My wife and business partner, Julie, enjoys a nice cold Perrier sparkling water as her preferred beverage.  Although she finds it very refreshing, anyone who is familiar with the green, bottled water knows that once it gets warm or flat your dog might not even want to drink it.  To avoid wasting water, Julie saves unfinished bottles and uses them to water the hanging plants in our front yard.

A few years ago I met with a professional colleague at my home office.  He was thinking of starting his own business. Since starting a business requires sacrifice and always brings a few unexpected challenges, I emphasized that starting your own business should not be a Plan B and that you need to feel like there is not a back-up option to be fully committed.

I shared the story of my first year in business that I call our “investment year” meaning that we spent a LOT of time and money to build content, a reputation and relationships while we made very little income.  I shared that even once you get over the hump, you still have to hustle to grow the business.

After balancing my caution with encouragement, he thanked me and we walked to my office door.  As he  walked out to get into his car he saw Julie in the front yard doing what?  Watering our plants with Perrier!

So, he turned back to me as I stood in the doorway and said, “Gee, Lee, you must be doing MUCH better than I thought!” No doubt, we have been blessed in many ways, but not yet to the point where we use fresh Perrier sparkling water to water our plants.

Without the context I provided you at the beginning, the looks of this situation could be deceiving. I remember learning a powerful lesson in my Social Psychology class at Florida State University. The situation or context is everything. So, we must seek to understand the full context to gain the correct meaning from an interaction or problem.

Taking this topic more literally, check out these two images that were captured using a scanning electron microscope. The incredible details of an object 1 to 5nm (nanometers) in size can be detected, thereby creating a different visual context.

Take a guess at what you think they are before looking below each image.

This is a split end of human hair. Make a mental note to stop by the store for more conditioner!

These are blood vessels emerging from the optic nerve. In this image, stained retinal blood vessels are shown to emerge from the black-colored optic disc.

Remember, take the time to inquire, learn and get the full picture. It will help you respond to the other party’s reality, not just yours, because looks can be deceiving.

Our Executive NavigationSM coaching process helps you see the full picture.