Don’t have “wolf eyes”

Some inspiration from Jeff Haden.

It’s easy to view even those we know extremely well through the lens of one slice — a mistake, a misstep, a blunder, an ill-chosen word — and then forever view them through the lens of that moment. Yet everyone is the sum of their parts, and when we view people through the lens of that one slice we miss the rest of them: their skills, their strengths, their meaning in our lives….

How often do you fall into this trap? I call it the “wolf eyes.” We can often become like wolves on the prowl, looking under every rock for something he or she said that might discredit his or her testimony. We’ll discount someone’s entire influence because of a controversial Facebook post, an unfortunate off-the-cuff comment, or even speculative reports about his or her private life.

But is this helpful? With wolf eyes, we’ll always find something wrong with everyone. If we keep them on for too long, we’ll run out of people to admire. We’ll find ourselves alone atop the tower we built that hides our own failures from others and gives us a sense of moral superiority over the rest of the world. We’ll lose any sense of urgency or challenge we felt from those we once admired.

People make mistakes, and those mistakes can be worth noting. Sometimes they can even be damning. But they usually aren’t. So instead of looking for mistakes, look for solutions. View failures as problems to be solved—as areas where improvement is needed and can happen. Think of others’ shortcomings as just one chapter among the dozens that comprise their full body of work, and not as a seal of disapproval on the front cover. You’ll be a happier, more inspirational person for it.

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