John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Cheese, Difficult Obstacles and the Power of Change

I’ve been reading Jason Kerchner’s blog more and more. On the 16th, he posted a great article on Procrastination, subtitled “Sprinting through things you don’t want to do.” His techniques involve defining changes as you want to define them. 

I really enjoyed his article and as a person prone to procrastination, I recognized his systematic elimination of that efficiency sapping trait. An overview of his article’s methods for dealing with procrastination is to:

  • Think about the task
  • Pick an amount of time you are willing to devote to it
  • Accept devotion of that amount of time and you as a resource to working on that task
  • Set a timer for that amount of time
  • Prepare before starting the timer
  • Take a deep breath and then begin
  • When the timer goes off, stop

That approach would work well with small tasks and large tasks. I wish that, as a country, the US had adopted that strategic overview and approach to the wars we are now embroiled in. Imagine if we had said – We will devote 4 years and 9 months to the tasks in Iraq – or any other reasonable but arbitrary time.  We would probably have already ended the conflicts. We needed to set a limit, an exit strategy that would have pre-defined the change that we wanted to make happen, and when we wanted to make it.

I am drawn to this military analogy because it reminded me my experiences at Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island. usmc_logoThere was a saying that – “They couldn’t stop the clock.”  When I was there – undergoing the misery – we collectively knew that it as long as we stayed on track, it could only last for 13 weeks.  Marine Corps Recruits learn that with every day that passes, one day less remains. No matter how many sand fleas crawl in your ear canal while you are standing motionless in a formation at Parris Island, no matter how much yelling goes on at 4am, no matter how many times you shine boots, run through sand … no matter how itchy, sore, hot, cold, wet, miserable and exhausted you find yourself, you understand that the difficult stuff is going to come to an end.   As a recruit, you know that your exposure to all of that has a time limit, and you know every day passing is one less day remaining.  Sometimes when you are miserable in more ways than you knew possible, that thought of a finite remaining time can give you strength. Sometimes knowing that change is coming can help a person with almost any current issue.

There were many lessons to learn at Parris Island. I think one of the most valuable is that concept of “They cannot stop the clock.” It gives every Marine a way to use the power of an ever-changing world – the power of change.  Knowing that painful things often have arbitrary time limits helps a great deal in dealing with those difficulties.   

You can use that too – and you don’t even have to give plasma donations to mosquitos in South Carolina swampland. You just have to think about it accept the power of change.

The knowledge that change is inevitable enables and can empower a person to survive their personal trials and ordeals.  There is a popular book that looks at ways of dealing with and surviving change in terms of “Who Moved My Cheese.”  cheeseTo me, that approach seems somewhat backwards. Change is often painted as a disruptive force.  To me, Change can be extremely powerful because beyond someone moving your cheese. You probably wouldn’t ask “who moved my obstacles?”  You wouldn’t ask, “Who moved my difficulties?”  You wouldn’t ask, “Who ended the misery?” But change can do that. Change will do that. Change has extraordinary power and anyone can use that.

Think about any personal, physical, emotional, business, or mental situation that you personally find difficult. With the exception of things like death that are final, change generally evaporates difficulties.  The power of change applies to almost everything.  If you are having a difficult time in a college course, remember that the course has a finite limit and it will end.  Difficult project? It won’t last forever. Difficult boss? You won’t work for that boss forever. Difficult merger?  Difficult business decisions?  Difficult climate? No matter how painful, uncomfortable, and unhappy these things can make you, they are almost always finite.  They will end. The sun will come up tomorrow. Things WILL change. Knowing that things change can give anyone strength, because change helps anyone overcome the most difficult things.

When the very worst difficulties weigh you down, when you have to meet life’s occasional troubling and terrible situations, when you have relationships that make you feel like crying – That is your opportunity to think positively about how those difficulties will pass. It is an opportunity to use the power of change.  Those positive thoughts can be extraordinarily powerful.  Change as a positive force can give anyone the strength to overcome, sustain, and survive extraordinary difficulties.  

Know that change is inevitable. That means that even the most difficult things will invariably become less difficult.


October 21, 2009 - Posted by | Continuous Improvement, Life, People

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