Is there a bear hiding in your woods? Maybe you can use a little Differ!
The Differ has mentioned his son’s superhero fixation before, so imagine his surprise when an expert on these matters confirmed that the little Differ actually has a superpower called “Eye of the Tiger”. And no, this ain’t Smallville or Heroes. This power is very real, very useful in life-threatening situations, and can teach us a lot about the power of seeing things differently.
We always knew he was different…
Our three-year-old son is awesome – as are all three of our kids in their own way. But the first time we knew there was something really incredible about him was this October. We’d just wrapped up a cottage weekend over Canadian Thanksgiving – with gorgeous weather, beautiful fall colours, and a bunch of little cousins running riot around the place, making up crazy games. A great weekend in other words.
So we were in a happy glow when we stopped at the county dump on the way home and mostly ignored the little voice from the back seat:
“Mommy Daddy there’s a bear in the woods.”
“Uh huh. Sure there is son.”
“Mommy Daddy no really, there’s a bear in the woods! And he’s right there!”
We looked. His older sister looked. No bear.
“Mommy Daddy there IS TOO a big black bear in the woods! JUST LOOK OVER THERE!”
He was starting to get upset, so we looked a little harder where he was pointing. All we could see: a tangle of tree trunks mostly hidden behind a riotous screen of orange and red leaves moving in the breeze. There was no bear anywhere to be seen by our mortal eyeballs.
But just as I was about to drive off, I saw a tree move. Just a little tremble in the leafy top of it. Focusing a bit harder, I followed the trunk down and with great difficulty managed to make out – sure enough – the outline of a bear scratching his back on that tree!
But had that treetop not moved, I can honestly say I could have stared at that spot in the woods for hours and never seen that bear.
But my son did. And a few weeks later we found out why.
He has the Eyes of a Tiger
An optometrist confirmed that our son is a Protonope – that is, he’s been given a rare gift that he shares with less than 1% of the human population. His eyes are built differently from yours or mine; they have the same power to see through the dark forest canopy as a tiger’s.
Camouflage doesn’t work on Protonopic people, nor would it on a tiger. My wife’s grandfather also had this gift, and during the Second World War, he amazed his troopmates with his ability to spot fully camouflaged men hiding in the woods as plain as if they were crouching alone on a street corner.
You can imagine how such a gift would be a valuable asset to any hunter, whether a tiger, a jaguar, a wolf, a bear (all of whom are Protonopic), or a human caveman.
That’s why we call it the “Eye of the Tiger”. And as I tell my son, that’s really really cool.
How everyone else sees it
If you want to know more about Protonopia, you can read all about it in the Wikipedia entry here. Now I’ll warn you, they don’t use the term “Eye of the Tiger”. They call this superpower “Dichromacy” or to use a really, really ugly term that most of you will be more familiar with: “red-green colour blindness”.
But before you start thinking what we all think when we hear that a kid has a “disability” (“Oh that poor child!” or “That must be hard!”) remember what you thought of when I called it “Eye of the Tiger”. If you’re like me, you actually envied him for getting a gift that the rest of us can only dream of getting:
The power to see the world differently. Without even trying.
This blog post isn’t about re-branding colour blindness – although I’m going to work on that with my son. Because even though his ability is an asset in the woods, we don’t live in the woods. And the world wasn’t built by or for people like him, so in practical terms, it is a disability. He’ll have to deal with it. He’ll have to learn to be more clever and cunning than the other kids to get by in a “red-light-green-light” world.
No, this post is about spotting bears in the woods.
A couple of thoughts for the rest of us – with take-aways for marketing and branding readers (you knew I’d get there eventually):
- Beware the camouflaging power of language. The term “colour-blind” seems like a convenient way to describe – and dismiss – a gift that actually has a very specific reason for sticking around in the gene pool. We all need to continually review and re-envision our own pet terms – lest they hide the danger somebody should see.
- Every troop needs a camouflage spotter. Don’t get fooled into thinking that there’s only one way of seeing your particular forest, and don’t smooth over dissent or just hire people who see things your way. There is power in having different skill-sets looking at the same problem.
- Beg to Differ. My son does in the forest what I have to do in the primeval tangle of the boardroom: see through complexity and point out the simple truth of the bears – or more usually elephants – in the room. You just can’t see them because you have the peculiar disability that 99% of us suffer when we look inward: we are bear-blind.
- Be a survivor. Okay, that has nothing to do with the rest of the post, but I had to find some way to segue into one of my favourite cheesy-inspirational songs of all time.
Click play, then let the Differ know what you think:
What’s your Eye of the Tiger? How do you explain the power in the outlier, the Super-freak, the Underdog? Ever been surprised by a new perspective that really cut through the “camouflage” for you? Please. Beg to Differ.