Archives for posts with tag: Perspective

Consider these 4 statements:

  1. As I write this I’m on the top of a mountain
  2. As you read this I’m on the beach
  3. As you read this I don’t know where I’ll be
  4. As you read this you could be anywhere

I once read a book by Stephen King on how to write a book. He put forward the idea that writers are in the business of thought transference. He described a specific situation very clearly and argued that he had achieved thought transference since the reader had a clear picture what he was thinking about and describing. He put it better than I have, which perhaps illustrates our different places in the writing world.

I know where I am when I write a blog post, and if I like I can describe it to you. When the blog post is published, and you read it, I might be somewhere completely different. And then, in the future, when you chance upon the post, I will be somewhere else again. I might even be pushing up the daisies, who knows.

Of course, you’d be entitled to ask ‘why are you telling me this,’ and ‘who cares?’ and you’d be right in both cases. The thought transference has to be worth it for you.

What’s not important is where I am when you read what I’ve written, unless it engages you. What’s almost always important is where you are when you read what I’ve written and whether or not you’re into it. That’s your unique perspective – on everything.


Perspective is such an important concept, both literally and figuratively. It’s how we see the world, both literally and figuratively. It colours our work and our play, down to every single micro-action.

I was reminded of the more literal sense of this recently as I contemplated the world from a high window, the same window from which I viewed booming Dublin. It’s like when you drive a lot and then on rare occasions you take a bus somewhere, sitting on the top level and seeing things you never saw from the ground.

You can see so much from high up. It informs your world differently.

Being high up gives you an advantage over those who don’t enjoy the same elevation. They can’t see what you can see. It puts you in a position of advantage, power or authority, because you can see more. Sometimes it gives you more respect than perhaps you deserve. It also comes with a responsibility. You must use that advantage, power or authority well, and not abuse it or people. To look down on people, or be condescending to them, that’s an abuse of your exalted perspective.


I was at a second hand book fair the other day, one of those affairs where the books are strewn everywhere, unsorted and in boxes on trestle tables and in boxes on the floor under tables.

Crouched down under the tables with books in one hand and sifting with the other, scrabbling around for the authors I was interested in, I thought about how different it is being almost at floor level, like a dog, a small pet or a small child.

It’s a dog’s life down there. You can’t see anything, except the floor, people’s feet and legs, and other small people. Adults trip over you. Everything is geared to heights comfortable to the average adult. It’s almost like being a second class citizen.

I think also that’s it’s a useful exercise in humility, since it puts you in the shoes of other beings who spend their lives at ground level: small children, small animals, small people and also, to an extent, people in wheelchairs. It’s not that fun, once you’ve experienced life at a ‘normal’ altitude.

If you’re in an industry where you’re creating, writing or building something yourself, and it’s pretty much a lone pursuit, then you can be super productive and get through a lot. No interruptions, no challenges of collaboration around communication, preferences, priorities and preferred ways of working.

Then again, there’s one thing that will benefit your output.

Another view.

No matter how good you think something else is, it will always benefit from another view. If it’s someone whom you respect and whose opinion and experience you value, then they’re bound to bring up something you hadn’t considered. It’s someone whose opinion you don’t respect, then it’s still valuable. You can choose to ignore it.

Of course, this works well when you’re showing something in a fairly developed stage and your second opinion is not having to make too much of a logical or creative leap to see where you’re going with it.

The view of another gives you a different perspective on what you’re trying to do. And getting your head away from your own perspective and towards the perspective of your customer, client, audience or dearly beloved is always a good thing.

These days, you hear kids say ‘I died’ all the time. Not as in ‘I died laughing,’ like my generation would have said, but as in ‘oops, I died,’ from losing their virtual life in a video game or anything that simulates real life.

It got me thinking about how seldom you would have heard kids saying that before video games like Pac Man, Space Invaders and the like. After all, to actually die – well, it’s a pretty horrendous concept for those of us who feel we haven’t accomplished much yet.

What a poor memory I had, and what a classic example of falling into the trap of judging everything from today’s perspective.

Of course, kids have been role-playing and more specifically playing war games since the human race has had toys, and they must have killed other soldiers or been killed themselves on many occasions. It’s all part of growing up.

Maybe it was mostly boys that played war games. I don’t know or remember, but it still sounds odd to me when I hear my daughter say ‘oops, I died.’

I recount this story not for its own intrinsic value but as a reminder to you and me that we often make decisions based on our own current context, when that can be the wrong context. It pays to think out of the box, and in the box of the person we’re trying to influence.

We can’t stop the ageing process – well I suppose we can if we die, but for me there’s not an easy route back from that. This ageing process means that there will always be someone younger than us, always someone who to us seems really young, always someone to whom we must seem really old. Fact.

I was reminded of this ineluctable fact by a friend of mine, Mr Seamus O’Riordan, whom I caught up with on the phone recently. He was getting his eyes tested not so long ago and bemoaning the fact that it was time to embrace the world of reading glasses, the consequences of which were that people might get a reminder of his reaching a ‘certain age’, to adapt from the gloriously euphemistic French phrase.

‘Well,’ his optician rejoined, ‘I’m 65. You seem really young to me.’ A rather sobering postscript to this is that the older gentleman died a few months later.

It’s all relative. It all depends on your perspective.

So what do we do about it? Two things:

  1. Live for the moment, and
  2. Look after ourselves, so we remain young in body, young in mind, young at heart

It’s easy to be self-absorbed, and to think that everything revolves around us, and is geared to us. After all, the human race has been doing it for centuries, believing that the earth was the centre of the solar system. We still do it.

Aren’t we lucky that the earth is revolving at thousands of miles an hour and we don’t fall off, or over?

Aren’t we lucky that we can eat so much that naturally grows around us?

Aren’t we lucky that the composition of the air around us is OK for breathing?

Isn’t it great that we’re naturally suited to a planet with nice ambient temperatures in the -50 to +50 range?

Er, no to all of that…

We have it the wrong way round of course. We forget that we are the product of millions of years of evolution, that we have gradually chiselled ourselves to fit the environment, not the other way round.

The man-made world is geared around our bodies, the position of the sensory organs within our frame, our dimensions, and what makes us exist. As Mark Twain once said – and I’m paraphrasing here – isn’t it great that my glasses fit perfectly round my ears? You can make the same argument for bikes, cars, keyboards, everything.

I’m sure we wouldn’t devote as much priority to bedrooms in our houses if we didn’t spend a third of our lives in them. We sleep on average 8 hours a night. Aren’t we lucky we have comfy beds and nice bedrooms with calming, tranquil decor?

Looking at things the right way round – not the wrong way round – and putting what’s important at the centre of our thinking, rather than ourselves, helps us be better people, better marketers, better business people, better politicians.

It was Tom Peters who said that ‘perception is all there is’. I’ve talked about this quote before, and its importance, but for me there’s something also inviolably true, and it’s a bit like the other side of the coin.

Perspective is all there is, too. Perspective is your perception of the world, and, more importantly, someone else’s or something else’s perspective. I was reminded of this in the most mundane way recently. Having made myself a cup of tea, I was bringing a soggy tea bag over to the bin, supported by a spoon and, under it, my free hand to catch the drips. The spoon looked full of tea in the side I could see, so I tilted it away slightly. As I tilted it away, it dripped tea from the side I couldn’t see, which was obviously fuller, or at least as full, as ‘my’ side. I hadn’t checked the other side.

It always pays to try and understand the perspective of the other person, in a transaction, in politics, in pretty much anything. Once you get their perspective, you get the wisdom to agree with them, or the ammunition to persuade them to agree with you.