Deep Perspective

When I was at McKinsey, one of the biggest reasons clients cited for repeatedly hiring McKinsey was: "perspective."

Clients would say that the firm helped them see their own businesses in a new way.

At the time, this seemed like a somewhat amorphous reason for spending a few million dollars in consulting fees.

However, as I started serving clients in my own consulting practice, I started to appreciate what clients meant by this.

Opportunities that were hiding in plain sight suddenly become visible for the first time.

Tough decisions that had been lingering and people had procrastinated over for years were suddenly made on 24 hours notice.

When it comes to perspective, I like to borrow a phrase from the field of neuro-linguistic programming called "framing."

Framing uses the metaphor of a picture frame as a way to describe the biases by which we view the world (in this metaphor, the world is represented by the painting that resides within the frame).

In all facets of life, the "frame" by which you view a situation makes a profound difference.

If you view lack of success as "failure," that's one kind of frame.

An alternative frame is to view lack of success as "feedback" instead of "failure" -- it's the same facts but an entirely different PERSPECTIVE.

In the last recession, I had a prospective client that was struggling financially.

They said, "We don't know what to do.  We are very good at what we do. Our clients and prospective clients agree we are better than any other providers. We have no competition."

My reply was: "Yes, you do. Instead of using the word 'competitor,' use the phrase 'alternative to buying from us.'

"From your prospects' point of view, what is the alternative to buying from you?

"Answer: Not buying a damn thing from anybody.

"In other words, the alternative to buying from you isn't buying from another company. The alternative is to DO NOTHING.

"Instead of thinking of competitors as other providers, think of competitors as 'alternatives to buying from us.' It changes everything."

I helped them change their "frame" and perspective.

They immediately replaced all their marketing materials that showed how they were better than other providers. They replaced it with materials that showed how buying from them was better than not doing anything to solve their problems.

A simple perspective change AUTOMATICALLY implies all kinds of downstream decisions and actions.

This is why Fortune 500 CEOs like it when consultants give them new "perspective" on their businesses. A simple perspective change makes hundreds of smaller decisions simple and easy.

Here's a potential perspective shift for you.

Whether or not you realize it, you are pursuing a dream.

The real question is: Are you pursuing your own dream or someone else's?

Share your thoughts with me below.

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43 comments… add one
  • Sophia Apr 21, 2016, 8:48 am

    I haven’t ever replied back to your emails. The reason why I’m doing so for this one is because I just want somebody to know. The answer to your question was so instantaneous that it took me a while after to realize the enormity or depth of my answer. And the answer is- Im living somebody else’s dream and life entirely.

    Just an ordinary 25 year old Indian girl working in an average bank in India, and getting married this Saturday.

    Whose dream/life am I living? My parents. I detest them and myself for this on one hand. And on the other, I feel like I owe it to them. My dream was to be in the arts field or to be a nurse,live in my birth land of Dubai or any other country except India and get married to a man whom I had chosen on my own terms.

    Anyway Im rambling. Im not a consultant. A nobody really. But once upon a time I thought I could become like you and so I just thought I’d reply. Thanks so much for your mails,Victor. I look forward to more.

    -Sophia

    • Victor Cheng May 9, 2016, 10:08 pm

      Sophia,

      Thank you for your heart felt reply. You aren’t a nobody you are Sophia. You and your dreams matter too.

      -Victor

  • Angan Apr 21, 2016, 8:59 am

    Hello Victor,
    Hope you’re doing fine. I just want to say you’re doing a great job for aspiring consultants, students and for humanity. Really, its great stuff here. I followed your every advise and improved my skills and went on to bag a Deloitte offer. Thanks again.

  • Cesar Ojeda Apr 21, 2016, 9:08 am

    Hello Victor, thank you for another insightful letter.

    I really agree with your point on the importance of framing, and the power of being able to choose your own frame in a conscious manner.

