The Story of Play Doh

In the movie How Do You Know, there’s a scene in which the guy buys the girl a tub of Play Doh. He tells her the story of Play Doh (how it was a failure as a wallpaper cleaner, but then was successfully re-marketed as a children’s toy) and says, “We are all just one small adjustment from making our lives work.”

And though the movie itself isn’t necessarily that profound, that one line has stuck with me since I first heard it. That one line speaks volumes, and it applies to much more than romantic relationships. It really seems to me like a commentary on perspective.

Sometimes our perspective is the biggest thing stopping us from seeing all the good that surrounds us, and using that vision as a springboard to greater success. Being attached to only one perspective is extremely limiting.

There’s a story I once read in which a man walks down a village street. Persons on one side of the street comment on his striking red hat, while those on the other side argue that his hat is blue. Each faction insists on the correct-ness of its interpretation. It’s only when the man turns around and walks back the other way that it becomes clear the hat is half red, half blue.

In a similar story, several people wearing blindfolds each try to explain what an elephant looks like. One describes the trunk, while the other describes the tail. An argument ensues over what type of creature the elephant really is, and who is more correct.

Of course, what these stories are meant to illustrate is the idea that perspective is limited, and that the same object (the same situation or challenge) looks very different when we approach it in a new way. Also, that we make fools of ourselves when we argue right-ness of our own viewpoints or wrong-ness of another’s perspective.

All this is to say that relinquishing attachment to our perspectives, to our stories, is an important step toward building better relationships and creating success. Sometimes it means crossing the street to see challenges or situations in our lives from another angle. Other times it means taking off the blindfold to see the big picture.

It’s worth asking ourselves where many of our deeply held opinions, viewpoints, and beliefs originated, because we may find that the source is a limited perspective. Now, this doesn’t mean abandoning all of our beliefs and principles, but rather approaching them with a greater understanding of where they come from. And, it gives us the opportunity to examine which of those beliefs are working for us, and which others might require some fine-tuning.

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