Burke Hedges Chapter 3; Change or Be Changed!
"One of my business partners, Dr. Steve Price, used to be a high school English teacher. One day we were talking about the sorry state of education and I made the remark that kids weren't motivated to learn anymore.
"Ever wonder why they aren't more motivated?" he asked. " Think back to your days in school. How many intelligent, dedicated, passionate teachers did you have during high school? Two.. Maybe three, if you were lucky."
"Problem is," he continued, "the teaching profession is filled with what I call 'Matts'. Matts are dull, predictable people frozen in their comfort zones... and they're drawn to teaching like bees to honey because they think it's the most secure job in the world."
Then Steve told me his story about Matt.
When I was teaching, I ate lunch at the same time in the same place with the same teachers, day in and day out, for over 10 years. I'll never forget this one Mathematics Teacher named Matt. No matter what was on the menu, Matt ordered the same thing for lunch every day, a plain peanut butter sandwich on white bread. One day I made it a point to sit next to Matt during lunch. I was dying to know why he ordered the same thing for lunch every single day. " So Matt," I said casually, "I see you're having a peanut butter sandwich again today, just like every day. Man, you must really like peanut butter, huh?"
"Not really," replied Matt.
"Oh, then you must eat it for the protein. Peanut butter is full of protein," I said
"Never really thought about it," replied Matt.
"Ah-h-h, I know. You're on a budget, right? Pretty cheap lunch, peanut butter."
"Nope. Soup's cheaper," replied Matt.
I could feel my voice rising as I said, "Look, Matt, you've ordered a peanut butter sandwich every single day for 10 years. You aren't crazy about the taste. You don't eat it for the nutritional value; And you can afford to order just about anything you want. Let me ask you just one more question. "SO WHY DO YOU ORDER A PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH EVERY SINGLE DAY OF YOUR LIFE?!!!" I screamed.
Startled, Matt placed his sandwich gently on his plate, glanced down at the floor and then said, "Because that's what I've always ordered." With that he returned to his sandwich and the conversation ended.
Now I've never met Matt personally, but I must say I've met alot of 'Matts' in my day. Seems they're all over the place.
Matts are people who get caught up in their comfort zones, people who let their everyday habits run them, instead of them running their habits. Matts are people who just go through the motions.. people who put in their time.. people who 'lead lives of quiet desperation,' as Thoreau put it.
Hey, we all have comfort zones. No harm in that, but when we become slaves to our confort zones, that's a different story. That's voluntary suffocation.
Remember Mary Lou Retton? She won a gold medal in gymnastics at the 1984 Olympics. Today she's one of the most sought-after motivational speakers in the country. Her topic? Breaking out of Comfort Zones:
"We all live our lives in comfort zones, avoiding risky situations, avoiding the potential to fail. Its' real safe for us, but in order to get ahead, you've got to get out of your comfort zone. Try something new and see if it works. It may, it may not, but you'll never know if you don't try."
One thing is for sure. As long as you're in your comfort zone, you're not growing. Sure, it's uncomfortable to venture outside your comfort zone, but believe me, its the only way you'll grow!
Years ago I watched a made-for-TV movie called Boy in a Bubble, starring a young John Travolta. The movie was based on a true story about a kid who had to live in a totally sterilized environment because his immune system stopped working. Doctors built a 10 foot-square, clear plastic sterilized bubble for the boy to live in. Everything that entered had to be germ free. People could see him and talk to him through the plastic bubble, but they could never enter his world for fear of passing along a fatal virus.
At the end of the movie the boy is faced with an agonizing choice. He can remain in the bubble and stay alive for years.. alone, isolated from the rest of the world; or he can choose to leave the bubble and live his life - no matter how brief - to the fullest.
What do you think the boy chose to do?
Do you think he chose to live a longer life inside of his sterilized comfort zone? Or did he choose to live a shorter - although happier - life on the outside?
What about you?.. Where would you choose to live?
More to the point, WHERE ARE YOU LIVING?
For the record, Travolta's character chose to leave the security of his bubble. He knew that in order to TRULY LIVE, he had to leave his protective bubble and embrace life, no matter how short it was.
That movie reminds me of a conversation I had several years ago with Tommy Lasorda, Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, during the filming of a television show I was producing. I asked Lasorda if he had any children, and he said yes, a daughter and a son. He went on to say his son had passed away a few months earlier. I said I was sorry and extended my condolences.
And then Lasorda said something to me that I've never forgotten: "Burke," he said " My son was a little over 33 years old when he died. If God had come down from the heavens and appeared before me 33 years ago to tell me He was offering me a choice between having a son, who would be taken from me before his 34th birthday, or not having a son so that I would be spared the pain of his death, I'd have chosen to have a son, no doubt about it. He's gone now, but my wife and I wouldn't give up those 33 years of joy we had while he was with us for anything in the world."
Lasorda's story is a perfect illustration of a universal truth: Pain is an unavoidable part of life, and the more you try to protect yourself from the pain of living, the more you smother the simple joys that life has to offer.
That's why it saddens me to see people retreat from changes that technology brings instead of welcoming them. Seems like more and more people are running from reality, instead of facing it. Futurist Faith Popcorn even coined a term for this phenomenon: COCOONING.