    When it comes to following your dreams or borrowing someone elses to follow, there is an interesting connection to the concepts of normative and descriptive values. Descriptive values can be defined as values generated from the persons own sense of identity, and is highly personal in nature. In a sense it comes “from the inside”. Normative values on the other hand, are values adopted from our surroundings (e.g. social norms, company values, religious dogmas etc). They are very important in order to create functioning societies, but since they come “from the outside” (just like someone else’s dreams), they cannot be used sustainably self-leadership and motivation in the same manner as descriptive values. Being aware of what values you have and avoiding the trap of building your life choices around normative values is something I’m sure had great impact on happiness and well-being.

    It was this awareness that made me put my Mckinsey ambitions on hold and instead try the entrepreneur path and work with self leadership full time 🙂

    Part of the clarity I have in this field is due to your newsletters, so thank you! I also find your wisdom to be very helpfull even if one does not wish to become a consultant.

    Cheers from Sweden

    • Victor Cheng May 9, 2016, 10:09 pm

      Cesar,

      I wanted to acknowledge your introspective efforts, self awareness and the decision to choose your own internally guided path in life. Good luck.

      -Victor

  • Isha Apr 21, 2016, 9:18 am

    What a fantastic way to put it.. The frame part is especially enlightening.

  • Emily Apr 21, 2016, 9:26 am

    Hi Victor,
    Loved your thoughts on framing today, which, coincidentally, I had been discussing with a colleague earlier. Definitely insightful – thank you!

  • Kenneth Lee Apr 21, 2016, 9:33 am

    From a career standpoint, too many MBA students and career professionals focus totally on what they want from employers, and not on what they can do to help employers reach their goals. Companies don’t hire so that ‘you can use your MBA’ , they hire so that you can help them attain corporate goals/take advantage of market opportunities. If you do help them, the majority will reward accordingly. Secondly, the professional must know what they want out of their career . . . how work fits into the life that they want.

    Kenneth Lee
    Sr. Graduate Career Counselor
    J. Mack Robinson College of Business
    Georgia State University
    [email protected]

  • Shikhar Apr 21, 2016, 9:43 am

    Right now I am just hustling. I do not know where I want to go, I just don’t want to be here, so I am just fighting not to be here.
    I am going for an MBA so that I can get into consulting (I am already into consulting and I don’t like it coz it sucks too much personal time). Given a choice, I would rather learn foreign language and martial arts and travel, but I can’t do that coz I need money (and girls :P).
    I have been trying to so hard not to be ‘here’ that I don’t even remember whose idea was all this in the first place 😀

    Great article Victor on perceptions and frames.

  • Mary Apr 21, 2016, 10:25 am

    I will say both if the career I am pursuing is what I am passionate about and at the same time the service I am rendering fit into the company vision and mission. Base on that I will say I am pursuing both my dream and that of the company.

    Regards,
    Mary Eshiet

    • Victor Cheng May 9, 2016, 10:10 pm

      Mary,

      You’ve found alignment between your career and your employer’s goals. That often makes for a wonderful win-win partnership.

      It works in personal relationships as well. Compatibility. Alignment of goals and values.

      -Victor

  • Srikanth Yellanki Apr 21, 2016, 10:41 am

    Very well written insight, the question about whose dream you are pursuing iso DEEP.

    Srikanth

  • Kola Olayinka Apr 21, 2016, 10:47 am

    Hi Victor,

    Hope you’re well! Great article on perspective. I have been a secret follower of your blog and I even bought your book. I graduated last year December but couldn’t get a job. Instead of seeing this as a failure, I framed it as an opportunity to start my own company built on solid principles and great culture.
    Thanks for your encouragement always!

    Kola Olayinka
    FYI: I’m still job hunting while working full time on my new start up.

