Well, Happy New Year all! It’s resolution time. As I think about my own resolves for 2015 I must note that most resolutions are negatives of one sort or another. They usually involve changing things we’re doing wrong, like putting on weight, excessive drinking, procrastinating, etc. Research shows they seldom work.
This does not mean we are all creatures of spineless inadequacy. It just means it is damn hard to change.
Healthy entrepreneurs do change. Regularly. My own sales outsourcing firm, Corporate Rain International, has consistently become a different company from year to year for 19 years. Despite the fact that I bloody hate change, I know change needs to happen if I, or any entrepreneur, plans to stay relevant to herself or to her business world.
And even harder, the possibility of this change must be radically open. That is, not just open to incremental change–meaning doing better and better what we are already doing well–but open to actual bone-deep revolution. (I think often our failures of change are really because we think too small.)
But is this sort of existential change even 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 come first from finding out who I really am and what I really want and then choosing a living dream based in that. Many people call this integral dream hope.
Entrepreneurs are basically about the impossible. They are dreamers. They are creatures of impossible hope. Much like artists, they are about creating something new out of nothing. Isn’t that ridiculous? Yes. Entrepreneurs are ridiculous people.
Whitney Johnson, co-founder of Rose Park Advisors with Clayton Christensen, wrote a lovely essay in the Harvard Business Review’s website a couple of years ago entitled, “Instead of Making Resolutions, Dream.” Johnson cites J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter gazing into the Mirror of Erised that “shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.” Says Johnson:
“I suspect most of us have a desperate desire of our heart, something we may even deserve, that we don’t or can’t have. When you take a moment to look at the “why” of a resolution, you may find the fierce desire that fuels it. Harry Potter, for example, can’t have his parents, but he can be beloved. Inside of the something you can’t have, there is often the makings of something you can achieve.”
I believe that entrepreneurs especially need to devote their New Year cogitations not to incremental improvements, but to the very “why” of their existence and the existence of their business in the coming year. That’s what I believe Yogi Berra really means when he refers above to “knowing where you”re going.” It involves a seminal act of courage each turn of the year (and perhaps every day) not to just improve, but to conceptualize impossible things. The details will come later (like losing weight or making more money.) (If you want to read the best book ever on conceptionalizing the the impossible, try The Last Word On Power by Tracy Goss.)
Constant change is essential for the creative entrepreneur. It needs to be built into the process. The beginning of the year is a marvelous time for each entrepreneur to look anew on how he achieves the impossible in his deepest core and even why he is in business at all. As Jack Welch so trenchantly puts it, “Change before you have to.”
Here’s a quote I love about change from British writer and philosopher C.S. Lewis. “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.”
Thank you, C.S. Lewis. Happy New Year!