A Change in Perspective Can Change Your Career

Mike Camp

Most of us have experienced particularly tough times in our careers, where we might have been struggling a bit and our career outlook didn’t seem very positive. Typically when this happens, we need to make a decision on what we will do to correct this perspective. For some, the decision is to change jobs, but I have found running from a job is usually not the best answer.

When we face challenges, how we perceive the current situation can determine the outcome. A prime example of how our perspective can change the situation is illustrated in the following story. There is a story of a man who was caught stealing in a far-off kingdom. As this man was brought before the king, he was informed the penalty for stealing is death. Despite the stress of the inevitable, the man seemed relatively calm. He knew the king had a beloved, prized horse which was treated like a member of the family and the thief planned on playing a hunch.

When the man was brought before the king to be judged and sent to his execution, the thief asked if he could say a few words. The king agreed. "Your majesty, I know you have a wonderful horse. If you will give me one year to work with him, I will teach your horse to talk. If I am successful, you will spare my life." The king thought over the man’s offer for a moment and agreed.

On the way out of the king’s chamber, one of the man’s friends said, "Are you crazy? You can’t teach the horse to talk! You’ll be dead in a year." To which the temporarily reprieved man replied, "You may be right. But you know what? A lot can happen in a year. I may die from natural causes, the king may die, or the horse may talk."

What I enjoy most about this story was how determined the thief was to change his current situation. He made a ridiculous claim in an attempt to better his perspective, and it worked. He was so committed to changing his current perspective, so he thought outside of the box for a way to accomplish this. How determined are we to make our situation better? Would we have the courage to think outside the box for possibilities? During these tough times, it’s easy to become selfish and think only of our well-being. As leaders, we must always remember, during these tough times, others are watching us to see how we respond. How we choose to respond during these tough times can influence more people than we think.

When I face a situation I am unhappy with or I don’t believe is fair, I remember something former NFL head coach Tony Dungy told me during a conversation we had last year. When he complained to his father about how things were unfair, or how he was unhappy about his current situation, his father would say, "Don’t complain about it. What are you going to do to make the situation better?" It seems so easy to think about how unfair things might be from time to time and try to place blame. When in reality, we should be doing exactly what Mr. Dungy said to do: stop complaining and make it better.

Having the courage to face adversity and respond with professionalism is one of the things which make us leaders. We should all remember how situations can change over time if we focus hard enough on changing our perspective and are committed to truly finding a way to make things better. Sam Walton changed the perspective of retail by thinking outside of the box and by creating the environment of "Save Money. Live Better." He did this by going against the other retailer’s philosophies and by being truly committed to changing his perspective, just like the man in the horse story.

"Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced." – James Baldwin