“Not in My World”

JordiColoradoRecently my family took a vacation to Colorado.  My 11 year old daughter Jordyn brought her good friend with her.  It was a terrific vacation and we got to see nature at its best. I also got to observe first hand a great illustration of human nature at its best. I have to share.

The Storm

One evening while relaxing at our hotel, it began raining and thundering.  The two kids were excited about the weather and wanted to sit outside the hotel room and watch the storm.  The windows were open and I could clearly hear their conversation.  After a little while, I overheard them talking about lightning, and thunder.  They were debating whether light or sound travels faster.  Her friend was telling Jordyn that if you hear thunder and begin counting you can estimate how far away it struck the ground by the amount of time it takes to see the lightning.  I think we have all heard that as kids but the details were slightly different.  Jordyn explained to her that light actually travels faster than sound and that the lightning happens first, then the thunder.  Her response was very funny and made me laugh.  She said “not in my world”.  This took my daughter by surprise as she wasn’t sure if her friend was serious or just joking with her.  If she would have said, “I disagree”, or “that’s not what I learned” she wouldn’t have been surprised so much.  She soon found out that her friend was serious.  She continued, “It’s just your opinion that light is faster, I believe that sound is faster, it’s just an opinion.”  I heard Jordyn say “What?! It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact!  It’s science and everybody knows that. They teach us that in school.”  Her friend replied “In my world sound can be faster, and in your world light can be faster.”  Jordyn said “Wait, what? I don’t have my own world, we live in the same world and this is just the way it is for both of us.”

“In my world sound can be faster, and in your world light can be faster.” 

Proud Daddy

I have to admit, hearing this come from my daughter’s mouth was a very proud moment for me as a father.  It was at that moment that I knew that Jordyn at the age of 11 understood the concept of absolute truth.  That is pretty remarkable for a young child.  Most adults in our current culture don’t have this clear of an understanding of truth.  Unfortunately the idea of a personal world (relativism) is actually embraced more than absolute truth in this day and age.  On the surface her idea concerning her personal world seems harmless and at this age it may be, but what happens when she grows up with this same concept directing her decision making process, or what if this truly becomes her discernment compass? She will have no solid foundation or reference point for establishing what is real. There will be no organized shelving in the mind to organize ideas, and no way to sort out good thoughts from bad thoughts.  It will be like building your house on the sand.

Objective Truth (Universal Fact)

If you have spent much time talking with people that continue to experience repeated personal crisis in their relationships, struggle with truthfulness or have bounce back and forth between polarizing extremes you know how irrational people can be when stuck in their own world ignoring objective reality.  If you don’t know anyone like that, you may be one of them.

The simplest definition of reality is the way things really are, apart from any person’s opinion or perspective.  It’s our external existence that we share with everyone else regardless of what we think or know in our own mind. This is also called objective truth.

“…reality is the way things really are, apart from any person’s opinion or perspective”.

An example of objective truth; “McDonalds is the largest restaurant chain in the world”.  This is not true because it lines up with my subjective opinion; it’s true because it lines up with reality or objective truth even if someone else doesn’t believe that to be true.

Subjective Truth (Personal Opinion)

There is another kind of truth called subjective truth.  This kind of truth is personalized.  It doesn’t necessarily live in the common area with other people nor does it need to agree with anyone else.  An example of subjective truth would be If I were to say “Papa Murphys pizza is my favorite food in the whole world”.   If I truly believe that and make that proclamation, it is true, regardless of what anyone else thinks. After all it is true that I think that.  However, once I cross the line of subjectivity and make a universal statement and say “Papa Murphy’s is the best food in the whole world, period!”  I now am treading into crowded waters stepping on other people’s toes, valuing my opinion above others.  I have just opened up the floodgates for all of those non-pizza lovers to disagree with me and tell me I am wrong.  I may even hear them quote statistics about food consumption or surveys about food preference showing me that I am wrong.

These are two seemingly similar statements with entirely different meanings and connotations.  It’s like saying “in my world, Papa Murphy’s pizza is the best and no one can tell me otherwise about my world”.  True, but if I make that proclamation and apply it to the whole world, I am saying everyone else is wrong.  I then just look biased and ignorant and people will start to devalue my opinions. To make a statement like that I need to make sure it is objectively true and not just my personal subjective opinion otherwise I should rephrase my statement to qualify it as my opinion.

We need to be sure what we say is being applied correctly to the proper kind of truth. Other people aren’t going to live in your world, so if you want to connect with people you are going to need to enter the common world, otherwise known as reality. In our business we call it pulling your head out of the cheese. It’s seeing the world from a larger common picture and not just projecting our immediate subjective experiences onto the whole world.

