Change is hard in the beginning, messy in the middle, and beautiful in the end.
Fall turns to winter. Winter to spring. And pretty soon it will be summer again for the millionth time. All organisms either die or adapt to survive. Snow turns to rain and busting up through the hard, cold ground, the world comes alive again.
The world is constantly in motion, changing. Humans are not static beings either. Our bodies were created in motion. They change over time, and they adapt to our surroundings. But when it comes to our lives, change is hard. But why is something that is so natural, so ingrained in our being be so difficult?
This is the first part of a series about CHANGE that will look at a few things we’ve been taught in our lives that restrict us when we need to be the most limber, nimble, and flexible.
LIE: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This may be true about grandaddy’s tractor and mom’s favorite family recipe, but throw this out of your vocabulary when it comes to leadership, business, and your extraordinary life.
My family has always loved movies. My dad, my sister, and me especially. Every week growing up we would make a trip to the Blockbuster store that was a 4-minute drive from our house. There was another video rental store about 2 minutes from home, but we drove by it because Blockbuster was the best. We’d normally get 2 or 3 movies – 1 or 2 new releases and a family favorite. Video games were a bit more expensive, but most of the time Dad would even let me pick one out.
We would take home our loot for 4 days at a time, enjoy them together, then dad would inevitably forget to take them back on the day the were due. But these late returns resulted in steep fees. If the average family was anything like us, the Blockbuster franchise on Normandy Blvd made a small fortune from both rentals and late charges.
This industry had a hugely profitable market from the beginning. It grew organically in the pre-startup and VC days when everything was a bit simpler. But then something unexpected happened…called _______. What do you think goes in the blank? If you thought Netflix (90% of you probably did), you’re wrong…..ok you’re not entirely wrong…but there was a bigger problem.
After Blockbuster had some troubles at the turn of the century trying to identify a more sustainable strategy for the future, Netflix showed up on the scene to stomp on the whimpering company while it was down. Netflix meant no more going to the store and no more late fees. They’d just ship movies to your house. Now, we all know the story. Netflix moved mostly to streaming and then completely online, while Blockbuster fumbled through some last-stitch attempts at survival and anticlimactically went bankrupt. And by the time they finally liquidated, no one cared. They were a distant memory to the digital media consumer.
Blockbuster personifies the phrase “going the way of the dinosaur”. They had the market cornered, the highest revenue and brand recognition in the industry. There was nothing wrong with what they were doing. Their tractor wasn’t broken. But eventually, it worked against them. They had access to great technology. They could have seen the landscape changing. And they had resources to understand their customer better than anyone. But they were blinded by their success and died a slow and painful death because they refused to change.
And after all that, I’m still convinced that the revenue from dad’s late fees single-handedly delayed the company’s liquidity by at least 1…or 9…fiscal quarters. Just kidding pops.
From a Business Perspective
In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy. – J. Paul Getty
Society is a dynamic place. If we choose to stay within what we’ve always done, not only is the opportunity cost enormous!! but the landscape of business will naturally grow out of everything that you’ve always known to be true.
In response to this reality, thinking forward is CRUCIAL. Learn from your success for the future, don’t get trapped by your success. If we can look into the future and theorize what the landscape is going to look like, we can potentially have a major competitive advantage over the rest. This is true for one reason: most of the others won’t.
I say “potentially” because we won’t be able to guess the playing field every time. In fact, most of the time we will be wrong. But think of forward-thinking like an investment. Low percentage/high yield practices only have to be right a few times to make up for all the other wrong plays. If Blockbuster would have used the resources that they had to think about what the future would look like, they would have undoubtedly had a better shot at surviving the transition.
From a Personal Perspective
Do you still have your uniform from little league baseball? You should go try it on. The result would be pretty hilarious right? (Talk about fat guy in a little shirt).
The name on the back is still yours. I’m sure you still identify with the number that you chose as a youngin’.
Even though that jersey worked for a long time, if you didn’t realize that you were growing out of it, you would have woken up for your game one Saturday morning without anything to wear. Luckily you did, and mom & dad got you a bigger size. If you showed up this week for your men’s/women’s league softball game in your Little League uniform…you’d get laughed off the field. Right?
Many times in our life we unquestionably return to what has always worked, without thinking about what could potentially work better for the future. In the same way your body made it clear you grew out of Little League, all change is a sign of growth. Our perspective, thinking, decision-making, and ultimately our lives should change as we grow into the person that we are becoming. And the thing about becoming is it never stops.