Ride the Waves of Change


Benjamin Franklin is known for saying and doing many things. One quote often attributed to him is “in this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” The statement is at the same time humorous and sobering. Death and taxes are imposed upon us all (and sometimes taxes do not end with death).

As timeless as this statement is about the certainty of death and taxes, I have always added a third certainty to the list: change. Whether it is individual interests or tastes or the environment in which you spend significant time (community, work, school, etc.), change is almost certain to occur. The scope and magnitude of change is a continuum that ranges from hardly noticeable to radical. Sometimes, change may not alter daily routines at all. Other times, it can rock our world.

A healthy approach to dealing with change is offered up by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a scientist and meditation expert.

You can't stop the waves but you can learn to surf. Jon Kabat-Zinn quote.

Think of waves as a metaphor for change. Some waves are little more than ripples in the water. Other waves are powerful and have potential to effect change on anything in their path. We cannot stop waves (change), but we can be prepared to to adapt to the waves. They need not create hardship or adversity for us if we are willing to learn to surf the waves of change.

Why Waves Crash Upon Us

Sadly, too many people choose to do something other than learn to surf in order to deal with the waves of change. Why do we try to avoid waves when we could be benefiting from them?

  • Denial. Sometimes, pretending waves of change are not present is a comfortable solution. We can rationalize the change and tell ourselves it is a non-issue—”the merger won’t affect my job” or “we have a 20-year head start over the latest competitor”— could be a dangerous dismissal of significant disruption that is looming.
  • Fear. The potential effects of change may be realized, but it would make us uncomfortable to deal with them. You know full well that your position became redundant as a result of the merger. The possibility of being laid off and being forced to market yourself after 12 years with your employer scares you, not to mention a mortgage, debt, and two kids just a few years away from college. We know change is occurring, but it is convenient to pretend it will affect others, but not us.

Denial and fear are not unusual responses to change. Unfortunately, they fail to address the impact of change because they are reactive responses, not proactive ones.

Take Surfing Lessons

It is naive to think we can avoid the effects of change in our lives. Too many external variables are in play that stand to affect us. Marketers monitor and respond to external environment factors including:

  • competition
  • economy
  • technology
  • government and regulatory climate
  • social trends.

The common thread through these external factors is no one person or organization can do nothing to alter the direction or intensity of external occurrences. We can be prepared to deal with their effects and more importantly, take actions that potentially allow us to benefit from these external occurrences.

We must be willing to learn how to ride the surf because the waves are coming. Waters may be calm now, but in the back of your mind you know they will not remain calm. The personal growth equivalent of taking surfing lessons is a combination of mindset and skill set refinement that enables you to adapt to change.

Don’t be Afraid

A comforting takeaway from Dr. Zinn’s quote is to not be fearful of change. The reality is we almost never have the power to prevent change from happening. What we do have the power to do is deal with change in a manner that minimizes harm to us and maximizes benefit. Instead of allowing our energy to be consumed with denial or fear of impending change, I like the visual image of grabbing a surfboard and going for a ride.

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Author: Don Roy

Marketing educator, blogger, & consultant- Having fun with all of the above!

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