6 Blind men and an elephant

There is a pretty popular illustration about 6 blind men and an elephant that depicts this idea pretty well.  It is about 6 blind men all touching an elephant giving their opinion of what an elephant is.  The first blind man touches the elephant’s massive leg and says “In my world, an elephant is like a tall cedar tree.  That is what an elephant is.”  The second blind man touches the elephant’s ear and says “In my world, an elephant is like a big fan. That is what an elephant is.”  The third touches the elephants tusk and says “it’s like a sharp spear. That is what an elephant is.”  The forth touches the tail and say’s “an elephant is a rope”, the fifth touches the trunk, “an elephant is a big hose” and the sixth touches the elephants side and says “An elephant is just a big soft wall, in my world”.

The elephant represents reality as a whole as we the readers see it objectively because we know the whole story and are not limited by lack of sight.  Each part of the elephant represents one of the blind men’s individual, subjective experiences.  If each of these blind men all really believe their observations and that the truth is limited to just what they personally observed, they are missing a much bigger picture of what an elephant is.  How much more are we capable of missing the truth about our world if we just limit our opinion of truth to what we have experienced or choose to believe?

In this illustration the blind men are blind to the bigger picture and this is the core of their limitation.  In our world, we are blind to the big picture as well.  The different is the 6 blind men are not choosing to be blind. Sometimes we are capable of seeing the big picture but our pride or lack of vision keeps us choosing to stay in the dark. Ignorance is bliss.

I can think of so many times in my life when I hold onto a stubborn opinion or belief that I refuse to let go of not because I am truly blind or limited in my ability to understand, but choose to look the other way in favor of what I want to believe. I choose my blindness.  Sometimes I do this because I have something to lose by opening my eyes, and other times I just don’t want to find out or admit I was wrong. Because I know this about myself, I am able to identify this tendency much sooner than I did when I was younger.

Entitlement vs. Responsibility

One of the most irresponsible clichés I have heard is “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion”.  It’s not that it’s not a true statement, but what most people mean when they say this is that everyone should have the right to say what they think without anyone disagreeing with them or telling them they are wrong.  One opinion is just as valid or equally correct as another.  When applying this to subjective truth, it is 100% correct.  I don’t have the right to tell someone what their favorite food is, and no one can tell me that Papa Murphy’s pizza is not my favorite.

When discussing objective truth or common reality we are not entitled to determine individually what is true. It is our responsibility to discover individually and corporately what is true and lines up with reality.  Science (in its purest form) is a tool that helps us do this very well, until someone pulls it into their own personal world and uses it to prove that an elephant is just a rope (Evolution vs. Creation).

“we are not entitled to determine individually what is true. It is our responsibility to discover individually and corporately what is true and lines up with reality”.

When we seek to discover truth we line our thinking with reality , we remove obsticles that hinder true understanding.  When we bypass reality and grab ahold of truth as we want to see it we are taking a very costly shortcut that robs us of credibility and integrity. We show ourselves to be foolish.

Perception is not always reality

You have probably heard the statement “perception is reality”.  This is just not true. You are welcome to your own opinion on the color of my house of which you may or may not have seen, but your opinion can not be more correct than the actual color of the house.  Your opinion of my tan house being blue doesn’t make it blue, or any less tan.  If I say its one color and you say it’s another, we can’t both be right, nor do we both have the right to claim equal correctness.

The law of non-contradiction says A cannot equal none-A.   Light cannot be faster than sound, and sound faster than light in the same setting. One or the otherz  has to be true. Perception, on the other hand can vary greatly.  Everyone has the right to be wrong if they choose, or even if they don’t choose, and can only be right if it lines up with reality, not just because they say so or believe so.  What good is being right if it’s just pretend?

“What good is being right if it’s just pretend?”

Self Deception

If you are stuck in your own world you may find it very challenging to connect with others with any depth. When commitment to common truth is compromised, getting on the same page will prove difficult.  You will find yourself at odds with people or isolated from people because of your inability to connect or feel a common bond.  You may become a fault finder, live above accountability, and easily irritated when others point out objective truth to you. You may make excuses for your shortcomings or blame others for your miscues, because they are not miscues in your world.  It’s much easier to adjust, stretch, or omit the truth when you are not grounded, than it is to face reality. This is what adults do when they grow up in their own separate world. The steaks are much higher as adults than when it was when we were kids.

If it seems like you are always swimming upstream or running into the wind, if your relationships always self destruct and people continue to let you down, it may be time for you to examine your personal world.  It may be that you are so engrossed in your world that reality is passing you by going the other direction. It could be that your house is built on sand instead of a rock.

