Thinking About the Oddities of Perspective

Posted: August 28, 2021 in General Commentary, Uncategorized

I live in awe of many accomplished individuals. I’m constantly amazed at what exceptional people have done, from building empires or find solutions to scientific problems – to artists who create objects or imagery that imparts a sense of wonder. From my personal perspective, I have done nothing to compare. Yet, I don’t allow this to inhibit by own pursuits. To the contrary, I use this to inspire, to drive me to continue to try new things, to continue to perfect what I already do, and to remain committed to be who and what I am.

The common theme of those I admire, is that they do what they do within context of their interests, not for fame and/or fortune. They are not seekers of recognition; recognition is a by-product of their success. Conversely, I have a real distaste for the likes of Kardashians – who will do anything for fame while contributing nothing. The artists, scientists, developers, a couple of financial gurus, and more than a few dozen business leaders I draw inspiration from, are those who have accomplished great things as a product of what they do or how they do it.

Since my interests have been diverse from a very early age – I have experienced a great many things that have accumulated to a wide range of abilities. As a kid, I was surrounded by do-it-yourself adults and small business owners. I was given great latitude to experiment and try new things. When I asked why or how, I was blessed with nurturing adults ready to give instruction and guidance, and leave me to it. In this, I failed, and succeeded, on my own terms. From my perspective, I grew up thinking everyone could do most everything, from fixing a washing machine and servicing their own cars, to building a garage or starting a business. Growing up in Wenatchee Washington, surrounded by apple orchards and the influence of a strong 4H, I found good company in others who could also do things for themselves. It seemed to me that we all had paper routes, made go-karts from wood, rode bicycles made from parts, rode unicycles to school, played with science kits, rebuilt lawn mower engines, shot targets on Wednesday night, snow and water skied, played roles in drama club, hiked in the mountains, painted murals on friends walls, and won ribbons at the State Fair for making things or delivering presentations. My first ever presentation critique was on a presentation I made about gun safety, at the age of 12. Doing these things was nothing extraordinary, it was just what you did.

As an adult, I just kept doing the same thing, over a widening range of interests, shedding a few along the way. I don’t build found-object bikes, or rebuild the neighbors toto-tiller motors any longer, for example. The result is that I tend to dig into new things until I reach either a point of saturation, time constraint, or lose interest. From my personal perspective, I assumed this was what everyone did, nothing special. My career choices, design and consulting businesses have included a similarly diverse range of services. Lighting design, product design, art objects, UV cure system development, product testing, prototype building, architectural model making, market research, technology evaluation, business case review, investment evaluation, editorial writing, technical white paper writing, CEU educational program building, marketing, engineering, strategic planning, product roadmapping, web site design, graphic design, 3D printing of things, and even, recently, a car restoration. In my spare time, I goof around with motorcycles, race cars, fix things around the house, and make art. From my perspective, I see nothing wrong with this diversity. However, in retrospect, I recognize the value of focus and realize I might have done more in a narrower field of interest. I recognize that there are individuals with greater focus, that are superior to me in many of the areas of interest.

One advantage of being an autodidact, and unfocused, for many years, is that while I may not be the ultimate expert at everything (far from it), I understand things with a perspective born from engagement from many angles. So, while I may not be the best marketer, I know enough about marketing and its constituent fundamental elements, to be able to work well with marketing experts, add value to the interaction, and aid them in delivering better results for those I am engaged by. From my perspective, so much of what we all do involves interactions between numerous subject experts, that being diverse means I am unique in being able to build the connective tissues that is a struggle to create when topical experts interact alone.

Irregardless, I have enjoyed a great career with challenges that have led to new opportunities to learn and grow. I have evolved a form of de-facto focus. For the most part I consider my real focus is on three primary areas – Lighted art object creation, product design and development, and strategic planning. All of these require effort across a broad range of interests, and demand interaction with others that benefit from being knowledgeable and empathetic to their needs. These topics are where I pass the 10,000hr test.

Meanwhile, for my own lifestyle, I do as much for myself as possible. Not to show off, but to capitalize on a life of diverse learning (and to save a few bucks). For example – my recent website rebuild. I made every Lighted Art Object and product presented (excepting the OLEDs employed), authored every word, created every graphic, took every photo, and built every page and linked content to my storefront, and this blog. While I used software to facilitate this effort, my total budget spent on web site development and content was $0.00. From my perspective, if you can, you do.