  • Prasadkumar Dethe Apr 21, 2016, 10:47 am

    Hi Victor,

    I cannot thank you much for the enlightening and encouraging articles you publish. I really liked the “perspective”article and read it just before I was getting into an interview call for a Senior Pricing Strategist role. Hiring team valued my experience but felt I was the right candidate for another role at same same level of experience but was more suited and also gives me time to groom into the earlier discussed role. I was not prepared for this but took a moment to reflect, understand and present my “perspective” on how the team cared and planned to set me for success in future and continue leverage my expertise. I am hoping the decision is made soon from hiring team. Writing this just as I get off the conversation with them.
    Many thanks and best regards,
    Prasad Dethe

  • jing zhang Apr 21, 2016, 11:04 am

    For me, I am not always trying to take the road less traveled. I am not sure what my dream is still. I just tried everything I could think of to see if I could keep it up. I do believe the only way to understand the world is to experience it firsthand, not as a tourist or traveler, but as a local with a talent/motivation/hard work.

    Currently I am very interested in startups and have really enjoyed my local startup weekend and week involvement as I could always see new ideas changing people’s life and meet creative people. Checking product hunt, hacker news and techcrunch, I feel I am more motivated.

    I guess just take the risk and grab the chance when it is coming. Do the stuff when you don’t wanna miss.

  • Kunal Phalak Apr 21, 2016, 11:17 am

    How do you know whether you are pursuing your dream or someone else’s. Since the time you have taken birth everything has been primed into you. So it really doesnt matter whose dream it is, what matters is whether you want to do it or not do it, if you think its worth it. What people mistake for someone else’s dream is their own lack of clarity about themselves, their motivations. I dont believe there is anything such as my dream or your dream

  • VIKRAM PANSARE Apr 21, 2016, 11:58 am

    Hi Victor,

    You’ve been knocking out of the park on your last few emails!

    I tried pursuing my dream of a high growth start-up a couple of years ago – it crashed and burned. Now I’m starting at McKinsey to build up my knowledge, contacts, and cash reserves for my next attempt. Your books and resources were instrumental in getting me here.

    Life is a journey, and hopefully, we’ll all make it.

    Best regards,
    Vikram.

  • Nate Earnest Apr 21, 2016, 12:01 pm

    Hello Victor,
    Firstly, thank you for your emails. They often help expand my perspective on work/life situations and I have found them to be helpful even beyond just preparing for potential consulting career.
    My answer to your question about dreams reminded me of a poem I wrote a while back when I was struggling with this thought:

    But what is a dream
    if nothing more than scattered thoughts?

    To Chase after
    like a leaf going down a stream

    no real sense of where it will go –
    so instead, just enjoy the flow.

    And to be a bit more direct in my answer: my ‘dream’ seems to be rather ill-defined, so I don’t even really know who’s dream Im chasing. I think it’s mine…but maybe it’s just what I think my dream should be.

    • Victor Cheng May 9, 2016, 10:12 pm

      Nate,

      You ask yourself in an interesting question. I don’t know the answer, only you do. Keep asking the question regularly.

      Good luck,
      -Victor

  • Orlane Apr 21, 2016, 12:26 pm

    Definitely pursuing my own dream. Thank you for redefining lack of present success as feedback for me instead of seeing t as failure. Thank you so much that truly helps me especially on a day like today. I would have called this day, a day of failure but now I am going to finish the day calling it a day of feedback instead.

  • Martin Apr 21, 2016, 1:07 pm

    Hi Victor,
    Looking at dreams within different frames, it’s possible to say that I’m pursuing my own dream as well as somebody else’s. In the larger frame, I’m living the dream given to me by my family, environment, standards and general level of current human sophistication. Within a smaller frame of this, I pursue my own dream, of making the most of my abilities in the time I have in this life. I try to find my own truth and generally try to be alive. How else to reply? It’s always about finding out who you are and working from there. Thanks for making me think.
    Martin

  • Lara Apr 21, 2016, 2:30 pm

    I don’t know Victor.

    I feel like I am pursuing my own dreams but a number of people close to me seem to question the wisdom in my decisions, especially as it relates with starting my own business. I also feel a tad inadequate like I am still too young and inexperienced.

