Five-Star Review on a Paper "Blurb" Cutout

My mom joined me for the first two weeks or so of my extended vacation to Naples, Florida. One of the many outings we enjoyed together was a three-hour tour (just like Gilligan’s Island!) by boat through the Ten Thousand Islands of the Everglades mangrove forests to a remote island where we could go shelling for a while before returning.

Before I tell you more about our day, I’m going to share with you a review someone left online of this very same tour they’d taken just a day or so earlier:

Nothing special

Probably the most disappointing [cruise we’ve taken]. We spent most of the time traveling to the remote island that really was no different than the beach at our condo. When we arrived at the island, we were on our own to explore, so if there was anything special there, we missed it.

We saw a few dolphins and some shore birds. That’s it. This cruise was a bust. I would not recommend this tour.

Now, let me share with you my own review:

Perfect Morning with Mom

The staff and crew were energetic and personable. We had good personal conversations with several, and they love what they are doing, which makes a difference. Our captain (Dave) and mate (Jack) were terrific.

We saw lots of wildlife, and Captain Dave stopped often for us to get great views, photos and videos. On our tour, we saw burrowing owls, snowy egrets, herons, cormorants, pipers, skimmers, limpkins, pelicans, osprey and pink spoonbills; three manatees; skates; and a huge pod of dolphins that were not shy, many of which swam and jumped in our wake or beside us for a while. We had enough time on the island to collect a good assortment of “keeper” shells, one of which I’d never found before.

Even without the wildlife and shell haul, the boat ride itself was fun, relaxing and surrounded by beautiful views.

I went with my mom, and we both had an excellent time.

How is it that such a dismal review and a raving review could both have been written about the same tour?

Before I answer that, so that you don’t think I was just being overly kind in my review, allow me to share some pictures with you of what my mom and I experienced (click to enlarge individual pics on mobile):

A Channel Through an Everglades Mangrove Forest
A Remote Shelling Island
The Pelicans Were Only Pretending to be Bashful
Captain Dave Talked About Everything as if it were His First Time Seeing It
A Playful Dolphin
Our Island Shell Haul
A Millionaire's 1980s Dream - Now Hotel for the Birds
An Osprey Aloft and Aloof
A Graceful Great Egret
Pretty in Pink: A Roseate Spoonbill
A Limpkin Looking for Lunch
A Black Cormorant Stretches His Wings

First, I submit to you that both reviews were TRUEtrue for the person who wrote them.

What’s incredible to consider, however, is that the actual tour itself—the ride, the views, the wildlife, the crew, the island—were likely just about the same for both reviewers.

That leaves only one explanation for the difference in experience.


Unfortunately, the word “life-changing” has been so overused at this point that it’s lost any real meaning. I can only say that to master the art of changing one’s perspective is central to changing one’s life. What’s more, changing our perspective lies entirely within the realm of our own choice. And that means that whether you live a one-star life or a five-star life, for the most part, is up to you.

You can’t blame it on the boat captain (or anyone else) if you miss out on the special moments all around you, wherever your little island in life happens to be.

Please know that I’m not claiming to be somehow better than the other reviewer. I’ve simply put in the time and practice to become better at something—a particular life skill that anyone can learn.

In April, I released my third book: Alternate Reality: The Better Life You Could be Living. Let me end this post where that book begins:


IT SEEMS TO ME that the potential for happiness or misery exists in about equal proportion in the world. No one is immune from either. Likewise, I see people experiencing what seem on the surface to be parallel circumstances and yet exhibiting very different reactions to them. One man is whistling merrily as he strolls along a busy sidewalk while another is scowling with hands stuffed into his pockets. The couple to my left is sharing baby photos and laughing warmly with a stranger at a restaurant, while the one to my right is grumbling about the wait. The third-grade teacher in Room A is excited for her students to try out the new math game she created last night, while the teacher in Room B across the hall is sighing and counting down the minutes until the end of the school day. This family’s bonds tighten when their mother passes away, while that family frays and falls apart in the face of their own such loss.

There’s an endless body of evidence around us, pointing to the conclusion that life is not merely about what is, but about how we choose to tune our attentions.

I know some great photographers. And I know some not-so-great ones. As with most art, I’ve found that the difference between the great and the not-so-great does not lie in the sophistication of the available equipment. Pictures taken by one photographer with a disposable camera can be breathtaking, while those taken by another with a top-of-the-line setup can fall flat. Rather, the difference lies in the use of fundamental skills. In a creative eye. And in a certain amount of patience.

In life, we are all photographers. We are not handed the images that must fill our pages. We can walk around a situation, setting up the composition of the shot we’d like to capture. We can wait for clouds to shift so that a particular light will fall on a subject. We can choose to take up the frame with more of this and less of that. To zoom in on one thing and not another. And, as with a camera lens, the choices we make will cause some things to become clearer, while others blur into the background.

It’s a matter of focus.

As far as I’ve ever seen (and I know an awful lot of people), there is no reward for choosing to focus on the negative in life. Granted, there are perceived gains—pity, attention, martyrdom. But they are a sad bouquet, if you ask me, in comparison with the perennial garden of wonder, joy, contentment and hope that we plant when we choose to focus on the positive.

As with photography, getting good at it takes work. New techniques must be learned. Skills honed.

The subject or scenery may not change, so you learn to change your perspective. It may take hundreds of shots of the same thing at times, spurred on by the unwavering belief that there is something beautiful hiding there.

This book is a collection of real-life stories, essays, observations and challenges designed to pique curiosity and promote just such a change in perspective. You’ve turned your camera on by opening these pages and making the choice to read. So you’re ready. Now stay alert. Study the landscapes you find here. Try out new lenses as you move through your own terrain. Take lots of snapshots. Some may turn out blurry, garish or underwhelming. That’s OK. Keep switching up the angle. Catch the changing light. Be patient. Slowly but surely, it will come—the ability to see what others do not, what you yourself had once missed.

The artistry.

The new book, ALTERNATE REALITY, is available now at Amazon.com.

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