The Power You Have to Control Reality

Perception is reality. More specifically, YOUR perception is YOUR reality.

Understanding this is critical to how you view circumstances and your life in general. We do not interact directly with reality. We filter everything through our senses. We take the empirical evidence we see, hear, taste, smell and feel; then extract meaning from it. We determine that meaning based on our understanding of how the world works. This means our reality is largely created by combining what we sense with what we already understand. So, we take a limited sample of facts, blend it with our narrow story to create our perception of reality. PerceptionThis individualized recipe for reality explains why we have so many conflicting opinions. Conservative vs. liberal, Apple vs. Android, Yankees vs. Red Sox. If you listen to the arguments without having a bias yourself, the opposing viewpoints can sound convincing. At the same time, they present alternative realities that seem to be unable to coexist. When we recognize our perception of reality is based on the intersection of facts we know and the story we tell, we better understand how different people can have world views that are polar opposites.

Perceptions of RealitySo, the story you tell yourself has incredible power over your reality. You may be cast in your story as the victorious hero, the underdog against huge odds, the lovable fool, the helpful sidekick, an unlucky loser who can’t get a break, or even the villain. This story colors reality differently and affects how you see the world around you. By controlling the story you tell yourself, you gain power to influence the reality you experience.

We are pattern recognition “machines.”

No one has all the facts. We build the puzzle of reality with a small fraction of the actual puzzle pieces. The rest of the picture we fill in using the incredible human capacity for pattern recognition. For example – when you visit a hotel, you may find the toilet tissue has been folded. With just that bit of information, you fill in the gaps and create a story telling you the maid has been in the hotel room and has cleaned it since the last guest’s stay.

Al Seckel’s Ted talk shows how this pattern recognition skill can lead to misinterpretations. If we can be so wrong about small things like a pattern in a vase or the size and shape of a table, then we could conceivably be wrong about significant things as well.

The two children figures above are the same size.

Our perception of our lives could be misinterpreted just as easily. You may mistakenly think the world is out to get you when it would be much more helpful to believe others are cheering for your success. You may believe everything will fall apart if you’re not in control, but delegating to others would help you be more effective. Maybe you think pacifying someone who disagrees with you is your best option, but you would do better to stick to your guns even if it rocks the boat.

“You are the storyteller of your own life, and you can create your own legend or not.”
—Isabel Allende 

“Carpenters bend wood; fletchers bend arrows; wise men fashion themselves.”

“Make your life itself a creative work of art.”
—Mike Ray, The Highest Goal

The above quotes are from Tom Peter’s ebook, Radical Personal Development.

So, what do you do now?

  1. Get other perspectives.
    Find trusted advisors in your life you can use as sounding boards. These should not be people who completely agree with your worldview. Be willing to hear and consider opinions that may be in complete opposition to your own. Look for solutions created in unrelated industries or markets. You may find innovative solutions that have been applied in other areas will help you with your application. By getting other perspectives, you can obtain a 3-dimensional view of reality instead of your 2-dimensional perception.
  2. Step back.
    Take time to get some space from the work at hand. Spend some moments meditating and/or praying about  your perception of things. Take a walk or visit an art gallery. Do something that engages your body, but leaves your mind idle. Your subconscious may tap into answers hidden in the corner of your mind. Open yourself up to alternate possibilities and see if you receive any new insight.
  3. Craft the story you want your life to tell.
    Are you happy with the story your telling? If not, what do you want your story to be? Wrestle with this question and build an epic story worthy of your life’s work… because that’s exactly what it is. Your life’s work. In the end, if your story were a movie, you shouldn’t be left wanting a refund on your ticket.

By considering your perspective and adjusting your story, you may find that you have more power over reality than you realized. You can’t change facts so that you’re 5 inches taller or so your distant and rich uncle leaves you a million dollars tomorrow. But you can see yourself in a new way and realize that opportunities exist in every moment. At least, that’s the story I’m telling myself right now.

Why Your Hard Work Didn’t Pay Off

Dead LeavesYou redesigned your website… and your logo.

You wore all the right clothes, the client even complimented your taste.

You built a beautiful presentation. The pie chart on slide 17 was a work of art.

You used all the right buzzwords. The near-term impact of aligning communications at that level of granularity will offset any sunk cost incurred during the front end loading phase of the process.

You gave a truly inspiring speech to your employees. It was a stroke of genius to incorporate The Fault in Our Stars into your ending. Major Kleenex factor.

You marked off every box on your task list today.  √ OCD tendencies satisfied.

You journaled your thoughts for the day. Now your insecurities are documented.

So how come your hard work didn’t pay off?

Ask yourself a few simple questions:

“Did I solve any important problems today?”

“Did I add meaning to the world?”

“Did I do anything to make tomorrow better than today?”

Sometimes we get so occupied tending to foliage that we neglect the roots. You can paint dead leaves green, but they’ll still be dead.

4 Things People Don’t Trust About You

People-Dont-Trust-YouWe all want people to trust us. When you sense someone doesn’t trust you, you may feel disrespected or misunderstood. It’s easy to take this personally, but in reality others may not be questioning your character.

What are they questioning then?

