In these turbulent times, it has become difficult to gain a healthy perspective so we that can invest our energy in productive pursuits. In order to gain perspective on things that matter, it may help to understand what “perspective” really means.
Perspective as we know it today has evolved from the architectural drawings of two Italian architects, Filippo Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti, who lived in Italy in the early 1400s. These noted architects developed a practical method of creating the illusion of depth on a flat surface.
To gain perspective, we need to understand a few of its essential elements. The first is our vantage point, or the fixed point from which we view a scene.
The second is our horizon line, or the point at which the land meets the sky. For example, if we go up in a helicopter, the horizon line gets pushed back and we begin to see more ground and less sky.
The third element, the vanishing point, is a point where lines that are parallel to one another appear to meet at the horizon line. For example, railroad tracks appear to meet at one point at the horizon.
What’s interesting about perspective is that it allows us to create the illusion of depth on a flat piece of paper. What’s even more interesting is that the rules of perspective also apply to how we view our world that, in turn, influences how we view opportunities. Perspective allows us to translate our vision of the world into a set of rules for dealing with the world more successfully. Here are a few examples.
1. A single vantage point limits our understanding of the world. Objects appear very different when we view them from a different position. The moment we move from our vantage point, everything changes. That’s why people who don’t move mentally have difficulties imagining new possibilities. They can see life only from their point of view, and they can’t see new challenges. Good salespeople help prospects discover new vantage points so they can see the world from a different perspective.
2. Without a horizon line our images become distorted. As we look into the future from multiple vantage points, we often ignore the horizon line and make mountains out of molehills. Fear tends to magnify difficulties and often prevents us from seeing genuine opportunities. Fear shrinks the panorama of possibilities. Great salespeople help prospects distinguish mountains from molehills by helping them recognize differences they could not see previously.
3. Imagination influences our perspective. To see things as they are, we must open our eyes. To see things as better than they are, we must close our eyes and imagine new possibilities. People who accept the horizon line as their natural boundary will never go far. In companies where employees are encouraged to imagine and build a more successful company, increased sales become the norm, not the exception. Great sales leaders help salespeople deploy more innovative tools, create more innovative processes, and inject more imagination into each customer conversation.
4. All horizon lines are artificial limitations. Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” How we see the economy today does not matter. What matters is that the horizon line we see will shape our future. The role of a visionary leader is to always push the horizon line back so that people can realize how much further they can go. Good salespeople get their customers to see the horizon line; great salespeople get their customers to follow them around the world.
5. All progress hinges on our perspective. The German poet Schiller wrote, “If you want to study yourself -- look into the hearts of other people. If you want to study other people -- look into your own heart.” To grow in selling and in life, we need to find the right vantage point (so we can find the best point from which to view our opportunities), and recognize that the horizon line is always artificial. We must never mistake outer limitation with our inner potential. There are few limits to how far we can go.
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