A guy I know told me a story about when he was growing up.
He said his dad worked away from home a lot.
The family: mum, two sons, one daughter, lived together in a largish house.
The father lived, Monday to Friday, in a flat a long way away.
He usually came home to visit the family at weekends.
Everyone knew the dad didn’t have much time for the family.
They knew he preferred to work away from home.
They knew it because whenever he came home he was in a bad mood.
He didn’t say much to anyone.
So the atmosphere was quite frigid.
He was grumpy and couldn’t wait to get away, back to his job.
So they knew he felt distant from the family.
At least that was their reality.
However, this guy had reconciliation with his dad before he died.
He asked his dad why he didn’t like coming home.
His dad said, “Are you crazy?
I couldn’t get a decent job near where we lived.
But I wanted my family to have the best life I could provide.
So I eventually found a better paying job, but it meant working in a different town.
I didn’t want to disrupt everyone, so I went on my own.
But I absolutely hated leaving my family.
All week I used to sit in my little flat on my own, and dream about the weekend and coming home.
How thrilled you’d all be to see me, how we’d all hug each other.
How you’d tell me all the things you’d been up to all week.
And you’d want to know what had happened to me.
But when I walked in the door, no one wanted to talk to me.
Everyone just looked up, and went back to watching TV.
I’d been away all week from the thing I wanted most.
I’d been doing nothing but working all day, and coming back to the flat on my own at night.
Just so my family could have a good life.
And no one cared.
No one was grateful and no one wanted to talk to me, so I didn’t talk.”
No wonder he got upset.
His reality was that he was sacrificing everything for the good of his family.
But he never told his family this.
He expected them to know.
But the family didn’t know, because he never told them.
Their reality was, he can’t love us because he keeps leaving us.
And each thought theirs was the only reality.
It never crossed their minds that their reality was just an interpretation.
So they lived it and, by living it, reinforced the interpretation.
Until it eventually became the reality.
Even though it wasn’t.
And if that guy hadn’t talked to his dad about it, before he died, they’d never have known.
Think about that next time you think you know what someone else’s reality is.
Like when you think you know what your creative director’s thinking.
When you think he doesn’t like you, for whatever reason.
Or when you think you know what everyone in advertising thinks about you.
When you think they all think you’re too old.
Or they think you haven’t won enough awards.
Or you’re just not trendy enough.
Or you’re too cocky.
Or when you let your interpretation of other people’s realities stop you.
You worry they’ll think you’re too arrogant.
Or they’ll think you’re a suck-up.
Or they’ll laugh at you.
When you let something that doesn’t even exist control your life.
See we don’t live in reality.
We live in our interpretation of reality.
And that’s what stops us.