Knowing when to change

January 14th, 2018 by Nick Jacobs Leave a reply »


There are certain times in our lives when we know that something is over, and we’ve just had it. We don’t always know exactly why it’s over, but we’re absolutely sure that, for whatever reason, “It’s over.”

For example, do you remember the very last time as a young two or three year old you dedicated in your pants as a child? Maybe it was because of the awful smell, the embarrassment, the discomfort of carrying that extra load around, or just the fact that you wanted to be more like your parents or older siblings. It doesn’t really matter. Something just clicked, and you said, “That’s it. I’m done.”

It’s like the scene in “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie has had it with the bully, Scut Farkus, and he decided that it was over and, regardless of the potential outcome, he’d had enough.

Some of us have lost our jobs over moments like this. Lots of people lose significant others. Some folks stopped smoking or drinking or, if they’re really lucky, stopped taking drugs. It’s a sort of cold turkey, abrupt cessation, a sudden withdrawal that can happen once we’ve reached a breaking point, a specific limit, a so-called red line that we won’t cross.

The Amish have an explicit terminology for the social rejection version of this phenomena. It’s called shunning. It’s a formal decision by the congregation to formally cease interaction and to ostracize an individual. When we decide to stop doing something, it’s a little like Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary, on “Shark Tank” when he says, “You are dead to me.”

One of my personal challenges has been knowing when to pull the plug. I’m sure that my tolerance for people lasts way beyond what both my brain and my gut tell me is correct. As a young teacher, I spent 10 years working with teenagers. The difference between a teenager and an adult is that sometimes teenagers actually change.

Because I witnessed these miraculous changes with kids over and over again, I embraced it as something that essentially was normal. But when I became an administrator and gave the same benefit of the doubt to adults, I was simply dealing out of a fool’s deck because it’s a rare thing when a leopard changes its spots. Time after time, I’d give the adults chance after chance after chance, and it was a fool’s journey.

So, what do you think makes us change? Those professionals who study change say that even when it’s a life and death situation, people respond negatively to change 90 percent of the time. They’d rather die than change.

Well, for one thing, people have to know why change is necessary. They need an awareness of the depth of the problem and a desire to change. Then they need to be offered solutions, and they need to be coached as to how to make the change. They also have to be assured they will be able to change and will receive the resources necessary to make that change. And while the change is occurring, it’s up to their sponsors to ensure it will actually happen by measuring, correcting mistakes, and rewarding success.

Just to keep this real, I’ve followed all of those steps above and was still chewed on by those darn leopards who had no desire to change. It’s human nature that at least 10 percent of people will fight change in the workplace to the bitter end.

So, in those cases, it’s important to understand that some people just get used to carrying an extra heavy load in their pants, and no one can alter that. On the other hand, sometimes they find that red line and decide they will not cross it, and they do it on their own.

With all of this in mind, let’s work together this year to make the world a better place, and to unify for the common good. It’s really worth it.


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