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Remain Open to Unexpected Possibilities

The key to solving problems and enhancing performance is to always look for a different perspective.

As you can read elsewhere both in this issue and on Food Management’s website, the Association for Healthcare Foodservice’s annual conference was an event filled with educational opportunities as well as a solid program of networking sessions. It closed with a motivational speaker’s presentation that I found surprisingly on target and one with a special bonus for those budget-strapped healthcare operators in the audience who are often looking for ways to upgrade their retail and administrative spaces. (More on that in a minute).

The speaker, Dewitt Jones, had an earlier career as a world-class photographer for National Geographic as well as a variety of other clients. His presentation, Extraordinary Visions, drew from international photo documentaries and explorations over many years.

Jones shared image after image from around the world and from places most in the audience would never see, and certainly never see in the way Jones captured them. As he did so, he fleshed out his narrative with personal observations. A theme to which he kept returning was that of the photographer’s need to always seek additional perspectives, new ways of seeing the same things.

Remaining open to possibilities is not a passive approach, he suggested, but requires four steps: developing the discipline to focus on what is before you, on how it might be enhanced. Of honing technique and training oneself to execute well on a moment’s notice. Of positioning oneself continuously for maximum potential. And finally, he said, the hardest step, of keeping one’s mind open to unexpected possibilities that might not be obvious.

It can be a life’s work to develop this open mindfulness, Jones said. He quoted 20th century photographer Minor White, known for his emotive and suggestive photography of the mundane.

“When White went out each morning he would not ask ‘What will I shoot today,’ but rather, ‘What will I be given today?’ To that I would add, ‘And will I be open enough to see it,’” Jones said.

Such an approach fuels creativity in work of all kinds, he added. And as his portfolio pages turned, he used their images allegorically, emphasizing that the value of remaining open to possibilities extends to business challenges, to careers, to interpersonal relationships.

Repeatedly, he would display a powerful image—of a landscape, a face, a flower, a child, a mountain crevice— and then show subsequent shots taken as he explored the same subject through different angles, lighting, lenses, moments. And in each case the image would be transformed, from a strong photograph to an exceptional one, from a memorable view to an unforgettable experience.

It is by training oneself to always seek a better solution, to always look for a way to “get to the next level,” that we grow our own capacities, even as that means “you have to be willing to take the risk, to push to the edge of your own comfortable envelope.”

Jones’ own life has spanned many decades and taken many turns. As a young man he fancied a career in the theater, but after earning a degree in Drama from Dartmouth, he turned instead to filmmaking, pursuing a masters degree from UCLA. Further career twists led him to become one of National Geographic’s leading photographers, and later, to second, third and more successful careers in advertising, as a film director, author and speaker.

Jones is keenly aware of the power imagery has to affect human lives and emotions. Several years ago he was approached by a hospital administrator about donating some imagery to the hospital to brighten its walls. That query led Jones to contact other top photographers he knew and to the formation of Healing

Through it, Jones and his colleagues donate to licensed healthcare facilities the right to display over 1,000 images at the cost of reproducing and/or mounting them. You can read about the program and browse its galleries at  Or, for more information, contact Monique Boucher at 707-838-4379 or email [email protected].

In the meantime, be mindful of Jones advice—look beyond each day’s challenges and stay open to the unexpected possibilities they may present.

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