    I don’t often voice these doubts but I wonder, maybe I should be listening more? And where do I draw the balance between taking sound advise and living the dreams of others?

    By the way, I have observed that your emails have chirped a lot from excelling I. Consulting interviews to a lot more about succeeding in other fields, maximising relationships and new perspectives to life and success. Is this deliberate or am I just receiving a specifically targeted set of emails?

    • Victor Cheng May 9, 2016, 10:14 pm

      Lara,

      Advice from others (including me) should always be taken with a grain of salt. You are the only person who must face the consequences or your choices (or lack thereof).

      However, what you can do is to listen to people you respect and hear their concerns. If the concern is you are too inexperienced and if experience is needed to succeed, can you address that concern in a way that’s still in alignment with your dream and plans. So instead of taking the advice to quit because you lack experience, can you reframe the feedback as to succeed you need more experience on your team.

      Try to separate the concern (if it is a valid one) from the conclusion.

      -Victor

  • Prav Apr 21, 2016, 2:59 pm

    In terms of your question: whether we are pursuing our own dream or someone else’s? I think the answer is that it depends on your perspective (see what I did there!) and how you specify “your dream”. Suppose my goal is to be the CEO of a company. If I aim to be the CEO of a Fortune 500, I am ultimately working for a corporation and its shareholder’s wealth. But if I would like to be the CEO of my own company/business, then you could say that I am pursuing “my” dream. TL;DR – all depends.

    • Victor Cheng May 9, 2016, 10:16 pm

      Prav,

      I noticed. 🙂

      It’s perfectly fine for your dream (to be CEO or anything you desire) to be in alignment with other people’s dream. These are natural alliances and partnerships where both benefit from it.

      -Victor

  • Sayee Probhu Apr 21, 2016, 3:28 pm

    Hi Victor,
    Always enlightened whenever I read any of your mails.
    Perspectives come with experience , vicarious or otherwise. Quite a general statement. What I couldn’t figure out is a general statement for one may be new perspective for someone. How does one recognise is as such?

    • Victor Cheng May 9, 2016, 10:17 pm

      Sayee,

      That’s a tough question to answer. I find I like seeking out multiple points of view on a topic. Many people only seek out confirming points of view.

      As you get accustomed to seeing diversity of thought and ideas, you’re in many cases forced to decide for yourself what you think. If you’re only exposed to one idea repeatedly, it’s much harder to have perspective.

      Like anything it’s a muscle/habit, the more practice you get, the stronger/better you get at it.

      -Victor

  • Ilya Apr 21, 2016, 3:56 pm

    I do my own. Still I have some to pursue, which represent alternative to what I do now. So, it is a matter of choice if I want all of then

  • Vic Bekarian Apr 21, 2016, 6:27 pm

    I wouldn’t have been able to answer this question while I was getting my bachelor’s degree. I doubt I would have been able to answer this question while I was at my first job in Aerospace. After several years, I reached a level of dissatisfaction where I had no other choice but to face this question and it has changed more than my career path. Undoubtedly, I ask myself now whether my reasons are my own each time I purchase something, go some place or take a stand for something. Thanks for the article, Victor. You’ve reassured my change in perspective.

  • Ariel Pribluda Apr 21, 2016, 8:57 pm

    The question is what happens when I don’t know my own dream and don’t know the means to find it. I’m a scientist and I love science, but it’s a love hate relationship as being a scientist is a very commited and a non rewarding profession, we’ll, most of the time. I don’t have enough passion to do science and I guess that if there was something else I could do
    With more passion, I would leave science, but I’m already 38 years old in my second postdoc. The question is how should I think about it? Should I re-frame my thinking to have more passion or should I find something to be passionate about? And if I decide one or the other, how do I go about developing a strategy or some other means to understand what is that I need to do in order to be more content and satisfied with my decision? But maybe these are big questions to answer in a simple mail. Thanks for sharing your posts, I always find myself engaged and RE-FRAMED after I read them.

