First Posted February 25, 2010.
Last spring, when I was plunged head first into the bottom of the recession, I thought I understood what change was about. I did and I didn't.
Let me put it another way.
When we enter an unknown territory, we tend to rely on past experience to guide us through.
Take the above picture for example. You are walking up this hill for the first time. You may assume that what is on the other side is just like this side, but it isn't.
What if the other side looked like this.
If it was, you would be ill-prepared to face it. For many people this is what they have experienced with this recession. Increasing, but manageable hardship, then, boom, the bottom drops out, and you have to descend in order to reach the bottom so you can begin to move up.
I'm beginning to think that very little of my past experience prepared me for what I've experienced. The degree and kind of change required of me was not what I expected.
I thought change was about looking for new markets as I "re-invented myself." In retrospect, what my best efforts did was delay the inevitable. We think that change is about markets, programs, branding, and organizational structure. Those are just tactics that follow something else.
What I discovered is that I had to change as a person.
Even saying that doesn't capture what I've learned. It doesn't because it isn't about me.
Whether you are 25, 50 or 75, dealing with change isn't about who you are or what you do. It is rather about putting yourself in the position to make a difference, to make a contribution, to create impact. This idea has been part of my methodology, embedded in my Circle of Impact materials, for over five years. But how I dealt with change was too abstract, logical, rational. It didn't deal with reality.
I'm been thinking about the speed of change.
A lot of people want to slow change down. They want time to adapt to it. I've become convinced that we need to speed up change. We do because it forces us to simplify our life and work. Squeeze out then non-essentials and a higher level of productivity results.
I know. It is all very counter-intuitive. The faster you change, the slower life becomes. I know it sounds like something out of the Matrix. But, it is true.
Therefore, here's my recommendation. Ask the following questions. Write down your answers.
1. What do I do right now that has the greatest impact upon other people?
How do I make a difference that matters?
Now, increase the amount of time that you spend doing that.
2. What am I doing right now that seems like nothing more than an obligation?
Begin to plan now for ending it as soon as possible.
3. Pay off as much debt as soon as possible.
Build your cash reserves so that you'll have the freedom to stop and start again.
4. Create a list of the assumptions upon which you make your major decisions. Write them down.
Be skeptical of each assumption.
Make sure that each is valid, not simply a good sounding idea.
5. Be patient, persistent, and light-hearted.
I call this Resourceful Optimism.
Practice it and you'll get through.
Change is going to happen regardless of what happens. it is best be prepared for it when it comes.