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Your Move — What Will It Take to Open Your Eyes?

“Your Move — What Will It Take to Open Your Eyes?”

Avoiding blind spots by changing expectations.

When my father died earlier this year, I was surprised by some important facts at precisely the time I could do nothing with them. That’s not a good place to be, in business or in life.

My father lived in a nursing home, suffering (and I do not use that word casually) with emphysema. My family had expected a slower, more painful decline. But my sister’s call from the emergency room was brief: "Dad’s gone. They can’t keep his heart going."

At the visitation, one of his eighth-grade classmates mentioned to me that Dad was cast in a school play as Grumpy in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." When I related this new piece of paternal lore, few could suppress a knowing laugh.

Communicating with my father was not always easy. He was opinionated, abrupt and, worse, often right. For example, he was given to such take-no-prisoners pronouncements as, "Don’t talk to me about woulda, coulda, shoulda. You just missed your chance. That’s all!"

But he was not difficult with everyone, especially customers and constituents. An entrepreneur who founded and ran a retail furniture business, Dad also won several elective offices. Later he became such a sales star for a major corporation that the trainers made a movie about him.

At the service, one of my father’s young business associates told the group how he relied on my dad for advice, counsel and support — things I rarely relied on Dad for. I was startled to realize that this associate, who is much younger than I, also knew much more about my father than I did. He was my father’s friend.

Next, one of my brothers told about my father’s foibles in a way that made me realize he had enjoyed an entirely different relationship with Dad than I had. Where my brother saw a driven and difficult but good-hearted person, I saw an impatient and often harsh parent. Surprised again, I felt envy and regret.

Now I often wonder about my blind spot in this lost relationship. More important, I wonder about other blind spots I have in my career and life — arrested relationships that aren’t all they could be.

What rich opportunities might we experience if we worked harder to see people, events and challenges with different eyes and expectations?

Maybe none. But perhaps there is more value in talking about "woulda, coulda, shoulda" than my father believed — not with chances already missed, but with chances yet to be taken.

Writer: Scott Pemberton is the publisher of the Edward Lowe PeerSpectives Report. Tell him about your moves at scott@lowe.org.