In their wonderful book, The Art of Possibility, Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander share a humorous story to illustrate a point that “it’s all invented.”

First, let me explain “it’s all invented.”  Ben and Roz tell us that our understanding of the world is based upon our own perception of it.  And while we believe in our ability to “know everything” because we can see it or smell it or touch it, we must remember that dogs have far superior olfactory senses, bees can detect ultraviolet colors in flowers, bats and dolphins can navigate by sonar and owls can see in the dark.  We perceive far less of the physical world that some other animals; we just have greater cognitive functions.

The Zanders’ book is about changing the way you interact with the world.  They offer 12 practices for transforming professional and personal life.  It is truly a remarkable read.

But back to the story….

They share: 

“A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business.  One sends back a telegram saying:  SITUATION HOPELESS   STOP   NO ONE WEARS SHOES

“The other writes back triumphantly:  GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY   STOP   THEY HAVE NO SHOES”

Ben and Roz suggest that each reaction is a matter of perception.

Imagine you run a funeral home in an area that has shifted from traditional burial toward cremation and more personalized services.  I’ve talked to funeral directors in this situation and there are two distinct reactions:

SITUATION HOPELESS   STOP   NO ONE WANTS TRADITIONAL FUNERALS ANYMORE

or

GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY   STOP   NO ONE IS OFFERING WHAT PEOPLE REALLY WANT

When this change comes to your community, will you “go down with the ship,” all the while complaining about the lack of customers for your traditional burials?  Or will you see a great new business opportunity and change with your customers?

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