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This past week I read a blog by Seth Godin entitled “Did You Win?” It is very short so take a minute to read it…I will wait.
That spawned some contemplative time for me. I love to win. In fact, as a kid my parents made me stop playing certain board games because I would literally cry if I lost. I am also very competitive and have been guilty of crushing more than one person’s spirit by being too competitive…including my own children (which I am not proud of).
Fortunately, over the past several years I am finally realizing that winning should not be the goal in life. It is still a valid goal when running a race or playing a competitive sport or entering a contest…but not in living our lives or leading our teams.
Winning is definitive….it has a specific end point…like a sporting event.
But learning is perpetual…ongoing…constantly challenging…stretching our thinking and efforts…trying new things…failing…trying again…making it better…repeat all of the above.
Earlier this week I received the unfortunate news that a company I was with for 23 years closed its doors. I learned so much during that time and have developed some of my closest friendships. But this company was not wiling to change…learn. It was so fixated on doing business the way they wanted to do it, that they did not learn from past challenges or the changing world/culture/industry around them. While I was with that company we “won” in many instances and enjoyed the temporal fruits of those “winning” moments. But without the ability to learn and change, the winning is soon forgotten.
What is the old axiom…“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change ” (Heraclitus). Change in and of itself does not require learning…but forward and positive change does require the skill of learning. Things are going to change…PERIOD. They can either change around you and you ignore the change…which in turn will impact you, thus resulting in change which is likely not positive, as in the case of the aforementioned company. Or we can learn and make adjustments to be part of an upward, positive and sustainable change (until it is time to change again).
If you do not believe that change is all around us and that the rate of change is becoming rapid, look at the chart below. Starting from the invention of the Gutenberg Press in 1450 to 3D Television, we have seen incredible change in communication mediums. But the rate of change…WOW. It took nearly 400 years to morph from the printing press to Morse Code. And yet the rate of change in the past several decades (and years) has been exponential.
Change is inevitable.
There is no escaping it (with the exception of the Gospel…although the presentation of the gospel will change).
The key to great leadership (and follower-ship for that matter) is the ability to learn as things change.