Some thoughts to start fresh at this season of change

September 6, 2010
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Perhaps because of school schedules (which, unfortunately, are changing) or Michigan’s automotive industry (which tended to slow a bit for tooling changeovers), July and August have become traditional vacation times. With September’s arrival, however, we face a return to reality. While ready to get back into the swing of things, the “lazy, hazy days of summer” seem to hold on to our hearts as we re-enter the working world.

As we transition from what was once a slower time (though we have seen more work and less play making many people a bit touchy the past couple of years) to a more active fall, I find myself expanding upon the thoughts of others as they tried to express what really matters. Perhaps these considerations might help you transition from the “hazy days” to the “crazy maze” in which we often find ourselves this time of year.

We must never try to be someone we are not. Many individuals return to work with fresh “resolutions” to do something (or be something) different. However, unless there is more gain from the change than pain from not changing, such mid-stream corrections rarely prove effective. People change very little once they have established their basic values, patterns and thought processes. It is often easier (and more effective) to leverage an individual’s strengths than it is to try to change their shortcomings. 

As a well known “philosopher,” Dr. Suess, once aptly proclaimed: "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

Summer is a great time for people to sit back and dream — about what they have or do not have, who they are or who they might wish to be, and what they want to do differently so that they can achieve an altered result.

Stephen Leacock stated, "It may be that those who do most, dream most." One must first imagine something as being a possibility before it can become a probability. And yet: "Dreams take time, patience, sustained effort, and a willingness to fail if they are ever to be anything more than dreams" (Bryan Linkoski). 

While “failure” is not a desired outcome of change, dreamers often focus their desire to change around the real possibility that they may not (at first) taste success. Robert F. Kennedy said, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." Individuals who truly have made a difference in this world understand that "failure is not the worst thing in the world. The very worst thing is not to try" (Unknown).

While much intentional thought and deliberate action is required to succeed, they recognize that "Failure is the path of least persistence." Further, if a “dreamer” is to transition thoughts to reality, the word “impossible” must not be a part of his or her vocabulary. 

Finally, while facts, information and well-considered alternatives are often the building blocks of change, perhaps Dexter Yeger appropriately described its essence, saying, "If the dream is big enough, the facts don't count."

Life is a series of starts and stops, of closed chapters and new beginnings. Most have heard that one definition of insanity is continuing to do things the way they have always been done while expecting different results.

If we are to see change as we move from one season to another, it is important that we not only recognize the need for altered behavior but that we also intentionally act to make it happen. A tree’s leaves do not fall to the ground without first slowing their metabolism and changing colors. The warmth of summer does not instantly leave us; we first experience shorter, cooler days due to our increased distance from the sun as the earth tilts on its axis.

Knowing the facts and understanding how to make change happen does not necessarily insure transformation, however. Will Rogers appropriately stated, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." As the seasons change, accompanied by our actions and our attitudes, we should embrace the thought expressed by William Osler: "We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from life."

Sadly, many seem to seek equality rather than equity in the world. They (unintentionally?) pull down those who are successful, taking from them the fruits of their labor in an effort to narrow the gap between “those who have and those who have not.” Perhaps it might be better to provide “those without” the tools necessary to narrow the gap through their own productivity.

While good, hard-working individuals who are seeking jobs often find they do not have the requisite skills, many jobs remain unfilled because the “sting” of not working is more than sufficiently salved by an ever-expanding unemployment compensation system.

As summer ends and the seasons of life begin anew, perhaps we could gain from both the wisdom of Dr. Suess and the reality of Mark Twain, who said, "Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." We are not “owed” success; we must first seek it and then intentionally act to make it a reality. 

Make this the season of change by thinking big and acting audaciously without fear of failure — and then incorporating the lessons learned into success.

David J. Smith is president and CEO of The Employers’ Association, a not-for-profit provider of human resource solutions since 1939.

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