I love the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin asks his dad about some old pictures.
Calvin: Why are these pictures black and white?
Dad: Because color wasn't invented until 1952. The whole world was black and white before then.
Calvin: Then why didn't these pictures turn color with everything else?
Dad: They did. Those are color pictures of a black and white world.
Everyday I meet people who are taking black and white pictures of a color world. From my perspective, anyway.
I'm not talking about monochrome film noir techniques - I'm talking about an unwillingness to embrace the spectrum between black and white. Instead of dealing with the millions of possibilities between infrared and ultraviolet, some people mentally polarize the issues, challenges, and options in an attempt to reduce the world to one choice or the other.
Wouldn't it be nice to just have two options? This or that. Hire or fire. Up or down. Democrat or Republican. Fight or flight. You're with us or you're against us.
With just two options, you'd always be even odds. Pick one choice, and if it's wrong pick the other. You just can't be far off. And it's easy to see who's with you: either they want what you want and are a "good guy," or they don't and are therefore a "bad guy."
Yet reality is much richer and more complex and maddening.
Don't pick the wrong choice
My eldest daughter recently asked me to get some shaving cream for her while on an errand. "Just get the aloe vera sensitive skin stuff!" she called out as I walked out the door. "No problem!" I yelled back.
You probably know what's coming.
When I got to the store, there were 4 aloe vera, 5 sensitive skin, and 3 with both. And that was just the women's shaving cream section.
My chances were 11 in 12 that I would pick the wrong one. I was doomed.
I desparately longed for a single brand called "Aloe Vera Sensitive Skin Stuff." I reread all the labels for clues of which one she wanted. I tried to picture the shower shelf and the color of the can I had to move everyday to get to my soap and shampoo. But when I opened my eyes, none of the cans looked familar. So after a few agonizing moments I ended up just picking one I hoped would work and tossed it into my cart.
Reality is fraught with more opportunity for success and failure than we would like
There is no silver bullet or magic potion that will make our choices easy. Life, especially where it involves people, is not black-and-white but instead a shimmering spectrum of colors and choices and options.
The trick is to embrace the rainbow and be willing to step from red-orange to orange-red to fuschia when that is what is needed.
So for what it's worth, I recommend taking the oh-so-tempting, nostalgic monochrome filter off and get ok with the fact that there is no perfectly right answer. For you. For your work. For the people you care about.
Dive right in to the crazy complexity of life, and know that your choice is you doing your best.
And someday you'll get to ride off into a beautiful red-orange-yellow-pink-and-tinged-with-turquoise sunset. With well-shaved legs.