Home > What's in my head now? > Black, White, or Gray

Black, White, or Gray

This is not a black & white world
To be alive the colors must swirl
and I believe that maybe today
We will all get to appreciate
The beauty of gray

Live, ‘Beauty of Gray’ (3rd track, Mental Jewelry)

Have you ever told someone they’re “black and white”? And if you have, what have you meant by it? Do you like people who are black and white? And if you do, have you ever examined the reasons why?

I was having a conversation today and I told a friend, “You’re so black and white”; and then I started thinking, I have a lot of friends who are black and white; and I wondered why – as I am so not.

Or at least I don’t like to think of myself that way. Perhaps it’s the little bit of laid back college kid left in me, but I refuse to believe that everything “is what it is”. In fact, when someone says “it is what it is” to me – my response is usually, “that all depends on your definition of ‘is’, doesn’t it?”

Which led me to my own intellectual debate in my head – the type of philosophical conversation I would have had 10 years ago in college – back in the time where “philosophy” was cool and real life hadn’t yet taken over. Back when being “gray” was the norm; and I was a different person. Or was I?

As we grow up, we become hardened to the philosophies and grayness we embraced in our younger years. Perhaps its that we’re disillusioned, perhaps it’s that we’ve seen too much; we think we know too much – certainly we know that “answers” (the black and white) are better than the ‘maybes’ – the grayness. Or at least the answers make life far more simple; and more surface.

And I realized, that black and white – it’s fear. Fear of being gray, fear of embracing the unknown, and no longer welcoming that we don’t even know what the definition of “IS” is. Life is much easier to break into yes’s and no’s; not maybes. It gives us a certainty, a security, that many seek out; even “need” in order to function.

But I wonder if it’s a good thing? Is being black and white good? I don’t think so. I go back to the younger days when most of us still saw in shades of gray. Sure, we were naive, but from naivety stems innovation, dreams, and the belief that we can do anything. From naivety stems invincibleness, but more importantly, builds creativity and probably built who we are today.

I think of “me” and my life; Only when I suspended the black and white was I able to do things others said were not possible. Only when I allowed my personal, gray mindset show was I able to believe in something bigger than me. I ignored that there was no data, no answers, and developed something new. I wasn’t afraid anymore, I was excited.

So I will attempt to be more gray; as when I look back, it was only by suspending my belief in the black and white that I was creating, innovating, and inspired.

  1. January 21, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Grey lady
    Black and white or grey?
    Not sure what I am but I rarely believe what people tell me until I’ve checked it out.

    Black and white has to be easier than grey.
    Certainty instead of indecision obviously makes for an easy life but things are rarely certain.

    Looks to me that even the spelling of grey is not certain – depends which side of the pond you were born on. LOL

  2. January 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    You are too funny – I literally lOLed when I read “even the spelling of grey is not certain”…although I did spend almost a year living on ‘the other side of the pond’; London – Tottenham Ct. Rd.

    I’ve been perusing your site frequently as I’ve been asked to engage in some rather large speaking engagements….ugh – wish me luck!

  3. January 21, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    That’s interesting. I look out how I am and I life in a very black and white way. But when it comes to my work I’m way to grey (or gray??). I find I have a lot of stuff always going on. That’s because nothing ever gets finished. Everything is always in development.

    Now, I’m working to get people to say yes or no. A no is ok because I’m not wasting my time trying to get a yes where a yes is never going to come. On projects, I’m starting to work as hard as I can to either roll it out or trash it. We don’t need it to be perfect at first. I’m finding its better to roll something out and let it evolve instead of spending a year making small tweaks on something that doesn’t even exist outside of meeting room.

    • January 21, 2011 at 4:28 pm

      That’s funny because I’m the opposite; more black / white in business and Grey/gray in “life”. I realized that every time I was planning or waiting for something I thought was going to happen – happen; I could get disappointed.

      In business, I learned / taught myself to be black and white for exactly the reason you talk about above. When building businesses or managing sales people, I woudl always get asked, “are we on track to hit the revenue?” and I used to respond, “We should be” (or something like that) and one day he screamed at me: “YES OR NO! I can’t run a business on maybes” ( ; SO I learned really fast that DATA speaks enormously when a business is alreayd running; however when doing something strategic / creative, I try to go back to the ‘other’ side!

  4. February 15, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Good post! This has been a big topic for me lately. For example, my brother sees everything though a very black and white lens, which is way against my own character. It has caused many an argument between us. Recently, I took a step back and realized that it was his way of coping with that unknown that you identified in your post. In a way it made me feel more sorry for him than agitated. The problem I have now is when some one who is black and white tries to impose their view on you. I think this imposition is what generally wears us down over the years. Where we have been more “gray” when we were younger we got wore down to see things more black and white over time. I believe that those of us who take the time to understand who we are and what we stand for or value are more immune to this “wearing down” of the gray and keeps us more flexible.

    • February 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm

      I tend to agree with you – it is exhausting when people try and put their “black and white” views on you. For me, I actually get exhausted just being around people who are ‘black and white’. I have a couple of close friends who are that way and when I just want to “vent” or talk about something where I either have not made a decision or don’t want to – they are the worst people to talk to…because there is ALWAYS an answer!

  1. January 21, 2011 at 3:29 pm

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