I look at everything that comes into my life through the three filters of health, love relationships and work.
Many years ago when I was beginning to feel my way into this new work I do, I met William Webb. We were introduced through a mutual friend who was also his client. In retrospect, at first, it probably seemed that I forced myself on him.
William was tall, thin and somewhere near 65-70. Part of his mystique for me was that he would not talk about age. When someone brought up the issue of age he would smoothly change the subject.
I invited him to lunch a first time and it didn’t happen, but I was persistent. Finally, after a few attempts we met for lunch at a popular diner that was his favorite place. It was cheap, the food okay but canned, and populated by lots of business folks making their connections. When we met I could feel his hesitancy to meet with me. What was I going to ask of him? What other demand might someone be making of him?
The thing was, I wasn’t asking for anything except what he had in his head, easily available, non-proprietary, and helpful to me. I wanted to develop a practice of my own and I liked his approach to consulting and coaching from what I’d heard from some who knew him. I wouldn’t be competing against him in his specialized niche.
Our first meeting went okay, but remained at a fairly superficial level. I contacted him again. He accepted and the second time we had lunch together he told me something that’s stayed with me ever since, a technique for evaluating the things that came into his life.
William responded to something I’d said by saying: I measure everything that comes into my life through 3 filters. Whatever it is, an experience, a relationship, an opportunity, an obligation, or anything else, must pass through these filters. If it doesn’t pass, I can’t afford to have it in my life.
The first filter is my health. How does this thing affect my physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual health? If I feel it will have a negative impact, I can’t afford to have it in my life. Likewise the filter of relationships, does this thing negatively impact my love, work or friendship relationships? If so, again, I can’t let it in. Finally, the third filter is my work. How will this thing impact my work? If it could have a detrimental impact on how I do the work that supports and fulfills me, I can’t have it.
Just a few weeks ago, at a small art and craft gallery open house, I saw a man in the next room. After a double and then triple take I walked up to him as he approached where I was standing. I said, “William?” and he said, “Yes.” I reintroduced myself and reminded him of our lunches together nearly 20 years ago. He remembered some of that and I reminisced about some of our mutual friends. I said how well he looked and he thanked me and said, conspiratorially, “I’m 86 now.” I said, “You never would talk about that before.” He reminded me how he would change the subject in the past, but it seemed now that he was proud he’d made it this far and was still engaged with the world.
I said, “Your 3 filters must have worked pretty well. I’ve used those with clients and in presentations over all these years and people seem to find it a helpful way of looking at their lives.” He said, “I’d forgotten all about those; I got them from somewhere else.”
So, whoever you are out there who came up with this concept of how to look at the events and circumstances of our lives, thank you, and William thanks you as well.
Great idea, these three filters. It reminded me of David Whyte’s book, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship. It is helpful to think in terms of filters, though. Thanks a bunch, Robert.
I love David Whyte, he’s brilliant. thanks for checking the blog!