Today’s post is the monthly reflection from the October 2003 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

Upside DownIt wasn’t an idea I had searched to find. But one, I suppose, that had searched to find me. One idea in one word. Paradox. The word kept returning to me as I continued to ignore it. Yet, its persistence would not give in. So I did. I finally went to Webster for a technical definition — “A statement that contains two truths, which at first glance seem incompatible.” Then a more confusing thought persisted. “Life is not really what it appears to be on the surface.” WHAT?!!? In short order I finally began to open my eyes to this persistent thought. I pondered it for some time and began to see profound example after example. They appeared in solving challenging problems, in numerous relationships, on the interstate, in my work and in my home. In the late nineties, I had continually shared the obvious in numerous keynotes — we are living in a world thrust into an exponentially increasing speed of change. But it was the “paradox” that helped me see the real impact — living our life on the surface. It hit me as I was walking on the beach in Sarasota. I thought of two friends and how they would describe that beautiful scenic walk. One friend, Jim, is a self- acclaimed beach bum. Jim would describe the sun, the white caps, the sand, body surfing and sailing. All beautiful, all enticing — and all on the surface. Bob is a scuba diver. He would describe coral, beautiful fish, deep caves. All beneath what is visible from the beach.

Paradox, like scuba diving, invites you below the surface. It calls you to an adventure of flip-flops and opposites. And as my 11-year old daughter would say — it takes you upside down and turns you around. Technically, a paradox is usually represented by some complex and contradictory mathematical formula that has remained unsolved for years. Yet, for us, the more useful paradox is an opposite, a flip-flop or a play on words. But the wisdom and insight they can provide, leap way beyond their simplicity. Less is more. Perfection is imperfect. The faster I go, the further behind I get. The need to control is controlling. And silence speaks volumes. Over the last six years I have collected a list of over 300 examples. When I present this paradox idea to my audiences, I am amazed how quickly they begin to come up with incredibly insightful additions to the list! More importantly, I amazed how quickly we are able to share practical insights into how they open our eyes to what is happening below the surface — in relationships, problem solving, strategic planning and the very way we see (and eventually experience) life!