Originally published 3/9/2017
Sometimes, I think I may have a glitch in my brain. Where some choose to stay in a situation that is unfulfilling but comfortable, I choose to strike out in a new direction. Where company executives insist we must keep doing what we’ve been doing in order to continue being successful, I see their adamant defense of the status quo to be futile and a self-fulfilling way to make their fears of failure come true. But just when I become convinced there is something wrong with me and the way I view the world, I connect with other people or read books and articles that prove I am not alone.
We spend so much time, energy, and money defending what already exists, even if it isn’t good or we see it is eventually doomed to fail. In business, I see this all the time in managers who don’t understand “Millennials” for being motivated by different means or wanting alternative forms of compensation. They assume that what got them to their position of success is what is going to work for these newcomers to the workforce, and they get frustrated when we refuse to adapt or surrender to “the way things are.” I think we’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity to reevaluate current business practices and figure out a better way to organize industries to leverage the strengths and capabilities of a new generation. I’m reminded of the Einstein quote, “If you judge everyone by their ability to climb a tree, they will spend their whole lives believing they are stupid.” To me it’s as if the Boomer generation or Gen X is made up of oxen, and Millennials are more like fish. Instead of forcing the fish onto land to do the hard work, let’s introduce some water into the workforce and let the fish swim next to the oxen as they do work in the manner and style they prefer.
As long as time exists, change is inevitable. While fear of the unknown and fear of uncertainty can be valuable signs of intuition, they can also be the shackles that prevent us from realizing our true potential. When things don’t go according to my plan or expectations, my initial reaction is to sound alarm bells. “NO! This is not how it’s supposed to be!” says the voice in my head. But I’ve learned that it’s much more productive to go past this instinct and think through my resistance. Are there sound, logical reasons I’m resistant or unhappy? Do I actually know of a better outcome to strive for? Is there some middle ground to explore? What outcome am I seeking, and can this new way still get me there? This is typically a first pass I take toward digging into the root cause of any resistance to change or unmet expectations.
I’m not advocating that we change everything just for the sake of changing with no rhyme or reason. This would be unsustainable and chaotic. In Creativity, Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi emphasizes that those among us who are truly creative do not simply generate good ideas; rather, they generate a lot of ideas and then evaluate them. They keep the good ideas and discard the bad ones. Nor am I suggesting that there are not great aspects to the world we live in. We’ve made tremendous progress in many areas and we live in an age of tremendous potential. What I’m suggesting is if we took the energy and thought that currently goes into fighting against change tooth and nail, and channeled it into a more productive way of crafting the change we want to see, I believe we could harness unprecedented power to create a better future.