#12 Be curious, not judgmental

I was chatting with a friend today, complaining about how I feel like folks keep underestimating me and how it can get exhausting, just constantly a uphill battle to prove folks wrong. Honestly, I’d be lying if I said that didn’t factor into why I do some of the things I do and how I do it. My friend asked me if I’d watched Ted Lasso and seen the scene where he’s throwing darts and talking about how folks constantly underestimated him. One of the quotes was:

Be curious, not judgemental

In the show Ted revealed that he was frustrated when he felt that others were underestimating and belittling him. At some point he realized that all those people that underestimated him, they just weren’t curious and their perspective had very little to do with him. Because they weren’t curious, they didn’t ask a lot of questions so they didn’t get to know him. In the case of Ted Lasso, they didn’t realize that he was an expert dart player because he played darts with his father when he was child, all the way up until his father passed away. What a beautiful way to put it.

It’s true, sometimes when people are criticizing you and you feel confused why their reality doesn’t match up with yours, you have to realize that they don’t see it the way you do. People are built to recognize patterns. It’s how we survive as a species. Survival of the fittest if you will. We understand not to touch hot stoves, not because you touch hot stoves each day, but you either saw someone touch a hot stove or you did it once and remember the pain so you don’t dare do it again. When that happens and you form that mental model, and you’ve created a box to operate in. That’s fine and it’s natural for all of us to build those mental models.

As a result, however, we go about our lives thinking about how to place things into boxes. Sometimes you’re that thing, being put into a box by others. There’s no point in getting frustrated. It’s ok to feel the frustration and that the perspectives don’t comport with what you know to be true.

Here’s another way to think about it. There’s a book titled The Giver, by Lois Lowry (spoiler alert). In the book, all the characters live in a world where people only see in black and white. The main character starts to realize that he can see color, but is too afraid to share that revelation with others, in fear of being shunned, or worse, killed as a result of his unique abilities. I won’t give more of the book away, but when I first read the book as a kid, oh boy did it hit me. Since I was a kid, my brain has always frenetic with ideas. I can’t stop thinking about stuff. I just felt like I could see things differently, but I didn’t have the faculties to express all the thoughts running through my head. I thought I was different in that way. Turns out, this is the condition of most people. It’s what made The Giver such a great book. The secret is that we all see things in a slightly different way, with slightly different shades or colors. When I think about it like that, my frustration starts to soften (just a bit) and I feel like I can continue to operate in a world that doesn’t see all the shades of color. It’s our job to paint the picture so the world can see what we do.

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