The late, great John Wooden – former basketball coaching legend, that as coach of the UCLA Bruins, won ten national championships (seven in a row) – once said “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” I would add that the same goes for growing – that if we don’t grow, we’re going to get run over, so to speak.
I’m a big believer in reading about and learning from successful people, as more often than not, their stories and experiences have some application in my life, and in some cases, they even provide me with inspiration. As an admirer of Coach Wooden and the life that he lived, the thing that stands out to me is that even with all of his success, and even as he grew old, a common theme in the books that he wrote and the documentaries shared about his life, is change. Coach Wooden passed away in 2010 at the age of 99 and I would say that the pace of change today would astonish even him. As I look at my personal and professional life and the pace of change happening all around me, I find Coach Wooden’s commitment to change to be inspirational – and encouraging.
Personally, I am committed to growing and changing. I’m not interested in being the same person that I was last week or last year. I also prefer to work for an organization that is committed to change and growth. There’s an energy and excitement that comes with being a part of a company that is constantly challenging the constraints of their previous ways of operating. I get fired up when I am challenged to think, feel, work and behave in a new and better way. Sure, I’m going to fail along the way, but I endeavor to have the courage to learn from my failure and continue to move forward.
My experience has been that if I want the people around me to grow – my family and my work associates – I have to demonstrate a desire to grow and a willingness to change. I must be “self—suspicious” enough to evaluate the motivations behind my actions and emotions and make adjustments where needed.
The reality for many of us is that change, both personally and professionally, can be challenging and can even illicit some level of understandable fear. I can say this since I’m closer to old age than I am to middle age, but, change can sometimes be more difficult to cope with as we age. We get set in our ways and are often resistant to new thoughts, ideas, or ways doing things.
At any age, changing and growing requires effort and it generally requires learning, reflecting, listening and humility or a combination of all of these to effect a change of course or a change of mindset – which is not always easy to do, but I find that it’s a bit like exercise, in that the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Organizational change may feel risky, but as Coach Wooden implies, not changing contains even more risk. In a lot of ways companies or organizations are living and breathing things that need to be fed. How they perform is often a function of what they are “fed”. Setting aside our pride and giving permission to challenge the status quo and to respectfully ask “why” questions is a diet that, among other things, generally leads to organizational health.
Someone once said that “you can’t look to the future with yesterday’s eyes” and I feel passionately that because we live in a time “such as this”, it has never been more dangerous than now to project the past into the future. Knowing this is half the battle – doing something about it is the other half.
-Neal Glaeser, President of Denali Ingredients