A Window Upgrade (or Four)

This post builds on our the previous post about mindsets – specifically growth mindsets. Head back, peruse, enjoy and discover a little bit about how you can upgrade yourself, your brain and your world.

Let’s be clear – this won’t involve Bill Gates or Microsoft.

(However, I always need inspiration in my journey of upgrading my dance moves – thanks Windows 95 launch)

Two weeks ago I met an incredible mentor.

He has no idea of this connection, but I did sheepishly offer a thank you, followed by the possible awkward shuffling of shoes on carpet once our conversation came to a close.

There are short and long-term mentors out there. Long-term mentors are normally those family members or close friends you share strong connections with, greatly respect and who inspire you. They direct and shape paths in our lives, occupations we seek out and deep seeded values that affect nearly every decision we make.

On the other hand, many of us are continually inspired to act or live in certain ways by other socially significant people we may not have even met. Artists, scientists, athletes, singers and even those celebrities who are famous for no obvious reason.

Kim Kardashian

These unmet mentors can also provide inspiration to us and help us work out what and who we invest in over the course of our lives. Which probably explains why my parents were constantly scratching their heads when they saw some of the posters hanging in my room back in the day.

(50 Cent, I’m still not entirely sure if I want to go to your candy shop?)

Short-term mentors are the same, but their effects can take place over much shorter time periods. They shape a direction in your life through a shorter interaction or witnessing them doing something, or simply by listening to some key message they have said.

Now we welcome back my incredible mentor from a couple of weeks ago…or, as I have been calling him to my wife, University Lecturer I Happened To Speak To While Waiting For A Coffee.

It was a seemingly innocuous event. Coffees were brewing, Melburnians were ready to tip their noses up at any possible mistake to their latte and I had just realised my phone had died. I was forced to look up at people around and possibly have a conversation with a stranger. This task was taken out of my hands through the words, “It always happens when you need it the most, eh?”.

Pleasantries quickly progressed to genuine conversation as we both moved into the dangerous, amazing, creative, frustrating, hardcore, teacher-bed-time-is-10pm-at-the-latest world of education. Our coffees arrived and it seemed that it was going to finish up as an easy and interesting weekend conversation – until this stumping statement was thrown out to me.

“Well, you know it’s all about those windows of you, right?”


I had never heard anything like this. My mind skimmed over phrases, cliches or proverbs I often use (but not really understand) and still came up blank.

I couldn’t help myself and walked back to not only check my hearing, but to find out what this meant. After having this statement explained I was then asked two questions which I have found myself continually thinking back over.

So, I thought I’d put it out here as I’m genuinely interested to see just how differently people interpret this and respond to it…eventually….hopefully?

The Four Windows of You

Imagine if you could represent yourself and your life as a window (stay with me) that was separated into four different panels.


The window is made up of the following four panels:

1. What you and others know about you

2. What you know but no one else knows about you

3. What others know about you but you don’t know

4. What you and others don’t know about you

The final thing you should know is that you can choose how much space each panel takes up in your window.


The first thing that caused me to stop was that I had never really considered the final two panels. I hadn’t thought about people knowing any part of me that I didn’t know…but as soon as it was shared with me it made complete sense.

Think of all those times people pointed out something to you that you would enjoy or show interest in? Or, if you have been lucky enough, those times you may have received feedback about qualities or traits you possess that you didn’t fully realise?

I can also safely (and quite possibly, naively) say that I had never contemplated the idea of things being out there that nobody, with myself included, knew about me. Knowledge, qualities or ways to live are coming and going past me (and those around me) without ever affecting me or influencing me in any shape, way or form.


Now, while all of that was going on in my head, I was asked two questions.

Which panel is the one that should be the biggest in your life?

Which panel would most people think should be the biggest?

These have been sitting in some deep recess in my head ever since. They’ve shown themselves during conversations with friends, family and strangers (sorry Guy Stuck In Corner Of Tram) as I have tried to come up with answers to them.

I’m going to explain which panel I currently believe should be the biggest in my life and then briefly outline which panel others might see as the biggest. One thing is for certain – I will definitely get both parts wrong in some way due to the 7 billion different ways information is interpreted each day across the world.

Which panel is the one that should be the biggest in your life?

I don’t want to make presumptions, but you should know that I am an optimist (get to know about upgraded here). An enthusiastic, energetic, early rising optimist. For as long as I can remember I have loved getting to know people, making others feel better or laugh (if I am lucky) and trying to take on admirable qualities I see in those around me. So, it makes sense to me that the panel I believe should be the biggest in my life would be Panel 1 – stuff I know, and everyone else does too, about me.

For me this panel is incredibly important. Through sharing parts of myself I not only get to build up commonalities with others; I get to see their perspectives and refine my understandings and knowledge in all sorts of areas. I have found it is these authentic connections that allow great things to occur in my personal and professional lives.

My hope is that as these connections build there are things I start to discover about the other person that may or may not be in me. Even if I don’t believe in something, at least I have an understanding that that is one other thing I don’t register with…yet.

