The other night I had a thought that I wanted to share. For those of you who know me from college you'll remember that my Architectural thesis was for a space in a virtual reality. For those of who who weren't there to experience the drama first hand, before I could design a space that couldn't be physically inhabited for a project that should have been for a "real space" I had to prove that the thesis I proposed would qualify under a broader definition of "real" and "space". Long story short perception came to play a big role in my analysis & I came across the work of M.C. Escher. He's most well known for the images of all the stairs that look like they're going in more than one direction at once.
You know it when you see it. Any geek worth their salt has heard of an Escher room and If I were to describe it to someone who is unfamiliar, the most relevant pop culture reference I can think are the stairs in the Harry Potter movies that swing from one place to another and change direction. Only in the Escher images the stairs aren't actually moving, only your perception of their direction changes.
In Facebook groups, chat rooms, & on-line forums (I know I'm dating myself - no one uses chat rooms & forums anymore) the question I see most often is "How did you get to where you are now?" "What were the exact steps that you took to get there?" "How long can I expect it to take me if I do exactly what you said you did?" I'm sure I've probably asked the same things too. Unfortunately even if you did the exact same things, in the exact same order, and for the exact same amount of time, you might not find yourself in the same position.
I see comments all the time from people saying that something doesn't work because their experience differed from someone else's. Now take a look at the Escher image. Imagine being given directions by someone who previously navigated from one door to another, without them seeing where you are, like this "Well I stepped out of the door and went to the first staircase I saw, I took it up to the next stair, made a right, took the following stair down & that was how I got out." Depending where you started you might be scratching your head thinking "Up? but the first stair is going down!" or "If I make a right I'm facing a dead end." It sounds hopeless right?
Does that mean that there's no way out? No it just depends on where you imagined yourself at the beginning, where you imagined being at the end, and what you perceive to be up down, left or right. Change any one tiny detail and you can end up somewhere totally different. Well, when trying to follow someone else's exact steps there's already one gigantic difference staring you in the face. YOU ARE NOT THAT PERSON. Your process & outcome will be different. Not impossible. Just different.
This brings me to the second way that Escher's room is like success that I learned as a team leader.
Take 2 random women & put them together. One woman might look at the other, a homemaker and think "That poor woman. Inside her home with her family all the time. All she does is cook, clean, play with children, run from play date to play date. She doesn't even have a real job" The home maker might look at the other, a corporate executive and think "Wow! That woman is all over the place. Shes on another plane to another place every 3 days. She works 24/7. Shes tethered to her phone, constantly doing conference calls. She never gets the time to relax and spend a few days home, or with other moms to watch how her kids play with others. That's no way to live."
Do you see the problem here? Both women have different ideas of what success means to them. For the homemaker her big goal might be to be able to spend as much time with her family as she wants. The executive might enjoy traveling and having her finger on the pulse of whats happening in the world. They may have entered the room through the exact same door but decided to take different staircases. Or maybe they took the same stair but one imagines that stair going up while the other down. They can't have a conversation about the path the others life should take until they agree to respect each others perception of what success means for them. There's no point in judging - both are right.
The third similarity between success and Escher's room is that the paths aren't straight or direct. They're confusing! Sometimes you're going up & sometimes down. It can all depend on the way you're looking at the problem now. Pick a stair. What direction is it going? Now look away then look back again, close one eye, shift your focus. Such small changes can alter your perception of this same image but it hasn't moved or changed, you have.
I don't believe that success is based purely on luck. I do believe that it is based on a series of events that put you exactly where you needed to be at the exact moment you needed to be there. That you or someone else did something to increase your chances of ::fill in the blank::. Maybe you did that thing once and it was enough or maybe you had to do it a few times before getting the hang of it. Regardless, if you gave up you would not have found success. Period. I don't know anyone who does not want anything in life or that does nothing that has found success. You have to change your perception so that regardless of where you are now, you keep moving in the direction you want to go and you never allow yourself to believe that getting there is impossible.
Many people will look at Escher's image and say that there's no way out. DON'T be one of those people and DON'T even allow yourself to listen to them because if they keep telling you that stair leads down when you think it leads up, your focus will start to change and you'll start believing them.
The video below was a part of my thesis and is a perfect example of how much your focus determines your reality.
I've added Escher's image to my inspiration board as a reminder of these three similarities to success and that at the end of the day it's all relative.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words so, now when you look at that image you'll hopefully remember my words. Leave it to me to explain something with another thing that's more complicated. Did you get it though? Let me know what you think in the comments below
Wishing you much success,