Perspective is critically needed right now. Pause with me – to think about what is missing in modern dialogue. Why do we indulge blinders? What is perspective? Why does it matter? How do you get it?
Getting knocked down is viewed – by those who have not been, or think they will not be – as bad. But is it? What does the person who gets knocked down have – that others do not? A chance to get back up – and in getting up knowledge, how to rally, rise, persist, prevail, and overcome.
What is that worth? A lot actually, more than most everything else. Here is why. Only by facing adversity, the bad stuff, stuff that really hurts, in each of life’s different lanes – the physical, emotional, psychological or mental, and spiritual – can you gain the confidence needed to get beyond.
Get beyond what? The inevitable next hit, next blow, next test of your balance, ability to resist, to hold your physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual place or pace, to ride out the storm, then regroup – fortified by knowing you can because you have – better still, confidence to help others.
So, getting knocked down is not all bad, and might be the very thing – the critical perspective – that guarantees success, builds strength, helps you to see what you can do and what others are going through, what they may need. This may be what is missing these days.
But even this is not exactly right. Even this idea – that getting knocked down is a good thing, a blessing not a curse, a way to challenge yourself, build yourself up, become a rock for others, is not exactly right.
Why? Because it takes perspective to gain perspective. Just being knocked down does not guarantee you see the goodness before you, the chance to rise, strive, and grow, the innate power that resides in being forced to go from down to up, a chance to prove and improve, not drift.
So, here is the question within the question: How do you find in yourself, and seed in others, the perspective to see opportunity in adversity, the point of view that says here is my shot, a chance to flip the hourglass, start sand running the other way, use this thing most do not want to my advantage?
And the answer to that question is one you can only find inside – and thus, have to suggest to others they can only find inside. How does the young person addicted to high potency drugs finally say, enough, I want to get up out of this pit, get beyond, make of myself what I know I can, rise, not dwell?
How does the person facing loss of job, home, friend, or family, maybe some combination, maybe a tough physical diagnosis, perhaps disappointment, embarrassment, shame, anxiety, or loneliness, maybe a new frailty or just old ghosts and demons – realize that these challenges are a gift – the dark backdrop against which light becomes visible, the only real way to know yourself, how strong you really are, how strong you can become, eventually to model resilience.
Perspective, in the end, is about wanting to have perspective, wanting to understand what you do not understand, and resolving to grow by accepting the daunting nature of the quest. Some will say this takes faith. Others will say this is about trust, humility, risk taking, and willpower.
Actually, it is about all five – faith, trust, humility, risk taking, and willpower. Only by stopping to say “I want to regain or gain perspective” do you start to get it. Only by wanting to understand how others see the world, how you can see it more fully, and grow through that process – actually get stronger from it – do you get it. To live, you must want to live. To grow, you must want to grow. To recover, you must want to recover. To regain perspective, you must want it.
Perhaps one of the greatest and humblest thinkers on everything from general relativity and thermodynamics to miracles – was Albert Einstein. You might say, he was “big on perspective.”
Einstein put words around timeless truths. He had the knack. “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it,” he reminded us. “In order to understand ourselves, others, and the world around us, we need to be able to change and adapt our perspectives.” And that I suppose is good place to stop, or to start – depending on your perspective.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.