By John Blumberg, Andersen Alumnus and author of Return On Integrity (www.BlumbergROI.com)
Recently, my wife and I were looking out of different kitchen windows to our backyard. She was repeatedly trying to point-out a baby bunny in the grass which I was failing to see. She finally said, “Come over here … you can’t see it from where you’re standing because I think the tree is in your way!” I walked a few steps over to the other window and immediately could see the baby bunny.I didn’t think much about it at the time. At least, until a few days later when I was in a discussion where we weren’t trying to see bunnies, but rather different points of view. It got me thinking about that baby bunny again and wondering … how much do we not see because of where we are “standing?” And just what we might see if we would simply …
Walk over and look out another window.
In the years I worked at Arthur Andersen’s world headquarters in Chicago, I had a nine-block walk between the train station and my office. That 20-minute walk proved to beneficial in a number of ways. I became quite proficient at my timing of the walk to efficiently board the train with only 60-90 seconds remaining before departure. It was also a great built-in exercise program for sure. Yet, what proved most beneficial was something I stumbled upon one beautiful spring afternoon when I left the office for the train station just a few minutes early.
While I’m generally aware of others around me, I intentionally started noticing everyone along the way. With the heavy winter wear discarded for the spring temperatures, the diversity of all on their way somewhere stood-out just a bit more. As I boarded the train, the images of those whom I had noticed on the walk stayed with me. It dawned on me that if I could sit down with any one of those individuals for a whole afternoon … they would have a unique story to share about their life journey.
The thought inspired me into a new habit … to leave the office a few minutes early, just one day a week, to intentionally notice individuals along the way and wonder about their story. The stories of those rushing to the train, others aimlessly strolling along, young moms or dads pushing strollers, sweating joggers, workers visibly stressed inside and out, those of different colors, either gender, different orientations, a variety of sizes and an endless array of experiences … would each be unique. Their own stories would likely be a mixture of victories and defeats, joy and tragedy, connection and isolation. Probed deeply with interest and without judgment, I envisioned how each would be intriguing to hear.
I loved those walks to the train. And I love stories. Yet, I’ve also come to realize how much our stories can get in the way …
When we solely let them determine where we stand.
There is no question, that our stories can determine what we see. And they can determine all we see if we let them. Our stories also have a way of greatly influencing our needs, wants, opinions, beliefs and behaviors if we let give them permission. Sometimes that can be good … and sometimes it can be blinding. Especially when we get too focused on our own story and are blind to the stories of others.
As I’ve watched so many commit to the journey to discover the values at their core … I’ve seen them remove the blinders created by needs, wants, opinions, beliefs, behaviors (and yes, their stories). It’s nothing short of walking over to look out of a completely different window.
From there, it’s amazing what you will see in your own story … and in the stories of others.
Maybe it could give new meaning to the first line of our USA Star Spangled Banner … Oh, say can you see? It makes for a great question. I suppose it all depends on where you are standing … or sitting … or kneeling. And if you are digging.
If all of us … and each of us … committed to the journey of deeply digging to our core, we might be more interested in discovering each other’s stories and helping each other see just a little more clearly. And from there, we may very well find the moment where we could all stand together, sit together and kneel together … to respect what our nation should stand for … each other.