I enjoy hiking, actually I love it. Most hikes I take are “there and back” hikes, meaning you hike to a certain point, turn around and come back the same way you came. Now if you’re not a hiker this sounds a bit redundant – covering the same segment of the trail twice instead of experiencing more of the trail with the same time and effort.
But hikers don’t feel this way at all. The reality is a “there and back” hike is as engaging as a “end to end” hike.
Because coming back on the same segment of trail never looks the same as going out. It’s as if you’re on a different segment when you walk it in the other direction. The reason is simple, your perspective changes 180º – what you see and how you see it – is different. A change in perspective always bring a fresh look at a trail you just traversed.
This is true of most situations in life and leadership, isn’t it? We often get stuck seeing a situation, an idea, a moment in history, just from one perspective and believe that’s the only perspective there is. So when we hear a different one, we struggle to embrace it because our first response is – how could be a different perspective than the mine?
But there are different perspectives of same section of a trail. Your perspective depends on how and when you’ve hiked it. The person walking towards me will see the trail totally different than I see it. Same trail, different perspective. People will walk through the same situation, wrestle with the same idea, or struggle with a particular moment differently because they’re walking through it from a different place, heading in a different direction, thus have a different perspective.
So here’s the application – in a world where there seems to be no room for another’s perspective, where mine or ours is the only valid one, never believe you have a corner on the truth. Try to come at the situation, idea, or moment from another direction, preferably from the direction that someone else has come from, so you can see it more as they see it. Always seek out other perspectives because no one comes at a moment from the same place or same time as you. By doing so, you’ll see more of the trail, have more friends to walk with, and have a more fulfilling hike.
On New Year’s Eve I talk on the phone with a long time mentor and friend, Neil Atkinson. When I was in high school, Neil was my Young Life leader and was instrumental in my becoming a Christian. After college, Neil prepared Denise and I to become Young Life leaders. Later when Neil left Grand Rapids to become a regional director for Young Life in Kansas City, he and I continued to stay connected.
Throughout my life, in every context my relationship with Neil took, he’s always said something that I’ve needed to hear, often when it’s been unlooked-for, as it was on New Year’s Eve.
As we were sharing with each other how 2012 had gone, Neil mentioned that he turned 70 and I responded by telling him I turned 50. As we marveled at how old we’ve become I told Neil that turning 50 was harder than I expected because I felt that I had crossed the half-way point in my productive life.
That’s when he delivered one of his unexpected perspective adjustments that I needed.
“Let me tell you something that’s absolutely true, the next 10 years of your life will be your very best. You see you’ve come to a place where you possess the highest combination of both energy and wisdom that you’ll ever have. The next 10 years will be your most productive yet.”
So, though it may be true that I’m over half-way through my life, I realized, to great joy, that I may not have yet reached the half-way point in my potential contribution to this world and to Christ’s Kingdom. So once again Neil, thank you.43.928283-85.286682