Many years ago two salesmen were sent by a British shoe manufacturer to Africa to investigate and report back on market potential.
The first salesman reported back, “There is no potential here – nobody wears shoes.”
The second salesman reported back, “There is massive potential here – nobody wears shoes.”
This simple short story provides one of the best examples of how a single situation may be viewed in two quite different ways – negatively or positively.
We could explain this also in terms of seeing a situation’s problems and disadvantages, instead of its opportunities and benefits.
When telling this story its impact is increased by using exactly the same form of words (e.g., “nobody wears shoes”) in each salesman’s report. This emphasizes that two quite different interpretations can be made of a single situation.