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The Power of Perspective


Perspective is such a deceptively simple word, yet there is enormous power in the application of it. Put the other way… “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” This is the exact opposite of having multiple perspectives. One becomes stuck in only one way of seeing the world. So, nearly everyone else becomes wrong and the inability to agree on things and get stuff done becomes normal. And I’m not even talking politics!

Fortunately, the more tools (perspectives) you have, the greater the odds that you will accomplish what you want to do, whatever that is. As a little thought experiment, let’s take the concept of time. We all get that an hour is an hour long and a day is twenty four of those hours, though as I get older, years seem to get shorter. Now, what is an hour to a mayfly (where the adult lives from ½ hour, up to two weeks), or to a redwood tree (which can live up to 2,200 years)? I suspect that redwood couldn’t even blink in an hour if it had eyes. And what does the billion-year-old igneous rock think of the concept of an hour, or even time itself?

Coming back to a more practical application of the benefits of looking at things in different timeframes; imagine you are trying to fix a recalcitrant hot water system. You look at things and all the right parts are in place and seem to be working, but the system still isn’t working correctly. Hmmm, no clue what’s wrong! Now look at the system and imagine what will happen to the various components over time. Oh, now you see that the pump will tend to freeze up with hard or gritty water. You notice de-zincification at brass valves, you find scale build-up at the mixing valve that is above the water heater and “sees” hot water all the time, and finally you notice rust building up at dissimilar metal connections, like between brass pipe and steel at the tank or dielectric unions filling with rust and restricting flow. Those are a few clues you can actually work with!

See how many more possible problems come to light with the application of just one different perspective? Now you can add the perspectives of where that hot water system lives and what conditions it experiences, both inside and outside. Imagine how the equipment might function in varying weathers, hot, cold, dry, windy and wet. Think about water quality and how very hard, or acidic or corrosive or high/low pressure water could affect things.

You could also look at the system with different eyes; ones that see heat! These days there are inexpensive thermal cameras like the Flir One that simply plug into your cell phone and let you see even minor temperature differences. Now you can see if the pump is overheating, or if the pipes that should be hot actually are. You can “look” under sinks and find cross connections in the plumbing.

The power of having multiple perspectives is probably the finest troubleshooting tool available. It can allow you to see things not only in different time frames, water qualities, and thermally, but also through the eyes and ears of those living with troublesome equipment. Know that they will respond differently than you might depending on their knowledge and comfort level with the equipment. But they live with the system and can describe just how it misbehaves. That’s useful info for the troubleshooter!

Here’s another one… expectations. Having expectations is pretty normal, but when things don’t happen as expected, we usually aren’t too happy about it. Expectation ties in closely with judgement, often negative. Is it possible to go through life with fewer expectations? Perhaps a better question, is it possible to suspend our expectations for a while and simply see how things play out without an emotional response? I have had to imagine I was from a different planet (particularly useful around some relatives) and just try to take in what was happening around me, rather than being frustrated or annoyed with it. It’s surprising how much easier relatives (and others) are to deal with if you bring little in the way of expectations. Rather, bring open ears, and just listen. A readily available sense of humor doesn’t hurt either.

Being able to tap into multiple perspectives probably comes from having an active imagination. Kids usually have good imaginations, and we were all kids once. Can you call up that no-holds-barred imagination when you need it? Think of it as a gift from your past. Maybe as you grew up, you were told it was silly, or a waste of time, or just childish, but it’s none of those. It’s a doorway to be opened when you would benefit from using the power of multiple perspectives.

Perspectives are formed from our experience. A seventy year old will have vastly different points of view than a child, yet if the grown-up is lucky, he or she will remember the youthful perspectives and not have to think that a child is silly or misbehaving when that child acts goofy. The kid who can turn into a tree or superhero in nanoseconds is someone to appreciate, not correct.

Having perspective is different than tolerance. For example, it’s easy to be tolerant of someone who has suffered, but understanding their perspective requires sitting down with them and learning (and feeling) just what they’ve been through. Feeling others’ pain isn’t a fun experience, but it will make you a more compassionate and understanding person. Perspective employs our imagination to “see” the world and its parts in a more comprehensive way. It helps us to find a balance between right and wrong; pretty and ugly; confidence and fear. All that leads to a richer life!


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