Shiny Things

“Life is about perspective and how you look at something… ultimately, you have to zoom out.” 

– Whitney Wolfe Herd

I have a friend who finds great enjoyment and some amount of solace in having something to look forward to. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it is in the reasonably near future. It makes my friend’s day if you call and say, “I have something for you.” This will lead to the inevitable question of, “What?” followed by, “Can you give me a hint?” But they don’t really want to know, because the anticipation of a “shiny thing” in the future changes their feelings about the present in a positive way.

One of my favorite Monty Python skits is in “The Meaning of Life” when Eric Idle sings the Galaxy Song to Terry Jones (dressed in drag of course.) The song explains in detail how large the universe is and how small we are in comparison. In the opening lines Eric sings:

Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown,
And things seem hard or tough,
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft,
And you feel that you’ve had quite enough,

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at 900 miles an hour……

After listing off the enormous speeds and distances involved in the galaxy and then the universe, Eric ends with this advice:

“So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth;
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere out in space,
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth!”

Funny, yes, but also very true. In both of these cases, what we are talking about is perspective.

Perspective is critical to accurately assessing the world around us. Oklahoma is considered “flat”, which you may disagree with if you have ever run the roads east of Edmond or in Tulsa. However, if you get up very high at all, it does begin to look fairly level. Perspective is about where we are standing when we look at something. In the physical world we can’t always control where we are standing.

As I have been thinking about our present circumstances, I am reminded that many other people have been forced to “shelter in place” in much less hospitable conditions. For example, Anne Frank and her family “sheltered in place” for 2 years and a month. Eight people shared 450 square feet of space with no ability to go outside. That kind of puts the month or so we’ve been slightly inconvenienced into perspective.

What is amazing about Anne Frank’s story is her ability to control where she was “standing” mentally and emotionally. Anne Frank wrote in her diary that their accommodations were relatively luxurious compared to other hiding places they had heard about. Like so many people before and after her who found themselves in unimaginable circumstances, she found ways to be grateful and find hope. They found shiny things regardless of where they were. Many did not.

Perspective, and the ability to control where we stand mentally and emotionally, can mean the difference between surviving and thriving. Perspective is a choice that we can make every day between succumbing to conditions or rising above them. Perspective is about how we approach things and the choices we make about how we look at them.

Crisis often gives us the clearest perspective. If you have ever had someone in your family become very ill or be diagnosed with a terminal illness, you realize very quickly that most of what you were unhappy about before just doesn’t really matter. Crisis often brings the things that are important into very clear focus, which is another form of perspective.

We need perspective in all areas of life, not just during this pandemic, but this current crisis can help us regain our priorities and choose where we are standing mentally and emotionally. As an individual, I want to be a person who, like my friend, finds “shiny things” to help me stand where I can see hope and be grateful. As a leader, I want to help those I serve to find those shiny things in their lives, so they can choose hope and gratefulness, too. We may not be able to change where we are standing physically, but we can always choose where we stand mentally. Choosing to see the shiny things in life makes all the difference, and it is also The Kimray Way.