This also would mean Panel 3 would slowly grow and shrink throughout my life as I discover more about me… but I also realise there is always going to be more I don’t know about myself.

To spin it towards a school context, positive and effective change has always occurred with the assistance of those who I have strong relationships with. Through our open conversations we get clearer insights into what we are trying to achieve, expertise we can provide or help we need. We not only have a shared understanding; there’s an underlying trust that we what we are trying to do is for the good of our students – not the teachers. Though I have to say, this doesn’t happen quickly as it can’t be rushed or disingenuine.

So, I’m nearly an open book.

With all of the above said, Panel 1 is never going to be my whole life. There are parts of me that people don’t need to know about. Things I am worried about and things I fear. For me, fear can be a good thing. Whilst it can make it harder to do things, it can also force you to move or adapt in ways you never thought possible.

My view is that I need fear and I need to feel insecure at times. If every person knew exactly what I was worried about there would be a huge number of resources ready to (kindly and supportively) build me up to prevent me from getting hurt or failing. I know that failing and falling over are all part of the learning and adapting process.

If you were worried about crossing the road and always had someone to hold your hand, could you ever reach your potential independence?

So, I also need Panel 2 as a means to hold the things I am worried or insecure about. Something I have learned to do from great teachers I have worked with is to constantly go back and triage these worries or insecurities.

I was lucky that in my first 6 years teaching I had access to a variety of colleagues and friends (as well as constant access to one amazing wife) who have taught me how to stop and gather my thoughts. I am energetic, yes. Naturally quiet and reflective? Not often.

Having the time and opportunities to learn how to evaluate and triage just how difficult or terrible something may be has been an incredible skill to upgrade for me. Implementing these approaches into my work with kids across all primary levels has made me see just how important they are in seeing challenges as ways to upgrade ourselves.

So, whilst I do state here that I think it is good to have an area of life with insecurities and worries, I do need to point out that these are constantly being checked, evaluated and monitored (and debriefed over a weekly morning coffee and stroll with previously mentioned amazing wife). Panel 2 helps me push myself and then share what I have discovered with others, which then increases Panel 1.


Which panel would most people think should be the biggest?

This isn’t going to be a long answer – I think most people would believe Panel 2 should be the biggest. Unchecked worry, insecurity and pressure to conform all seem to prevent people from letting others know the real them.

Don’t agree? That’s good –  share what you think!


Now it’s over to you…

What panel would you upgrade in your life?

What panel would most people want to be their biggest?


Feel like you you can’t upgrade those panels yet? Turn back to our growth mindset post to discover a little bit more about the power of yet.

6 Replies to “A Window Upgrade (or Four)”

  1. Hey really interesting! Made for a good read…from my point of view panel 1 encompasses your relationships and could potentially grow or shrink depending on the relationship…therefore the size of each panel will depend on the circumstance you find yourself in. Got me thinking for the day!

    1. Hey Nathan, first of all, thanks for taking the time to comment!

      That’s a different way of seeing it with Panel 1 – I hadn’t considered it like that and it makes a lot of sense to me! I guess I sort of see Panel 1 like an average of all my relationships, so even though there are some people I don’t fully know (yet!) I wouldn’t see Panel 1 shrink as I get to know people more. I figure that anyone who I lose touch with in life still knows those parts of me and that’s why my Panel 1 doesn’t shrink…though it’s got me thinking and learning now!

  2. This has really got me thinking about my own life and how my ‘windows’ have changed over the years. Think I used to be a lot more one – I was open with myself and others and as I’ve gotten older I think I’ve progressed more to the second window, where I’m a little more circumspect. Not sure if this is better or worse though?

    1. It’s interesting to think about how it can change over time…I know during certain times in my teen years Panel 2 would have ruled!

      I don’t think there is any “better” or “worse”, but simply different. Is it to only certain you people you follow this rule, or all people around you?

      The thing that has me constantly scratching my head is just how big Panel 4 is!

  3. Wow! You have really got my mind boggled. I wonder if the size of panel one and panel two depend on whether you are an introvert or an extrovert?

    Maybe there are things that others know about you that you don’t realise they know! You could complete this task on your friends.

    It would be interesting to get your students to do this task and see the results too. Teachers might need to get to know the students with big panel twos a little better!

    Great post!

  4. Great post! My husband and I were discussing this and still haven’t come up with a final answer. He agrees that panels will change over time depending on circumstances and relationships. I take your point about panel 2 being important but I also think it can become counterproductive and hold you back. If you’re not totally honest with people about why you are worried about something or why you feel you can’t do something, then you are robbing yourself of hearing an alternative view that you may not have considered before. I like panel 3 (depending on the people you surround yourself with) because others can help you see your own potential, support and encourage you and help you see yourself in a more positive light. Alternatively they may challenge you to make positive changes in your life that you didn’t think we’re possible or had never considered. Panel 4 has me stumped altogether.
    This was a great read. We’re looking forward to the next post!

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