Sunday, April 12, 2015

Change is hard.

Of all the things we encounter, in the short time we spend in this world, not many of them stay constant. Sure, you can say that the sun will come up tomorrow in the East, and barring a meteor smashing the earth out of its orbit, that is true. However, even our sun is slowly dying. In 2.8 Billion years or so, the sun will balloon into a Red Giant as it expends the last of its energy, before ultimately shrinking into a Black Dwarf; a cold ball of carbon drifting trough the universe. Much like the line from Fight Club;  “On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

As humans, we like to think the things surrounding us are more or less permanent. When we're young, we think we will always be young, or at least we think old age is way down the road, and doesn't trouble our thoughts too much. We live in America, where we are the sole super power in the world right now, and have been for a few decades.

Many younger people do not remember the 'duck and cover' nuclear attack drills we had in elementary school. I'm not sure how crouching under my wooden desk would have saved me from a hydrogen bomb, but that is what we were instructed to do.

There was a great unease in my youth brought about by the existence of another super power with a larger military, nuclear weapons, and a stated goal that they would bury us. I'm sure 9/11 and the following years of war and terrorism are in the back of everyone's mind old enough to remember it. Still, there isn't that macro threat of the Cold War where one day the whole world would be incinerated as the USSR and the US engaged in a thermonuclear warfare.

Even with the resurgence of Russia, and the oncoming development of China, we are still the lone super power on the globe, for now. Give it another 30 years and China will compete and ultimately fill the void for global dominance. Young people will be astonished as we face off with China over natural resources, technological dominance, and Geo-politics. They will say, I remember when they built all our iPhones and TVs, why do they want to take over Japan and South Korea now?

Like I say, change is something, we as a species, are not very good at. Now, there are some people who are very good at spotting trends, and changing dynamics whether it be in business, technology, politics, or culture. These are the people who said, in ten years the big book stores will be a thing of the past. We laughed at them and said, hey I just became a Borders Rewards member, there is no way this place is closing. They just put in a coffee bar, free wi-fi, and beside, people will always want to browse and buy books in a store. Five years ago the same people said Best Buy, Radio Shack and electronic super stores will be gone in a few years and they may be right. I think Radio Shack just filed for bankruptcy last week.

Humans are the same way when it comes to our personal lives.We don't like change, or I should say the majority of us don't like change. Some folks out there, and thank the Lord for them, never like to sit still. They crave change, and are always looking to the future for a better way. However, most of us desire the steady, constant path where things go right along without much tumult or agitation. As long as we do what we've done before, we  will be safe. As long as I keep showing up for work and doing it the same way, I will always have a job. As long as I treat my family/spouse the same way, they will always be there. As long as I live my life this way, I will receive this result.

If we take an objective look at life, I'm not sure how we come up with this notion of "do the same, get the same". We feel as though we are entitled to that steady, consistency of the way our lives are right now. I think that type of mentality is a dangerous thing. Things are changing all around us, all the time. We just have to start looking up from our daily tasks, our daily routines to spot these trends. Otherwise we will be blindsided by change.

I love technology. I stared in the IT infrastructure field 20 years ago. I started at the bottom and worked my way up, learning everything I could as I went. When I started there was a distinct stratification to the industry. Cable pullers were at the bottom, fiber optic technicians were towards the top. Terminating fiber optic cable back then was half skill, half artistry. Cleaving a bare fiber, smaller than a human hair, by hand and then polishing it with finer and finer grades of sanding/polishing paper took a long time. Making figure-eights on the paper with a polishing puck was all done by feel. If you screwed it up, you clipped off the end and started over. It took me a few months and a few dozen clipped ends to become good at it. It took me a few years to become really good at it.

Today, the ends come pre polished and you can use a fusion splicer to connect them to the fiber optic cable. The splicing machine is so precise, I could train most people to use it in a day or so. That is change. Not to say that new person will know how to use an optical time domain reflectometer or OTDR to test it, or perform all the other tasks that come with the job, but it is getting quicker, and easier to learn and do these tasks. Less training time, and more reliable tools means fewer fiber optic technicians are going to be needed in the future. Or at least their skill set will have less of a premium placed on it. That's why I am constantly keeping up on wireless technology, as our industry moves towards the mobile client.

I have mentioned the OODA loop before, Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, and it has become a model for me. Why am I doing what I'm doing? Can I do it better, or can I get better results? How can I get those results, what steps do I need to take? Then, act on the plan. Start the loop again. This process is not only applicable to individuals, but groups, businesses, churches. Any entity that has to deal with change.

I have been through a big change in my personal life recently. My weight has been an issue with me since high school. I was a skinny, active kid living out in the country. As I got into high school, I discovered fast food, and beer. Thankfully I also discovered sports. I was a three sport athlete in high school, so I was always training, lifting weights or competing. When I graduated, I kept my eating habits, but not my work out habits. Every year I put on three to five pounds or so. After a thirty years I found myself fat as a tick and becoming increasingly unhealthy.

In that time I had tried many diets. I lost and gained back twenty pounds, forty pounds, etc. When I started to become diabetic, that is when I knew I had to do something. I started the process of looking into gastric bypass surgery last fall, and this January 29th I went in for surgery.

This is not an easy endeavor. The pre-op work, weight loss and the surgery prep itself are no fun at all. The initial week to ten days following my surgery were painful and frustrating. Two weeks in, and I started feeling better. I went back to work my third week, and was back to normal work, no restrictions in six weeks.

I am now two and a half months out from my surgery and I'm adjusting to my new life. I have lost about sixty pounds so far, and feel better. I do look at eating in a different way now.  Eating is not something I plan my day around as I did in the past. Some days I have to remember to eat. Some of my favorite foods I can't eat right now. Others are fine one day, and not so fine the next. My new, smaller stomach has its own set of rules. What it likes, how much and how fast to eat it, these are things I will have to think about. Break these rules, and I will pay a price.

This surgery, this decision, has and will change my life. I hope for the better, but time will tell. I could have done nothing, and continued to watch my heath deteriorate. I could have  started another diet, and maybe this time, it would have worked. I'll never know. Based on my past experience, I am doubtful. 

I say all this to point out that change is inevitable, but not always easy. You will not be the same person you are today this time next year. Things will happen, situations will change. you will change. The trick is, will you be one directing this change, or will things, people, events direct it? I understand that life happens, and sometimes events are outside your control, but how you respond to them is not. Your response is entirely up to you.

If you cannot change the past, (and you can't) you must move forward. What will you do? Will you sit down and turn inward in protest to the unfair card you were dealt? Will you get angry, bitter, and resentful at the people, the situation, or even God for letting this happen? How will you respond? How will you handle this change?

These can be scary questions. However, there is another side to change. What if we choose to do nothing? What if we choose not to see our relationships falling apart? What if we refuse to see our changing work place situation? What if we choose to stay on this same, "safe" path we have been on? What if that safe path leads nowhere? What if we lose one, two or twenty years keeping our head down and plodding along this path because we are afraid to face change. What if we grow comfortable in our apathy?

I offer no advice other than these two items:
  • Change is coming, be the one out front directing it if all possible.  
  • It is possible.