How To Learn How To See

I was angry at my sister and it was late at night and we were driving on a highway.

So I drove onto an off-ramp, stopped the car, and told her to get out. It was dark and there was no sidewalk and cars were coming by.

She got out. I drove off. There was no way to turn around and drive back.

After a few minutes, I felt bad. I found a u-turn, I made my way back to that ramp but she was gone. I got scared.

I drove around and ended up at a nearby shopping center. She was there. She was calling our parents on the payphone.

She saw me. She was crying. “Why did you do that?” she said.

I didn’t know. I was maybe 28. She was 22. I don’t know. I’m sorry.

James Baldwin, one of my favorite writers, was describing how he learned to see:

I was walking with a painter. It was raining. He pointed down and said, “what do you see?”

I said, “a puddle” and stepped over it.

We turned around and walked over the puddle again. He pointed down and said, “Now what do you see?”

And I looked down and I saw reflected in the puddle the skies parting, the sun coming out, the reflections of people passing, the reflection of us.

Suddenly I could see. I learned to see from that painter.

Often I feel like there are no options in my life.

I have to go to school. Or I have to get this job. Or I have to stay married and buy a house and so on. Or go out to X or Y event.

I need to do this to pay the mortgage, to get a promotion, to move up the ranks, to appear respectable.

I used to think that.

This is why I practice writing down ten ideas a day. One idea is a puddle. Ten ideas starts to see all the reflections.

And I always have to practice. Else I stop seeing.

When you can see, you have more choices. You can help more people. You can create more. You can master more. You can matter more.

Suddenly you can choose.

I feel bad thinking about how I dropped my sister off in the middle of nowhere.

I feel bad I’m divorced and my kids had to go through that.

Or all the jobs I was fired from. Or how I couldn’t help my father when he needed it most.

Or horribly sick things that happen on the other side of the world in the news.

There’s nothing you can do. There’s no answer. I have to forgive myself, then forgive others, then try to see.

I can’t make an excuse. It happened. I don’t know why I dropped you off.

Maybe one I’ll look back. And see all the reflections that I didn’t see the first time.

Writing it down is a start. This is why I write ten ideas a day.

It’s practice. Practice seeing.

Being kind to the people around me is the pebble dropping in the middle of the ocean.

This is practice also. This is what I can do after seeing more every day.

The ocean ripples out. Touches everything. Ripples back. Touches me. Feeds me.

Every day I’m going to practice learning how to see.

And every day I will try to see more reflections after the rain. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated.

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