Alignment

People who align their minds and live according to reality rather than try to change or claim their own reality tend to live more at peace with themselves, and others.  Truth seekers live in harmony with other truth seekers. It’s a beautiful thing to be part of a group of people seeking to learn more about the world we share, to learn more about each other and what makes us tick. Unity and harmony can only be achieved by individuals moving and growing in unison going the same direction.  The individuals cannot individually determine that direction based on their own world.  They will all have different perceptions.

Truth is what provides the vision that gives all of us something to march toward. It provides a common purpose that connects us and moves us to do something for a bigger cause than simply having a better personal world.

When we step out of our own personal world, our blinders begin to come off and we start to see reality in all its glory. Our own personal wellbeing doesn’t seem as important to defend.  Community and connectedness becomes more of a priority.  Take a look at this community of people. They left their own personal worlds behind to live for a bigger reality.

Community

Act 2:42-47 …and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common”

Act 4:11-12  This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Act 4:32-37 …now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold  and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

“…but they had everything in common”

You can’t have community without having reality in common. We can’t make up our own way.  If you are one who believes what you want to believe, lives by your own standards and on your own terms (in your own world), pull your head out of your “own world” and join the community of truth seekers. I dare you!  You thought I was going to say “butt” didn’t you?

Talent is Overrated

It’s amazing how many excuses we tell ourselves that keep us from reaching what we desire to achieve. There seems to be an unending string of rationalizations we create in our mind that explain away our shortcomings. We aren’t quite living up to what we could be if we just had a few things go our way.

No matter where you are in life there seems to be something illusive, just over the next hill that you aren’t sure you can reach. You think maybe you can, but you aren’t sure if you have the talent or skills required to get there. You see others that are further down the road and they seem to have a few more tools in their tool belt than you. They seem to understand their niche and have well-honed habits in place that help them operate at a higher level. It’s hard to compete with that.

I struggled with this type of thinking for a good chunk of my life. When I was younger I didn’t’ think I had what the other kids around me had. There seemed to be something missing. In the classroom I was average, but my friends seemed to be above average. In sports, I was too small and too slow to keep up, so my friends passed me in sports during high school. I found it frustrating that things seemed to come easier to some of my friends than they did for me. In other ways I found comfort in it because I knew there wasn’t much expected of me. The problem is that I didn’t expect much of me either. You may have known people like me.

Life really isn’t fair. It’s strange how some people can ace their classes without studying much at all (I hated those people). Despite my average talent, I was very competitive in sports. My best friend seemed to be one step ahead of me in every sport we played. (As long as it didn’t involve water. He sank when wet, and I found a sick comfort in that) Many of my other friends seemed to have some kind of talent they were developing and working on to help define them in their careers. After high school I really struggled to find myself. I was lost for a few years trying to find some skill I could use to make a living. I didn’t seem to be good at anything that really mattered. I later found out that was not true. I was just so busy comparing myself to others that I wasn’t applying myself toward personal growth.

I have noticed that sometimes even the most talented people really never make it to the big stage of success or at least don’t stay there. High school, college and professional athletes with mega talent fail under the big lights. They seem to have the talent to succeed but are missing the confidence, or maturity to live out the script others have written for them. Some don’t have the work ethic or discipline, some don’t have that competitive edge, and others simply do foolish things to disqualify themselves from the game. Think of all the political scandals that have taken people down and ended careers of very talented people before their time. It seems like success is more than talent.

Success is a tricky word. I don’t have the same thoughts on this word as I used to. When I was younger I used to equate success with either money, power or fame or some combination of the three. There were those talented people that had achieved a level of popularity, income or power that separated themselves from the rest of the ordinary folks. They were the ones that were fortunate enough to have received an extra portion of talent so they were entitled to a little more than the rest of us. They used their talents and were rewarded for it.

I see things a bit differently now. When I look at the most successful people that I know, they seem to shine for other reasons. Most of them are definitely talented in their own ways but it is not the talent that stands out as the reason for their success. They seem to have something that not even most super talented people have. I discovered that you really don’t need to have much natural talent at all to be successful, but you do need a few other foundational qualities to support the talent you do have.

Work Ethic
You don’t have to have talent to have great work ethic. You can be very untalented and your work ethic will make you stand out from most of your peers. People who have a great work ethic sometimes catch up and pass those with more natural talent (tortoise and the hair). The nice thing about work ethic is that you can apply that quality and it becomes a super tool that helps every part of life.

Our personal life and our work life both come with problems. Life is hard, and sometimes it sucks! People let us down, we make mistakes. Sometimes things we work hard to build get destroyed and we have to start all over again. A person with a strong work ethic will bounce back much faster than a more talented person with less work ethic.