    • Victor Cheng May 9, 2016, 10:21 pm

      Ariel,

      Rather than think in black and white terms, be a scientist or not. Think in a more segmented way. What specifically do you love about science? What do you dislike?

      Create a mental composite of your ideal profession — the best of what you love, none of what you dislike. Get clarity on this idealized profession. Then look at what careers exist that fit the attributes you’ve described for yourself.

      I did NOT do this when I left McKinsey. I disliked the travel and all the paper document creating, but I love the problems solving aspect of consulting. I didn’t like working for anonymous big companies, but I did like the work.

      15 years later the consulting practiced I started has no travel, I don’t write any powerpoint, and I do no spreadsheet analysis. In addition, I work for individuals who own companies, not anonymous companies. It took me 15 years to figure out that my first job out of school was actually pretty good for me, minus 3 things I didn’t like about it.

      Never too late. The key is to critical challenge your own thinking.

      -Victor

  • Hugh Yao Apr 21, 2016, 9:05 pm

    Victor,

    Thank you so much for keeping sharing your insightful thoughts with your audience. With your helpful materials, LOMS and Behind the Door, I successfully got an offer from PwC Strategy&, and will be with them from this summer. I appreciate your efforts to help fresh people entering their dreaming career.

    Your story about “Perspective” reminds me of my recent experience to look at another perspective of myself: Fearfulness. I had not thought I could be so scared for something since I was not a child any longer. I don’t fear any animal or any criminal. It seems to me I don’t have any natural enemy at all. However, when I was put into the cockpit to start learning aviation in 3,000 feet high sky, I was scared so much by stall and engine failure that failed to manage the maneuver required by instructor sitting beside me.

    I recalled I was always a conservative people, well, OK, a bit chicken. When I was a little one, I was teased by my cousin because I felt fearful to hold a firecracker when lighting it. I was scared to jump into water and could not learn swimming as fast as my friends did. I was shy and fearful to speak before group…. Now I think I was lucky to be in this situation and got an opportunity to remind my weak perspective, so that I could be prepared and have a good start with my new career.

    Thank you Victor and I hope you have a wonderful day.

    Regards,
    Hugh

  • Zhouzhou He Apr 21, 2016, 9:06 pm

    This is a good topic, Victor. In my work, I also found that how to frame a problem or a message is extremely important and sometimes nuanced. Would love to see you write more about HOW to frame things. Thanks.

  • Amit Kumar Apr 21, 2016, 11:30 pm

    Hello Victor Sir,
    I feel really motivated with your articles and I am reading them since 2008.
    What if people around yo doesn’t want to change despite of all the efforts you do to change there perspective?
    Is it wrong to pursue the same dream as of your family? Like in my case is to buy a house for them.

    • Victor Cheng May 9, 2016, 10:23 pm

      Amit,

      The primary person whose perspective you can change and influence is your own.

      Is it wrong to pursue the same dream as your family? No, provided it is actually YOUR dream AND their dream too — as opposed to strictly their dream that you’ve adopted by default because you didn’t think you were allowed to have your own dream.

      -Victor

  • Anastasia Apr 22, 2016, 12:19 pm

    Dear Victor, thank you for such great letters!

    I loved the topic of “Perspective”, in my career it has been sometimes a very easy and very complex question to answer i.e. what dream am I pursuing. I did both: someone else’s (like getting my MBA in Finance b/c everyone did it and I thought I could do it, and I graduated, and realized that is not my cup of tea); and I did PMP b/c I wanted and now start to considering Consulting, which never crossed my mind before.

    I think that pursing your own dream is a way to look within oneself. And, it is very important b/c sometimes your inner voice gets quite midst all the noise of others. It is an ongoing pursuit for me.

    Thank you for your newsletters, so motivational and thought-provoking!

  • Sikandar Ali Apr 22, 2016, 4:04 pm

    I love this. A lot.

  • Fab Apr 24, 2016, 1:04 am

    Hi Victor

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really like reading your newsletter, especially the previous one about integrity.

