"This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."
-George Bernard Shaw
In 2001, an unassuming man took over a struggling Bowling Green football team. Over a 6 year run, the team had struggled to put together winning seasons, and in 2000 only managed two wins. This team was six years removed from any decent success, and about a decade removed from being "good". This first-time head coach had little to build upon for the future. In 2001, this football sage would engineer one of the most impressive turnarounds in NCAA history, taking this losing team to an 8-3 season. He would earn coach of the year honors and follow up the performance with a 9-3 season in 2002. That coach, as some of you may know, was Urban Meyer.
But that's not what's so impressive about Meyer. What's more impressive is that Meyer would then go to Utah and put together a 22-2 record. Then he'd head to Florida for a few years and put together a 65-15 record with two national championships. He's now at Ohio State where he is 50-4 with a National Championship as well. Four different teams. Four different conferences. Four different situations. He's achieved the same results every time in every place. That's consistency in a world of change and uncertainty, and that's beyond impressive.
Shift, shift, shift. That's life these days it seems? The only thing that's constant is change. Change is hard. It's emotional. It can be exciting. It can be terrifying. But it's going to happen. So I've been asking myself, "how might we consistently execute in a world that's always shifting and throwing us curve balls?" Or, in others words, how can I achieve Urban Meyer results - success in new places with new challenges? While that's a full question that I imagine I'll be working to answer my entire life, there are few things I've stumbled upon thus far that might help.
I'm finding that one key is to simplify and know the core of ideas, direction, and efforts. There is enough complexity in the world without adding to it. We've got to create clarity and simplicity. It won't happen without intentionality. In fact, things will just trend towards chaos if we're not intentional. Be clear. Be simple. This way, when our ideas and plans meet the enemy of a complex world, we're prepared. Things that are confusing, unnecessarily complex, and unintentional, will crumble beneath the weight of change.
Examples here could be endless. A recent article about the productivity app Evernote highlighted their struggles resulting from too many features and a lack of core functionality. Or consider coach Meyer, who stepped away from coaching after a health scare. While on hiatus from coaching, a friend at ESPN gave him a leadership book. After reading it, Meyer called his friend and said he had "lost sight of what was important". The book helped him refocus on the core - on what mattered most. In their book, "Switch", authors Dan and Chip Heath point out that change requires crystal clear direction. They write, "what looks like resistance to change is often a lack of clarity."
So if we want to be successful in change, we should embrace simplicity.
JUST DO IT.
Change is going to happen. It's not a question of "if" but simply "when" it will happen. Why sit and wait for change when we can actively pursue it on our terms? You know what coach Meyer did after a few amazing seasons? He left. He did a few more sensational seasons, and then he moved again. I'm learning the wisdom of intentionally looking for change. I'm starting to shake things up on my terms. I'm trying new things, new processes, and new opportunities. I'm taking new risks. If it fails, it fails on my terms instead of just letting life happen to me. (And trust me, things have failed.)
While Nike may have coined the empowering tag line "just do it", we can reach as far back as the mid 19th century to learn from clergyman William Pollard. He once advised, "Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable."
DON'T CHASE COMFORT.
We all want to be comfortable. In fact, if you listen to the marketing these days you'll believe you deserve to be comfortable (I'm not convinced). I'm learning that very few great things come from comfort. It's important to seek out growth and stretch opportunities. We should look to the uncomfortable and the awkward for growth. I'm finding there are seasons in life to enjoy, but we can't camp out in our comfort. After all, it's going to change anyway, whether we like it or not. I don't want to get caught sitting in my comfort until change kicks me to the curb.
Comfort is a cruel master.
Andy Rooney once said, "everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it." Or, we could simply leave it with the famous funny man Chris Rock who said, "comedians tend to find a comfort zone and stay there and become lamer versions of themselves." I'd like not to spend life becoming a lamer version of myself.
I've been learning a lot in this area over the past few years. I've enjoyed the work by Dan and Chip Heath, Jack Welch, Howard Schultz, Larry Bossidy, and Peter Senge on the subject. Thus far, I've been learning to be intentional about change. I think executing effectively in a constantly changing world requires that we are clear on our purpose, intentional about our talents, and initiating challenges.
"There's a temptation for all of us to blame failures on factors outside our control... There is also comfort in 'doubling down' on proven process, regardless of their efficacy. There's likely a place in paradise for people who tried hard, but what really matters is succeeding. If that requires you to change, that's your mission."
-General Stanley McChrystal