Constant Change Requires Constant Learning

When change is constant, learning is critical.

Wayne Bennett talks about the man who walked into a psychiatrist’s office. He said, “Doc, every time I see nickels, dimes, and quarters, I have a panic attack! What’s my problem?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” the doctor answered. “You’re just afraid of change.”

Well, maybe you, or your team, or your company is afraid of change — especially in these times of unprecedented change. I suppose that’s why I’ve had several requests for my new program on “Taking Charge in Challenging Times.”

But let me give you a head start. To survive the toughest of times, you’ve got to…

=> 1. Find something to hang on to.

It may be your faith, your family, or even your self. But you’ve got to have something to believe in when the world is crashing around you.

That’s why … when I teach the 12 keys in my “Journey to the Extraordinary” experience … the second key is PURPOSE. I tell participants they’ve got to know what on earth they’re here for. I tell them they’ve got to stand for something or they’ll fall for anything.

Yes, you’ve got to have something to hang on to. That’s what the Allied Armies learned immediately after World War II. They were the ones who gathered up thousands of hungry, homeless children and placed them in large camps. It was there that the children were abundantly fed and cared for.

However, at night the children did not sleep well. They seemed restless and afraid.

And then one psychologist hit on the solution. After the children were put to bed, each one received a slice of bread to hold. If they wanted more to eat, more was provided. But this slice was to hold and not to be eaten.

The slice of bread produced marvelous results. The children would go to sleep, subconsciously feeling they would have something to eat in the morning. That assurance gave the children a calm and peaceful rest.

Maybe you need a more calm and peaceful rest or a more calm and peaceful life. Then make sure you’ve got something to hang on to.

And make sure it’s something that comes to your mind … many times … throughout the day. It may be an affirmation you think, or a word of gratitude you say, or a power you acknowledge.

I know it works for me. I always carry a medallion in my left pocket, and whenever I happen to stick my hand in my pocket, I’m reminded of the powerful, encouraging words printed on the medallion. It’s something I hang on to.

And then…

=> 2. Acknowledge your feelings … but don’t bow down to them.

You see … all change produces fear, anger, loss, and/or confusion. That’s normal. That’s what you’re going to feel … to some degree … when you go through any change. Even good change.

So don’t make the mistake of thinking your change will be a breeze. It will involve some uncomfortable feelings. And most likely, you won’t feel totally at peace about your change until long after it has been implemented.

I remember that from my days in retail trade. We used to put a price sticker on every item in the department store, and the cashier would manually key in every item at the checkout counter. Of course, we had a fairly high error rate because it was all too easy for the cashier to punch in an incorrect number. And it took a long time to process customers.

Then in the mid 1980’s, we started to use the bar code system. The cashier could simply scan in each item as he/she moved the item across an instrument that read the bar code and instantly recorded an accurate price.

At first, the employees were skeptical of the new scanning system. They even showed signs of fear. But after a while, the fear disappeared, and the cashiers loved the new technology. They made fewer mistakes and could check out more customers in a given period of time. If the scanners were taken away now, and if we reverted back to the use of sticker pricing and manual entries, the cashiers would not be pleased.

So what’s the point? People soon forget the fear of change … once they’ve realized the benefits of change. So it’s okay to acknowledge your feelings, but don’t bow down to them and let them stop you from implementing the change.

Finally, before, during, and after the change…

=> 3. Keep on learning.

That’s right. Keep on learning, learning, learning … no matter how successful you’ve been in the past. You see … your past success only proves you were right once. It does not guarantee your future success. As I tell the attendees at my “Journey to the Extraordinary” experience, if you’re going to keep on succeeding, continuous learning is not an option.

Unfortunately, successful people can be lulled into complacency. They can fall into the trap of thinking they already know everything they need to know. J. Paul Getty, one of the greatest success stories of the last 100 years, knew that. He said, “In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy.”

You’ve got to learn as if you would live forever. And you’ve got to live as if you would die tomorrow.

And smart leaders support lifelong learning in their organizations. They know that the people who are not learning … are the ones who are the most fearful of change, and they’re the ones who fight the change. Bottom line … as psychologist Dr. Terry Paulson notes, “Frightened people fight.”

People fight what they do not understand. One clergyman had to learn that lesson. As he was walking down a country lane, he saw a young farmer struggling to load hay onto a cart after it had fallen off. “You look hot, my son,” said the cleric. “Why don’t you rest a moment?”

“No thanks,” said the young man. “My father wouldn’t like it.”

“Don’t be silly,” the minister said. “Everyone is entitled to a break. Come and have a drink of water.” Again the young man protested that his father would be upset.

Losing his patience, the clergyman said, “Your father must be a real mean man. Tell me where I can find him, and I’ll give him a piece of my mind!”

“Well,” replied the young man, “at the moment he’s under that load of hay.”

The minister was fighting the young man because he didn’t understand the situation. He needed to learn the facts.

And the same goes for you. To make the best of any situation, to get through the turmoil of our changing world, there is no substitute for continual learning.

Action:  As a new year approaches, outline your plan for continual learning. How many seminars do you plan to attend in the new year? How many books do you plan to read each month? And how many educational and motivational CDs do you plan on listening to each week?