I am not a photographer, but I appreciate a well-framed picture. I am not a painter, but I hang art that inspires me in places that matter. I am not an artist in a traditional sense, but I very much enjoy that act of creating. In fact, I believe we are all artists in one way, shape or form. Some of us are more creative and some of us are more precise, but all are artists, some by intention, some by accident.

With the proliferation of cameras, all of us take pictures as a way of documenting experiences, reminding us of people we love, or capturing what is not evident to the naked eye. When it comes to still photographs, most of us use digital cameras (likely on our “phone”) that allow us to edit our subject long after the shot, while some of us use standalone cameras and develop the film that captured the moment. Digital or film need not matter, but what does seem to matter is the type of lens we use.  There are standard lenses, wide-angle lenses, telephoto, portrait, and specialty lenses. Each one has its advantages and reason for selection. For example, we don’t want to use a telephoto lens for still-life photography of small objects. At the same time, if we want to bring distant objects closer, a telephoto lens is our tool of choice.

This is not meant to be a tutorial in photography, as I am far from an expert. It is just an opportunity to think about how we see life’s challenges and opportunities. I have learned that we all see life through a different lens. Some of us limit ourselves to the standard lens that focuses only on what our personal experiences allow us to. Some of us are quick to borrow someone else’s lens (e.g., set of eyes, experiences, expertise) to offer additional perspectives so we might be able to bring things we didn’t even see into focus. Still, others who keep our head on a continual swivel have worked hard to develop a collection of lenses that we can swap in and out. I liken it to the following process:

  1. Start with our standard lens (that’s who we are)
  2. Attach the panoramic lens and zoom out as far as we can – take a picture
  3. Attach the macro lens and zoom in as close as necessary – take a picture
  4. Ask others what they see from their lens(es) of choice
  5. Refocus your camera based on their inputs – take the final picture
  6. Share your photograph with others who don’t see what you see

Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to zoom in, zoom out, and work with other artists to frame photographs so that those who limit life to their standard lens could see what we were seeing. Even when we showed pictures from every angle and pointed out exactly what we were seeing, there were others who couldn’t see it. They were so accustomed to seeing life through their standard lens that that was all they saw. Their standard lens informed solely by legacy experiences ensured they saw only what they wanted to see. It was as if they were incapable of seeing things from another perspective.  

I recognize that having been in my career field for more than 22 years now, my standard lens is very different from any lens used by the newest additions of our team. I see things that they don’t see and they see things that I don’t see. If we truly want to see reality, we need to exchange points of view and care enough to see what others are seeing. That ensures that decisions are as informed as they ought be and that those affected by the decisions are afforded the opportunity to understand and better appreciate the bigger picture.

  • Through which type of lens do you see life?
  • How do you involve others who see things differently?
  • Would your team agree that their lens is appreciated and contributes to the overall picture?