The other day, as my daughter was on her way to the car when I picked her up from daycare. Along the way, she noticed something on the ground. In the excited voice of a 4 year old, she said “Daddy! Look! A rainbow!”, and then pointed at the spot on the ground she was looking at. As I got closer, I found that she was looking at a spot on the wet ground where some sort of oily fluid had likely leaked out of the bottom of a vehicle. Of course, oily fluids, on wet ground tend to separate out into what you and I would probably best describe as an oil slick. But, to my 4 year old, it was a rainbow on the ground. As we drove off to pick up her brother at school, I began thinking about what had just happened.
The thoughts were amplified when she noticed another “rainbow” on the ground on the way into the school. On our way back out of the school, with her brother, she excitedly called her brother over to show him what she had found. My son is 6 (nearly 7), and so has a slightly more advanced knowledge of the world than his sister. I fully expected, in the way that only a brother who doesn’t understand a 4 year old is likely to do, that he would quickly dismiss it for what it was, an oil slick on wet ground, and that her excitement would quickly dissipate. Instead, as she pulled him over and pointed it out, saying “Look!”, he quickly said “A rainbow!”. He saw it too.
As parents, we’re always so excited to teach our children new things. We’re often quick to correct them when they don’t get something right, or don’t understand it. They saw a rainbow. I didn’t. All I saw was an oil slick. Obviously, I saw the resemblance. But, I knew what it really was, so the wonder that my children had for it was lost on me. But, it kept me thinking.
How often do we take what we know, and use it as a filter for the world. Surely, that’s what knowledge is for, right? I know that 1+1=2, and that certain letters spell words, and that drops of oil on wet ground make a oil slick. Yes, it’s colorful, but it’s an oil slick, not a rainbow. How many times do we become so certain in our knowledge, and the filtering that we use it for, that we fail to see the rainbow?
How many people out there are so set in the knowledge that a bank is the lender, and use that to filter the idea of peer-to-peer lending as a sham, without allowing for a little of the rainbow to shine through?
The point is this: If you never question what you think you know, how will you ever know if you’re wrong? Sometimes the formula and constants change. Sometimes, the environment itself is what has changed. Heck, look at the newspaper industry. How long did they refuse to see the emergence of blogs (like this one) as a major change in the dynamic of how people get their news? Some of them still refuse to see that rainbow.
If you do one thing to improve your personal finance today, question what you think you know. Most of the time, you’ll still be right. But, maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a rainbow instead.
What are some rainbows that you’ve found by questioning what you thought was true? What methods do you use to find the rainbows in your life?
Original Image credit:Oil slick. @blackmetalbike by Growinnc, on Flickr