Every once in awhile in life you need to pull the rainbow glasses out.
What are the rainbow glasses?
In my last career, I managed and developed youth education programs. One of my favorite programs each year was about spring rain and rainbows. Since you cannot predict when a rainbow will happen, we made instant rainbows by having the children put on rainbow glasses.
Rainbow glasses give every light a halo rainbow. They were cheap paper glasses (think 3-D) that we got from some scientific supply store. Every time the children put on the glasses, whatever they were looking at – no matter how ordinary – became an oooh and aaah.
For a buck twenty-five, they were one of the cheapest thrills we had.
When Marge and I started doing educator conferences, we would always do the rainbow glasses bit tied into a lesson about bees. Bees see things differently than we do. Their world is lit up like a neon runway leading down every flower towards pollen. What would it be like to see the world like a bee?
Enter the rainbow glasses. Grown adults would be begging for a chance to put them on. They’d get wide-eyed, put the glasses on and then look up at the standard and bland classroom lights with their mouths hanging open. It was like they had never seen a fluorescent light before. The same one that beats down on them every single day.
They had seen the same light in a different light – thanks to rainbow glasses making even the most mundane things exciting.
It became a running joke that whenever something was going wrong in the workplace all you had to do was dig in Liz’s file cabinet (and it was massive, it was a file cabinet with a testy drawer that I was convinced would one day eat me alive), look at file under RAINBOW and pull out the rainbow glasses. Put them on and see things differently.
One day a co-worker dared me to drive home while wearing the glasses. I didn’t live very far so it seemed safe enough. But be warned – you should never drive while wearing rainbow glasses. Sometimes seeing the world differently is good but not safe. Stoplights are red for a reason. They are not rainbow.
Someone once said the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Every once in awhile we are thrown something in life that forces us to look at things differently. Even when we are stuck seeing things the same way for a long time I believe something in life will happen to force us to see things differently.
This year I have seen things differently. I keep saying that if I walk away with nothing else, I walk away with perspective. The full spectrum of triathlon – success, failure and all the lands in between. Rainbow glasses this year have been a two way street. In one sense, they were put on me. I was racing the same race but it looked different. It became like driving home with the glasses on. I could see but it was awkward and involved a lot of risks. In another sense I had to put them on to see my ‘failures’ as something more than that. Failure is something each of us personally has to define. To me it’s only a failure if I fail to learn something from it. Sometimes the glasses helped me see color in what otherwise was a pretty dark day.
This past weekend, I pulled out the rainbow glasses - yet again. I had worked hard for my first pro Ironman race and made the most rookie of mistakes – not making it to the starting line. All of the miles and work – gone. Unnecessary. Could have just been training shorter or recovering sooner instead. In retrospect I can now list about a dozen things I did to set myself up to fail like that. The doctor prescribed antibiotics but disappointment in myself was the tougher pill to swallow last Tuesday.
I thought about lamenting over the whole thing but instead dug out the rainbow glasses and of course things looked differently. It wasn’t a failure, it was an opportunity. To learn and become smarter for next time. To get extra rest, to travel away with friends, to give my body much needed recovery. One door closed and another opened to a play day at the zoo, an incredible hike in the Grand Canyon and even more self-discovery.
If you feel stuck right now, confused, discouraged or disappointed with where you are at – maybe it’s time to pull out the rainbow glasses. They will open your eyes to all of the colors that already surround you. At times it’s hard to reconcile with disappointment or being some place that we are not satisfied but it will pass or perspective will change. Maybe it’s not glasses but just framing your mind different for a day, talking to a new friend or going for a walk to shake up the scenery. In any case – it’s a change. Force yourself to see things differently. Change your attitude. Put on the glasses and look ahead.
But whatever you do – don’t drive. Take my word for it that the glasses are best not worn when operating heavy machinery.