People with a strong work ethic are always working toward something. They are always looking forward to what they need to achieve, not looking backwards at what they already have achieved. People who look backward at their accomplishments and pat themselves on the back tend to quit and coast and develop a sense of entitlement.

If you want to be in high demand in the marketplace, be worth more to your employer than what you are being paid. Then as you become more successful and make more money, continue to be worth more than your wage. Any time your wage catches up to your market value, you need to kick it into another gear or you may soon be replaced. There are always cheaper more talented people, but not necessarily people with great work ethics. Pretty simple but some people never get this.

Truth Tellers
A solid skillset does not make a person more trustworthy. Honest words can come out of anyone’s mouth at any talent level. We can decide to wrap ourselves around the pillar of truth, or we can wrap the truth around the pillar of us. It just takes a commitment to discovering, understanding and embracing the truth independent of our opinions. When we do that, our words will reflect reality.

An honest answer is the ultimate compliment to someone. It says, “I respect you enough to tell you what is really going on, and it’s not my place to tell you otherwise” To be trusted is a virtue that is far greater than any talent. It is available and free to embrace by all who choose it.

Truth Finders
Truth is not the same as knowledge. There is a lot of information out there that is not true. Not only is it important that we continue growing and learning more as we go, we also need to be discerning what is true from what is not true. We need to discover what ways work better than other ways. If you are not sure of the best way to do something, keep looking, ask someone who has been there. Truth is to be discovered, not determined. Are you looking for the truth or looking to be right?

Finding truth always begins with you. I have met people who are very honest with others but struggle with telling themselves the truth. Their impact on others is limited because of this. They tend to allow themselves to be deceived by believing what others think of them or comparing themselves to everyone around them. They make excuses and rationalize decisions to justify their actions. Others are very honest with themselves and can more easily come to grips with their own shortcomings. This can come when our pride is stripped and we learn our place among others. The downside is that they tend to expect others to have the same introspective abilities, leading to stepping on peoples toes all in the name of transparency. I have been on both ends of this spectrum. It took me a long time to believe truth even exists, and it took even longer to embrace truth.

Growth Minded
What’s the difference between a 35 year old athlete and a 50 year old leader? One hasn’t hit their peak yet.

People with growth mindsets come in all sizes, shapes, ages and abilities. The one thing that they all have in common is that they push forward every day to increase their knowledge and effectiveness. I believe sometimes people with less talent have an easier time developing strong growth mindsets because they didn’t have all the extra talent to lean on earlier in life.

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”
― Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Encouragers
Anyone can be a source of encouragement. A kind work can go a long way and doesn’t require any special abilities to deliver. The impact words can have on an individual that has been longing to hear words of affirmation is unlimited. You don’t have to write for Hallmark to put a smile on someone’s face.

Having an encouraging heart doesn’t come easily or naturally for most people. It takes a change of perspective in our own heart first. It does not require talent whatsoever. It just requires you to look around and appreciate what we have and what we have been given. “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Being an encourager requires taking our eyes off of yourself and focusing on what others need to hear in order to grow. People need encouragement like a plant needs water or Donald Trump needs attention. If you are a grump, negative complainer with a sense of entitlement and a right to gripe, you will indeed miss out on this opportunity.

A person who taps into the ability to encourage others, thwarts himself into another stratosphere of game changers. This may be the most underused resource in the history of everything and everyone can do it.

Commitment
Once when I was a kid I told my grandpa I was going to swim across Lake Odessa. He said something that stuck with me. “Make sure you set your sights on the other side of the lake. If you set your sights most of the way, and make it, you will drown.”  Most people know how to quit. We don’t finish most of the things that we start. We don’t finish our marriages. We don’t finish college. The dropout rate for high school is growing every year. We can’t seem to keep our weight under control. And, most of us can’t seem to figure out the one or two most important things to finish each day before the sun goes down.

Boats have anchors to commit them to a specific location. The anchor is heavy enough and deep enough to be stronger than the elements working to move the boat. Without an anchor, even with the best intentions, there is nothing to keep the wind and the waves from blowing you away from where you want to be. When you do drift away from your desired location, you likely won’t even know you have moved. The change is subtle.

Unfortunately many people go through life without any type of anchor. Sometimes they intentionally live without an anchor so they don’t get too tied down or stuck in a place they don’t want to be.  In the process, they end up in other places they never intended to go, with people they didn’t intend to be around, doing things they didn’t intend to do. They become someone they didn’t intend to be wondering how they got there. The key word is intend. No one can ever live a life of intentionality without understanding the value of commitment.

You already have everything you need to impact the world.