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Seeing Spots, Part I: What Blind Spot?

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Remember that cruel, uninspired prank bullies used to pull in school — the one where they secretly stuck a ‘kick me’ sign to the back of some unsuspecting kid’s shirt, and then that poor kid walked around all day wondering why everybody was kicking him?? Sorry if that dredges up some painful memories, but it’s a classic example of how what we don’t know (or can’t see) can hurt us. And although those schoolyard hijinks are safely in the rearview mirror (hopefully!), there’s a good chance that life is continuing to sneak some figurative ‘kick me’ signs onto your back now and then. Let’s call them blind spots.

Anatomically, of course, we all have literal, physical blind spots — in our eyes, at the intersection of optic nerve and retina (right between the microscopic Starbucks and … the other microscopic Starbucks, I like to imagine). But the kind of blind spots we need to talk about here are less obvious, and in some ways more troubling — gaps in knowledge, understanding, or impartiality that we can’t - or don’t want to - see. They’re different for everyone, but we all have them.

If you’ve ever stared into the darkness of your grandma’s ear canal during a FaceTime call, then you know what I’m talking about. From your point of view, you can easily see that her conversations could be vastly improved if she would just hold the phone a few inches away from her ear (and from hers, she can easily see that you would stop falling into sinkholes if you looked up from your phone while you walk). See? Blind spots!

Grandma’s technology foibles and your charming clumsiness might be amusing, but things get decidedly less funny when blind spots start sabotaging your career or your relationships. We can do everything in our power to learn and gain experience in areas where we suspect our knowledge to be lacking, but at the end of the day we still don’t know … what we don’t know. You can read every book ever written about how to play the tuba, but none of them will help your struggling tuba shop if you don’t see that your accountant got his degree from a Cracker Jack box or that your website crashes every time someone clicks ‘add to cart’. Similarly, you can work six jobs to afford an extravagant lifestyle for your spouse, only to end up disappointing them because all they ever really wanted was your time.

Blind spots can be confounding and frustrating because no amount of effort on our part can change the fact that our individual perspective is inherently limited — we simply cannot see all of the things, all of the time.

Wondering if a blind spot could be getting in your way? Ask yourself:

1. Do I have some unsolvable issues? Do you find yourself struggling with difficulties that you can’t find a solution for — seemingly unsolvable problems? Do you have some issues that crop up repeatedly?

2. Do I feel stuck? Do you feel frustrated, unable to make meaningful progress despite your best efforts?

3. Am I spending too much time on this? Have you spent a disproportionate amount of time and energy trying to solve a problem, only to give up or settle for a less-than-satisfactory solution?

Do these questions have you seeing (blind) spots? Don’t kick yourself! Stay tuned for my follow-up piece on how to get those pesky signs off your back …

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