I suspect most of us have already begun to fail in our New Year’s resolutions by now. Or soon will. Don’t mean to be a downer, but the odds of instituting big changes, and even incremental ones, are not high. Certainly lots of studies reveal that about our New Year’s resolutions.
This does not mean that we are all creatures of invertebrate inadequacy. It does mean that it is damn hard to change.
I believe all businessmen need to change regularly. And not just incrementally change, meaning doing better and better what we already do well. I’m talking about bone-deep change. But is this possible outside the purview of religious revelation like Moses’ burning bush or Paul on the road to Damascus?
I don’t believe long-term change comes from just analyzing what I am doing wrong and “fixing” it, whether it be losing weight, starting a business, or stopping smoking. My experience is that change comes first from finding who I really am and then choosing a living dream based in that. Many people call this integral dream hope. Hope is fundamental to my dreaming and I can not move forward to achieve that dream till I know who I am as a guidepost to reaching for my entrepreneurial dream. As Yogi Berra supposedly said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
For me personally, two things have specifically grounded me and enabled basic change. The first was AA and several of its concomitant 12 Step programs. Through it I was able to overcome escapist entropy and habit—habit that covered the gamut of the Seven Deadly Sins and made me kind of a useless, louche narcissist—and change into a more useful, functional soul. (If you want to read more about this try my post “Addiction and Entrepreneurship.”)
The second thing that worked for me was fairly recent. It was something called the Executive Reinvention Program led by leadership guru Tracy Goss, who wrote the best-seller The Last Word On Power. (1995, Crown Business) I personally hate gurus (not a term Goss would use for herself). But Goss’ rather radical approach bloody well has had a profound effect on me. What her two week process of change demands is that you begin by abandoning everything that you think works for you and makes you successful, charming, and effective, so as to open up the untapped fullness of your personal truth. (For more, read my post “Overcoming Success and Transformational Entrepreneurship”)
There are truly lots of paths to real, bone-deep change. They all involve becoming a persistent and fundamental change agent in yourself. Here are just two. Bill Gates went from being your stereotypical computer nerd, the kind you probably mocked in high school, to becoming a courageous entrepreneur, then morphing into a ruthless monopolist, and lately becoming the greatest philanthropist in history. And consider the recently deceased Nelson Mandela. He started out as an arrogant asshole—violent, antisocial, aggressive—and became one of the greatest moral figures of history, in the pantheon of non-violent resistance with Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Constant change is essential for the creative entrepreneur. It needs to be built into the process. So, if it ain’t broke, break it. Regularly. Make it your New Year’s resolution. As Jack Welch puts it, “Change before you have to.”
British writer and thinker C.S. Lewis said, “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And we cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We constantly must be hatched or go bad.” Thanks, C.S. Lewis.