulted in $345. Every penny went to a new camera and film. Unfortunately, that camera, and all of those photos, were lost in 1989 in Hurricane Hugo - but my love for light and art wasn’t.
With photography, you can stop the world from spinning. With the right light and perspective, you can capture something compelling. Photography is about perspective. You have to stop and see what is there. If you aren’t present, you’ll miss it.
Technically it is light that makes photos and how much you let hit the film is what matters. This is purely the mechanical opening and closing of a small part of the lens - the aperture.
Ego plays a similar role. When you approach things with a strong ego, it’s like looking through a paper towel tube held up to your eye. This gives you a very limited point of view.
When you check your ego, you put down that tube and let in the light. It doesn’t mean you have to change your mind, but at least you are not confined to a narrow perspective.
There are 7.9 billion perspectives on this mostly blue ball - this should make us excited, not defensive. It is impossible for us to all have the same perspective and that is wonderful. Yet we often enter conversations with a need to either be right or not wrong.
The person across from you has been through a life and collected so much. Your time with them is an opportunity to learn. How do you get comfortable with the idea that you’ve run into someone who can teach you something? Who may change your mind? Who may shift your perspective?
I recently re-read To Kill A Mocking Bird and I love this line from Atticus Finch:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view...until you climb into their skin and walk around in it.”
When we listen, everyone wins
Listening is a win/win for everyone. The listener gets to take in perspective, knowledge, and maybe even wisdom. The speaker gets to be heard, feel special, and experience someone caring about them. Loving them. When we take the time to listen, we learn.
What is essential about listening, and maybe this is where it is lost, is it doesn’t mean agreeing. No rule says, “You can try and teach me, but I must teach you too.”
It’s not a competition
Society has put us in a position where we think we have to compete. We are constantly scrolling through competition. If you are better, I’m worse. If you are winning, I’m losing.
We are all on very different paths. We all have different hopes, dreams, talents, advantages, and struggles. What’s easy for you is hard for me. What’s easy for me is hard for you. Our equations are different, yet we find it incredibly easy to compare ourselves. That is all self-induced, and it needs to stop.
Stopping is about stopping
- Stop Moving: Stop moving in your mind and stop moving physically. Square up and focus. When someone is talking, listen. If you care, take notes and ask questions. Treat them like a teacher and seek to understand. Say “Tell me more” until there is no more.
- Stop Comparing: You CAN win without someone losing. If you genuinely care about yourself, stop letting your ego get in the way of your progress. Your competition is in the mirror, not out the window.
- Stop Competing: We win when we get better - whatever better means to you. The truth is, you may find more joy and peace in helping others win.
- Stop Being Unkind: The words we use matter. Words like “please” and “thank you.” Words like “tell me more.” Also, words like “you are right.” Or especially words like “I was wrong.” When you agree with someone, don’t hesitate to say, “you are right.” Just ensure it is followed by a period not a “but.”
Life is just perspective. And while it may seem that we can control very little, we can always control our perspective.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this beautiful exchange between Scout and Atticus - again from To Kill a Mockingbird -
“Atticus, he was real nice...”
“Most people are Scout, when you finally see them.”
Take care out there.