I grew up the son of an Army officer who was an oral surgeon. One of five children, I lived in 5 states – one twice – and on two continents. Regardless of where we lived, be it private housing or military housing, there was always a plaque that my Father had which hung prominently on some wall in the house or apartment. It read very simply, “We get too soon old and too late smart.”
I often pondered the meaning of that saying, but not enough to truly understand it. Not surprisingly, as I’ve gotten older, I have gained a tremendous new insight as to the significance of the quote and why my Father had it on his wall. So, where did this quote originate? Some sources cite it as Pennsylvania Dutch proverb. Other sources attribute a somewhat different version – “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” specifically to Benjamin Franklin.
I’ve grown old enough to learn that I’m not as smart as I had always assumed I was – that there is always more to learn, different perspectives to be considered and that an open mind yields an immense amount of new knowledge and insight. I’ve learned that it doesn’t really matter what the true source of the quote was as long as I grasp its meaning.
For me, the meaning is to remain teachable and to realize that I’m not right 100% of the time (nor wrong 100% of the time). I’ve learned it is best to attempt to view things in a different light – to use and seek other perspectives. So when I heard the phrase “Move the Flashlight” it resonated with me immediately. It is absolutely possible, and in my opinion guaranteed, that looking at the exact same person, place, thing, topic, whatever with a new or different perspective will yield new learning, insights and results.
This explains the reason for the question “Is the glass half empty or half full?” It explains why there are so many legitimate “NEW” and “IMPROVED” products and ideas in the world. It explains why one person’s treasure is another person’s trash.
Perspective is so critical to assessing and valuing so much in the world as well as in our own lives and professions. Seeking new perspective for the purpose of learning, improving and validating or reject our ideas, actions and output can only result in better output in the long run.
That is why in my coaching business I work to have my clients Move the Flashlight. There are only three potential outcomes of seeking new perspective – of “Moving the Flashlight”. They are to 1. Start something ‘new’, 2. Stop something ‘old’ or 3. Continue ‘as is’. The net result of obtaining new perspective can be positive regardless of which of these outcomes occur.
That is the purpose of this blog. I am hopeful of bringing new ideas, perspectives and thinking to bear which will stimulate dialogue, healthy debate and new learning. I hope my thoughts are challenged and that they are also reinforced. I invite others to bring their perspective and thoughts to bear on whatever topic I’ve chosen. Frankly, I hope readers will present new topics and ideas to kick around and have me “Move my own Flashlight”.
So with that, I’ll pose this question – “How have you moved your flashlight recently and what have you learned by accepting different perspectives?” Leave your comments and/or contact me directly.
After all, we’re getting smarter, not older.
Thanks for sharing this Bill.
Shakespeare in Hamlet offers a bit of wisdom from one of his charactrs: “This above all, to thy own self be true,” was said by an unfortunate old man who is killed by mistake.” That’s a tragedy. He also said through this character, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women are mearly players!”
Let the show go on!
Thanks for your comments Wes. Be true to yourself is a great bit of advice.