People read what you write through their filter called “compared to what?” How does what you just wrote fit with other things they know in their lives?

As we read throughout our day, we assign meaning to the words. Then we give value to that meaning. Then we make a judgment about that value – to make a decision one way or another. All within milliseconds. And all based on what we already perceive to be true.

Albert Einstein was curious about this idea:

Are things in life consistent and predictable?
Or do we determine the state of things depending on our perspective?

All of us make thousands of decisions every day based on our perception of meaning and how that meaning fits with what we already know or perceive in our lives.

For example, think of that time you were sitting at a red light. Suddenly, you stomped on the brake pedal. You knew something was moving, but for a split second, you weren’t sure if it was your Subaru or the other guy’s Honda.

That, in one sense, is relativity. You are only able to determine motion – the Honda, by first determining non-motion – your Subaru.

Time and space are relative.

Suppose you're standing in a subway car. You stand at one end of the car, and bounce a tennis ball to your friend who stands at the other end about nine feet away. He catches the tennis ball, and bounces it back to you.

Let's say you throw the ball at 45 feet per second or about 30 mph. So the ball takes 0.2 seconds to reach your friend.

Then he throws it back to you, which takes 0.2 seconds. The tennis ball’s round trip takes 0.4 seconds.

Now, the subway starts moving. Suppose it gets up 60 feet per second or 40 mph. You and your friend continue to play catch, and the tennis ball continues to travel 18 feet round trip, taking about 0.4 seconds to go back and forth.

Now, imagine I am standing by the side of the track watching you pass by. I see you through the subway car window, tossing the ball back and forth. I would agree that it took 0.4 seconds from the time you threw the ball to the time you caught it again.

But, I wouldn’t agree the ball traveled only 18 feet round trip. To me, in the 0.4 seconds it took the ball to travel from one side of the subway car to the other and back again, the train traveled about 30 feet.

From my perspective, the ball traveled about 30 feet in the same 0.4 seconds – that’s 75 feet per second or 50 mph.

So for me, the tennis ball is moving faster than it is for you.

Who is right?

We both are.

This idea applies to how we communicate with our colleagues. It's useful to remember that our reader's perspective is often different from ours. People we communicate with may not have the same understanding of our topic, or assign it the same priority as we do. And our readers may interpret our words differently from the way we intend.
Think about this idea the next time you end your email with the lackluster phrase: “I look forward to hearing from you ASAP.”

It’s very likely your reader’s “S” is much farther away than yours!


I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.

— Albert Einstein



Things we like.




Things to ponder.

Are space and time the same thing? Contemplate spacetime here.  




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