This all said, I am surprised by the number of times I have been chastised and accused of exaggerating, or outright lying about my background – that no one individual has ever done all of these things, or had this diverse an interest pool. A respected professional friend once told me that he did not believe I could do most of what I said I was doing or had done, that I lacked credibility. Another accused me of embellishing my past in a self published semi-biography / technical guidebook I wrote about go-karting named ‘Kart’. From their perspective, what I was saying and had done was not possible. I still don’t understand this, and was hurt by the accusations. While we all have stories we tell with a flourish, I do not misrepresent my experiences and abilities – as I have no reason to. So, I have learned to dismiss these folks, and similar comments, without understanding where they are coming from – to avoid feeling constrained by them. I do find it disappointing to think that there might be those who avoid interacting, as I feel I have a great deal to offer and enjoy new engagements where I can add value.

From my perspective, compared to those I revere as accomplished and deserving of awe – I don’t feel extraordinary. I also believe that most folks have a diverse background. I see it regularly – from a plant manager who is also a Ford performance car expert with experience at the 24hrs of LeMans, an electronics engineer that is also a developer of sustainable alternative energy home design, a Casino magnate who is a Ferrari restoration expert, a newspaper publisher who owns an art gallery coffee shop – to a photography artists I know that is also a well respected business consultant, author, and white water rafting guide. My uncle owned a muffler shop, built race cars, and built a tube bending business – simultaneously. My father was a teacher, an engineer, really heavy furniture maker, and motorcycle nut, that did everything for himself – while tolerating and attempting to mentor a teenage son bent on making his life a living hell.

What I have come to realize, is that for those who perceive within a limited scope – their perception of folks that are less focused appear to lack credibility, as they will never understand what drives them, how they fit more into their lives, or how they can engage in so many topical areas. Unfortunately, from my experience, these individuals will frequently avoid engaging those with diverse backgrounds and experiences. That’s a shame. From my perspective, the blending of focused experts, joined with those of diverse backgrounds and interests, is a combination that cannot be beat. People with true focus and narrow interests often fail to see peripheral issues and dynamics of interactions that diverse people engage in so freely. Diverse individuals benefit from the perspective of the focused, which brings exceptional depth of information, consolidates direction, or keeps things on track. In business, managers who have a diverse perspective are able to understand the perspectives of all team members, and exhibit empathy more readily, than those who have a myopic focus based on a narrow view. Diverse individuals will also enthusiastically share with others on a practical level, lay the groundwork for focused experts to build on.

From my personal perspective, the most enjoyable engagements are those involving open minded individuals from a wide range of interests – focused and unfocused. It has taken a lifetime to learn that this can also be a point of contention with a few individuals. That’s life. I must admit to a similar aversion to those so myopically focused that they refuse to look beyond the boxes they build around their singularity. They appear to perceive any effort to engage, as a threat to their priority, giving them license to be snobbish or aloof. I even met one that stated within minutes of meeting “Have you ever met someone you know you would dislike right away?” accompanied by a very sly little smile. Their perspective on life is beyond my comprehension.

I also admit to being guilty of enthusiastically engaging in activities that leads me to overreach. In this regard, I am most grateful for the professionalism of focused experts involved, who have been patient and taken the time to redirect my energies into more informed, productive results, and enlightened me. From my perspective, I hold them in high regard. Not so much for those who use the opportunity to criticize or denigrate. I don’t believe this perspective is unique. Focused or not, we all benefit from meaningful, productive dialog…. which seems to be a rare commodity in a universe saturated with the pollution of Social Media.

  1. James Highgate says:

    Kevin –
    I have known you for many years (30+) and have similar amazing life stories. I would never say or allude that you have a “Walter Mitty” history. The naysayers and doubters are just that…ordinary folks that don’t or can’t think outside their walls. I get that same treatment ALL of the time. “you can’t possibly have done those things”. Well, I did and as described, you have too.
    A couple quotes from Extraordinary life.
    “Of course ordinary or extraordinary is all relative. It’s relative to an individual’s life situation, dreams, aspirations, history, experience, education, or background, among other things. A shift in any of these characteristics can result in something ordinary becoming extraordinary; and also the reverse!” and “According to the dictionary, ordinary is defined as “of no special quality or interest; commonplace; unexceptional.” Can the accumulation of frequent ordinary experiences add up to the conclusion that some of us simply lead ordinary lives?”.

    At the most basic level, the word “extraordinary” means “ beyond the ordinary,” “beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established;” or instead: “exceptional in character, amount, extent, degree; noteworthy; remarkable.

    Kevin – You keep doing you and I will be me living in our ordinary-extraordinary world.

    • kwillmorth says:

      Nice comments James. Dig the quotes as well. It was pointed out to me that I had indeed recently made a bike from found objects, two actually. One Tandem and one with a motor, both sold at a modest profit even. Oops.

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