“When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” –Wayne Dyer
More than Meets the Eye
Bernie Madoff had everyone fooled. Year after year for nearly two decades he seduced thirsty investors and bamboozled Wall Street with returns on investment that were impressive. Nobody suspected that he was running the longest and biggest Ponzi scheme in history. But one man, Harry Markopolos was not buying what Madoff was selling. In fact, Harry blew the whistle on Madoff as early as 1999 but the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ignored him. The whistle became a bullhorn and still, no one would listen. The reason Madoff was able to pull the wool over so many eyes was because of his reputation. He was a co-founder and former chairman of NASDAQ. Apart from being among the most reputable investors, he was also a philanthropist. How could such a person be involved in what Markopolos was claiming?
Harry was able to see beyond the surface. His perceptive vision led him to dig deeper into Madoff and uncover the greatest Ponzi scheme ever. Markopolos was not the only fraud investigator so how was he able to do this?
In today’s post, I will share three main ways you can improve your perceptive vision and develop an ability to see more than what meets the eye. Like Harry, this may prove helpful in determining what’s real and what’s not when the surface doesn’t provide enough detail or where there are too many obstructions to seeing things clearly.
Check Your Viewpoint
In photography, the term oculus is used to describe where you stand and what you see from there. This determines where the camera is placed to get the right shot. Improving your Perceptive Vision Value (PVV) starts with knowing your viewpoint or Point Of View (POV).
Most people including the SEC could not see Madoff’s Ponzi scheme because they were standing in the wrong place. They looked through the lens of Madoff’s reputation and accolades, becoming blind to the truth. In his book No One Would Listen, Markopolos mentions how he looked at the consistent returns that Madoff brought in even in a down market and knew that something was off. He did not allow his viewpoint to be muddied with who Madoff was. He was more focused on what Madoff was doing. His consistent numbers are what created the inconsistencies that led him to uncover the fraud.
Where you stand and what you see from there is a key determining factor of your viewpoint and your Perceptive Vision. Look at the different areas of your life. Don’t gloss over them, take an in-depth look. What do you see from where you stand? Have you been using the wrong lens? This hit home for me when our first daughter Esther was born. I viewed her through the lens of other children. It led to impatience and frustration when I saw areas that other kids were more developed than her. I was looking at her from the position of comparison. I needed to change my oculus. When I did, my patience grew and my frustration abated. I can say that it changed the dynamic of our relationship. Be intentional about assessing your viewpoint in any given situation. It might improve your field of vision and allow you to see clearer than ever before.
Apply Your Experiences
Markopolos was a fraud investigator. By the time he came across Madoff’s elaborate scheme, he had accumulated hours of experience in the field. He looked at Madoff’s numbers and smelled a rat. His experience allowed him to see what others couldn’t.
Never ignore or overlook your experiences. They are what can inform you in current situations. Most of us gain wisdom through what we experience in life and ignoring them is like going to class and never applying what you assimilated. Police officers are trained to trust their gut but that trust has largely been informed by a wealth of experience through years on the job. Sometimes the key to wisdom is making the right application of previous experiences in a current predicament.
In writing, applying my experiences has come in handy when faced with the dilemma of articulation. Turning experiences into lessons learned is one of the biggest rewards that you can ever glean from life besides the close relationships that you have. Your experiences might be a trove of wisdom waiting for you to apply and improve your vision.
Separate the Signal from the Noise
You can only imagine the amount of criticism that Markopolos received once he went public with his suspicions of Madoff. Who was he to say such things about a well respected and accomplished man such as Madoff? It sounded preposterous. Madoff was a legend on Wall Street. An icon. Markopolos was a nobody. Small in the eyes of the stock market industry compared to Madoff. It was the modern-day version of David versus Goliath.
But Markopolos stood his ground. He knew what he had found was true and nothing was going to assuage him. He did not allow the waves of noise to drown out the signal of truth. His discovery was too important to remain hidden; even when threats were made on his own life. Most of the time our ability to see clearly is affected by the myriad of distractions and the chaos swirling around us. Maintaining a calm demeanor is key to separating the signal from the noise. My friend Samson wrote this regarding calmness in a recent blog post:
“Calmness is an inside condition that comes with a lot of exercises.
It’s maintaining a clear head when there is chaos all around you….
Exercising calmness in all situations will prevent you from being
sucked up into the noises of life. It enables you to think and see
things clearly thereby allowing you to move with precision.”
Well said, my friend! Calmness gave Markopolos the edge he needed to be precise in uncovering the biggest financial fraud in U.S. history. And in the end, Markopolos’ unrelenting stand did bring down Madoff just like David brought down Goliath. His perceptive vision proved right all along.
Final thought: In engineering, a mechanism is a device that transforms input forces and movement into a desired set of output forces and movement. The mechanism of clarity is such that the inputs of checking your viewpoint, applying your experiences, and separating the signal from the noise results in the output of improved perceptive vision. And just like Harry Markopolos, it is an output that will serve you well at the time you need it most.
Keep on Keeping on!