On the Importance of Relative Perception

Something struck me as quite odd today as I watched the sun set tonight. My thoughts were reflected in the conversations within earshot.

“What an amazing sun set!”
“Look at the sun set!”

Copernicus must be gnashing his teeth in hell – at least if Pope Paul III had his way.

Astronomer Copernicus (Matejko)

Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God, by Matejko. In background: Frombork Cathedral.

Presuming for a moment that most people do realize that the Earth revolves around the Sun and we haven’t all snapped back to a medieval mindset, there is a lesson in communications to be learned here. There is reality. And there is how reality is perceived and communicated about – internally, externally, between two people or even within a group.

Facts don’t matter. Neither does reality. What matters is what is perceived. I may intellectually know that the sun isn’t setting. That it is the earth’s rotation that makes it appear that the sun in setting in a blaze of glory. But that doesn’t preventing me from enjoying the sun set, or even writing a stanza or four about it if I’m so inspired.

The same rings true when I tackle big strategic problems.  All too often I’m able to see the entirety of a problem space and a handful of potential viable solutions early on. It’s inexplicable – and can be a little terrifying if I pay it too much mind. Suddenly, I’m 30,000 feet above the fruited plain and I can see with a birds eye the lay of the land. But I fail at bringing the rest of the crowd along. How do you explain a leap of logic – enough so it can be at least litmus tested by a peer group; a little humility goes a long way. Many peers and managers have said the same thing to me over my career: “There’s a good thing and a bad thing and they’re the same with you Sam – you’re always right.”

While I’m not sure of the answer to that yet – I at least have more insight today than I did yesterday.  What I know is reality and what others perceive it as are two different things. I need to slip in to their perception and explain it in a framework that makes sense.


A Simple Sunset

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a sunset to enjoy.

Sorry Copernicus.

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