Here are 4 things people don’t trust about you:

  1. Your Capacity
    If you’re seemingly overloaded and give others the perception that your workdays are a constant exercise in plate-spinning, it won’t instill confidence that you can fulfill any new responsibilities. When you promise something new, you may want to mention what you will be taking off your plate in order to keep that promise.
  2. Your Competence
    OK, this one can still feel personal, but lack of competence doesn’t mean you’re incompetent in the way that word implies. Lack of competence may simply mean a task is outside of your current skill set. You may consider training or delegating these tasks in order to reassure others you can be trusted to make sure it gets done.
  3. Your Personality
    This can also seem like a personal attack. There are a couple of things to remember. First, your personality is not the totality of who you are. It is an outward expression, which leads us to another point. This outward expression can be misunderstood. What you see as positive and outgoing may be interpreted as undiscriminating and careless. An awareness level understanding of a personality type index like Meyers Briggs (MBTI) may help you overcome personality miscommunications like this.
  4. Your Motives
    If your goals seem to compete with what others are trying to accomplish, then they may challenge your motives even when you offer assistance. This is where your group culture helps encourage an environment of trust. Does your culture encourage collaborative efforts, or does it reward those who only look out for themselves? Also, you may need to explain why you’re motivated to help. This may encourage others to trust you when they understand what you’re real motives are.

By making trust issues less personal, we can find practical ways to overcome distrust and gain support. We see it as less of an attack on our character and as more of an exercise in managing perceptions. Additionally, we can assess why we don’t trust others and decide whether or not our skepticism is merited.

Have you had issues being trusted or trusting others in these areas? Are there other things about people we seem to distrust?

2 Reasons Others Aren’t Helping You

Andrew-Carnegie-no-great-leader-does-it-himselfAre you trying to get things done and feel like others aren’t helping you?

The image above quotes Andrew Carnegie’s claim,

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.

But maybe you don’t want to do it yourself. Perhaps you are willing to share credit. You just need some assistance, support or sharing of the load.

For example, you may be working hard to improve things at work. You’re putting in the effort, logging the hours, making the hard decisions. The problem is it seems others are content with status quo.

Is that because you’re the last bastion of a solid work ethic and esprit de corps? Not likely.

So, why aren’t others helping you? Here are 2 reasons:

  1. They don’t know.
    • They don’t know what you’re doing. Maybe you’re so busy DOING, that you’re not COMMUNICATING what you’re working on.
    • They don’t know you need help. You seem self-sufficient and don’t delegate or ask for help.
    • They don’t know how to help. You haven’t showed where their skills can be applied to best help you.
  2. They don’t care.
    • They don’t understand why your work is important.
    • They have no extrinsic motivation to help you. (rewards, acknowledgement, etc.)
    • The corporate culture doesn’t encourage helping others.

Of course the issue could be laziness, a lack of character or a general spirit of apathy (unlike the systemic issues above). But why worry about that, since you have virtually no control in those scenarios? Also, that’s probably not the case. It’s more likely that by addressing the 2 factors above, you’d greatly improve the odds that someone will help you in your efforts.

Do you feel like others don’t care or don’t know to help you?

Why We Need Mutual Leadership


A leader without a follower is simply taking a walk without knowing.
- Ancient Proverb (multiple attributions)

With an escalating amount change, uncertainty and cynicism in our world today, we need mutual leadership. This is when leaders and followers work together with a healthy respect and understanding for each other.

What good leaders should understands about followers:

  • Know the kind of followers you want. (demographics)
  • Know how to motivate and influence your followers. (psychographics)
  • The trust of your followers is more important than their approval.
  • Without followers, you are no longer truly a leader.

What good followers should understand about leaders:

  • Know the kind of leader you want.
  • Realize leaders are fallible. Don’t expect perfection.
  • Strong leaders are characterized by fostering growth, not dependency.
  • Recognizing the point above, don’t abdicate your own leadership out of fear.

Creating an environment where strong and competent leaders are paired with healthy and confident followers could change the world as we know it.

What steps could you take today toward such a promising, new world?

4 Ways Leaders Establish the Big Picture


Indulge me with a short thought experiment.

Imagine you’ve hired a professional photographer to get a well-crafted portrait of yourself. You arrive at the address he provided, which appears to be his house. You walk up to the front and ring the doorbell. He opens the door and seems a little surprised to see you.

“I’m here for my portrait session.” You say.

A spark of recognition flashes across his eyes. “Oh yeah. Hang on a second.”

He shuts the door in your face, leaving standing on the porch a bit bewildered. You look at your phone to confirm your appointment time and address are correct. They are. Just before you ring the doorbell again, the door opens and the photographer steps out with a camera strapped around his neck.

“OK. Uh, just stand over there.”

He points to a spot on the sidewalk about 3 feet behind you. You give him a puzzled look and slowly shuffle back according to his directions. He starts taking seemingly random shots. You realize the sun is backlighting you, which can’t be good for the photo. You haven’t changed into the clothes you brought for the photo session and the photographer gives you no suggestions for how to stand or which direction to look.

He lowers his camera. “OK. That’s it. I’ll go back and take a look at these. Maybe we’ll get lucky.” He re-enters his house and shuts the door behind him.

You return to your car to leave, highly doubtful that luck will be on your side.

We would never expect a photographer to treat a portrait session in this way. Since the main goal of a photographer is to take photographs, we anticipate they will use their expertise and exhibit some forethought in preparation for a photo session.

What about leaders? Since the main goal of a leader is to LEAD, do we expect some level of expertise and forethought as we do with professional photographers? Like a photographer sets up a beautiful picture, leaders can lay a groundwork for success.

4 Ways Leaders Establish the Big Picture