    With regards to the value consultants bring to the table, I must say I have mixed feeling. I started my career in Investment Banking and 2 years ago I switched to the Wealth Management arm of a big financial institution. Throughout my career I have worked with numerous consulting firms, more known ones (McK, BCG, Bain, Accenture, KPMG, E&Y etc.) and smaller, less famous ones. Without any doubt smart people work for these companies, in particular McK and BCG are able to attract skilled talents. However, when interacting with them, I have noticed the following:

    1) majority of the consultants come straight from university and have worked in the consulting business, hence often adopt an “academic/text book approach”
    2) given consultants work in project organizations they often struggle to understand the complexity of big firms
    3) because of the previous two points, senior guys at banks often don’t take their work/advice serious given none of them have actually closed a deal with a client
    4) usually senior management likes to hire them so that they can point the finger on other in case the project backfires (which is not the fault of consulting firms but rather of weak, indecisive management)
    5) they have a very good database and often sell the same project to various players

    Consultants can generate added value but the most successful ones I have seen are usually the ones which first worked the in the respective industry and then join a consulting firm. What’s your point of view?

    • Victor Cheng May 9, 2016, 10:24 pm

      I’ve seen both types of consulting be useful — though usually for different reasons. The industry expert knows a lot. The smart consultant can objectively and quantitively test client ideas. Useful for different reasons.

      -Victor

  • Amelia Apr 24, 2016, 10:34 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Victor, & opening this up for discussion.

    I designed my college major focusing on our unconscious perceptions by combining studio art & philosophy. So I think there’s a clear parallel here (:

    I’ve read your notes, & they’re nice affirmations for what I consciously practice. I’ve spent a decade honing my approach to things, & sharpening my critical & creative thinking skills.

    The trouble is: what do I apply it to? That dream question has long troubled me. I know what is not my dream, but I don’t know what my dream is. More than a single aspect like a job, I don’t know what overall lifestyle I want to strive for.

    As a somewhat fresh grad, I’m happy to start anywhere so long as I learn & get challenged. But with my liberal arts degree & background, I’m not even getting my foot in any door for interviews. I know I can learn quickly & well on the job, but i’m not even given that chance.

    Any thoughts, Victor, on the possible steps I might take? Or any perspective on this?

    Thanks so much for your time, I appreciate it.

    Warm regards,
    Amelia

    • Victor Cheng May 9, 2016, 10:27 pm

      Amelia,

      Generalize your interest and skills into a higher level category of capability.

      What is philosophy? What is it’s functional use? Is it to make sense of complex situations? Is it to digest historical information and make it useful in the presence?

      Take the higher level skill and do a market search — who values such a skill.

      I perceived myself and being a good consultant. What I really realized is my higher level skill was being able to make sense of complex ideas and make them simpler for other people to understand and to troubleshoot. My higher level skill set has much broader applicability than consulting — but I didn’t realize that initially.

      The same is true for you too — though I don’t know the specifics.

      -Victor

  • Leo Liu Apr 27, 2016, 4:25 am

    Giving clients new “perspective” is what consultants do. The market is constantly evolving and so should businesses and their strategic positions. Old business models or “perspectives” are getting obsolete increasingly quickly in today’s market condition; and in order to be successful in the long run, being able to see, anticipate, follow, change and adapt is absolutely vital. Framing provides the most value only when the market agrees with the new frames.

    For me, having recently finished my MBA from INSEAD, I am in consulting. I am not sure if consulting is my dream; but people change, people’s dreams change. I am not a kind of person who “pursues” my dream; rather, I am “making” my own dream.

    Cheers
    Leo

  • Clinton May 5, 2016, 8:03 am

    I’m quite lucky that I’m afforded the opportunity to pursue my own dream which consists of two parts:
    (1) Becoming a management consultant
    (2) Competing in international badminton tournaments

    I know people are often forced to make tradeoffs between their own dreams and the expectations of others i.e. Family members.

    Best Regards
    Clinton

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