It’s a question that has fundamentally changed how I perceive the world. It started with photography but became much bigger than that.
For a long long time, I’d been asking myself a different question, and probably a counterproductive one: “what do I see?”
Back when I was shooting photographs every day, I had a habit of looking around, seeing what was in front of me, and shooting just that.
This led to some pretty ok photographs — after all, I knew about light, lenses, composition… But every decent photographer can do that.And then I started asking myself what became a very important question beyond just photography:
“What am I NOT seeing?”
This question prompted me to probe deeper, to see the ordinary in a new way. Suddenly, I was seeing things other image makers couldn’t, and it was making me more unique in my field.
But more importantly, it was prompting me to go beyond my own assumptions in a broader sense. I was pushed to look at situations from different angles, and to understand my world from new perspectives. I became more open minded. Relating to others became easier.
Nowadays, ESPECIALLY when I encounter a situation or person I seem to disagree with, I ask myself, “what am I not seeing?” What is it about their point of view that goes beyond what I currently believe myself?
Understanding these other perspectives not only expands our own, but it also encourages dialogue. It creates the opportunity for change. People tend to listen better after they’ve felt heard themselves.“What am I not seeing?”
This little question opens our hearts. It creates space for communication. It enables deeper understanding.But asking this question takes courage. It’s easier to conclude, “my opinion is robust enough” and leave it at that. It takes humility to acknowledge that we may not have the whole picture — especially when we feel like we do.
Most of us will readily admit that we are not right 100% of the time. But actions speak louder than words, and I believe that if we act as if there’s a slight chance we’re even 1% wrong, we’ll welcome a whole new world of possibility.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and empathy-filled new year,