Great word, cocoon. Nice and safe and warm in there; but given the choice betwen resisting change and staying in your cocoon.. and embracing change and growing into a beautiful, soaring butterfly.. what would you choose?
To quote Aldous Huxley, "Ignoring the facts doesn't make them any less true."
And the fact is technology is changing the way we live, work and play and those changes are happening faster today than ever before.
Just ask the executives at Smith Corona about the impact of technology. Smith Corona was a leading manufacturer of typewriters for over 100 years. Then personal computers exploded onto the scene and during a 10 year period starting in 1983, typewriters were virtually replaced by 25 million PC's. In 1995 Smith Corona was forced to declare bankruptcy.
Technology is so powerful it can create billion dollar industries almost overnight. Just look at cellular phones. In 1983, there were zero cellular phone subscribers. 10 years later, 16 million Americans were spending tens of billions of dollars a year on cellular phones.
Look, folks, change is everywhere. You can't hide from it by denying it or ignoring it. It's constant. Change doesn't necessarily cause good things or bad things to happen to people. How people react to change, however, can have good or bad consequences.
A classic example of people suffering or prospering, depending on how they reacted to change, happened just across the bridge from me in Tampa, Florida.
At the turn of the century, Tampa was known as the cigar capital of the world. In fact, three generations of cigar workers lived and worked in a prosperous, bustling 20 square block section of town called Ybor City (pronounced EE-BORE CITY), named after Tampa's first cigar factory owner.
Ybor City was home to more than 60 cigar factories in the 1920's. Huge, 4, 5 and 6 story brick factories housed thousands of immigrants who worked 10 hour days handrolling over 100 million cigars every year.
Cigar workers could make as much as $20 a week, a good wage back then, and the money supported hundreds of flourishing Ybor City businesses. Until the 1940's, the cigar was king and life was good in Ybor City.
After World War Two, factory owners began replacing cigar workers with machines that would do the same work in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost. Best of all, machines never went on strike. Machines never called in sick or demanded a raise.
To make matters worse, cigar smoking fell out of favor and the dreaded "C" word - CHANGE - stalked the streets of Ybor City. Men and women who knew nothing else but cigar making were out of jobs.
Houses went into foreclosure. Mothers took in wash. Fathers drank. Families broke up and Ybor City went from a boom town to a ghost town in 10 years.
Lots of good people suffered as change swept over Ybor City. Change can be devastating to people who don't see it coming, or who don't admit to themselves that it's coming. The reactive citizens of Ybor City, the negative people who cursed the machines and longed for the good old days, suffered the most: But what about the men and women who came back from the war and saw the handwriting on the factory wall? Were they really worse off because they were out of low-paying, dead-end jobs? Or better off because now they were forced to break out of their comfort zones and seek new opportunities in emerging industries.
The proactive citizens of Ybor City saw the end of the 10 hour days in hot, smelly factories as a blessing, not a curse. Some went off to college on the GI Bill and upon graduation entered the workforce during the most prosperous 25 years in our nation's history.
Some jumped on the technology bandwagon and took good paying jobs with fast growing telephone companies, utility companies and manufacturers. Some learned a trade and found steady work as carpenters and plumbers. Some scraped together enough money to open a restaurant, a corner drug store, a flower shop, a clothing store, a neighbourhood bank. For them, change wasn't a four letter word. Change was a breath of fresh air, a chance to wash the stale smell of tobacco from their clothes, once and for all!
Take an honest look at your own life and ask this quesiton" How would you like to wash your past clean and embark on a new life?
Learn To Love Change
Tom Peters, management consultant to many fortune 500 companies and author of In Search of Excellence, one of the best-selling business books in history, says this about change:
Change is disruptive.... But it doesn't make any difference. You gotta do it anyway. We're in an era where, literally, to learn to love change is the only survival course.
Ever hear the old saying, " Change is the only constant"? Today, that's true more than ever! It's like the story Steven Covey likes to tell at the beginning of his talk on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
A Night Watchman on a HUGE Battleship alerted the Captain that their ship was headed directly toward a light in the distance. The Captain immediately sent the message, "Change your course 10 degrees South".
A few minutes later came the reply "Change your course 10 degrees North"
Perturbed, the Captain signaled back, "I am a Captain. Change your course South."
Five minutes later came the reply, "I am a Seaman First Class. Change your course North."
Fuming, the Captain sent one final message: " I demand you change your course. I'M ON A BATTLESHIP!"
" I strongly recommend you change your course," came the response. "I'm a LIGHTHOUSE."
The moral of the story is pretty clear, isn't it? Technology is the lighthouse and it's rather audacious of us to demand that technology slow down and move over so we can keep cruising straight ahead in our comfort zone.
If you were the Captain of the Battleship, what would you do? Hold your course or change your course?
Well, each of us is the Captain of our own lives. We have a choice of changing our course and surviving, even flourishing, for that matter. Or staying our course and plunging headfirst into disaster.
As H. Jackson Brown, Jr says in the best selling Life's Little Instruction Book, "Never under-estimate your power to Change yourself. Never overestimate your power to Change the world."