Metaphors Gone Wild: Lilies and Change

Change can overwhelm, especially when we are not prepared for it. Consider this puzzle: there is a large pond with only a single lily pad floating in it. But more lily pads are in store. In fact every day, the number of lily pads doubles until, on the thirtieth day, the water in the pond can no longer be seen: the surface is completely covered with vegetation. When was the pond half full?

If you’ve taken a minute to consider the problem, you know the answer is not one quickly arrived at. (Many people will say that when the pond was half full, the time period was half over. They guess at the 15th day.) The answer, however, is the 29th day. Given the doubling that occurs, the pond will be half-covered on the 29th day and totally covered on the 30th day. Interestingly, on the 20th day, only 0.2% of the pond surface is covered with lily pads.

Use this lily metaphor to remind yourself of the speed at which change can occur. When you are two-thirds into a given time period, the change will appear minimal–only 0.2% of the change to occur may be apparent. Bear in mind what Jack Welch, known as the Manager of the Century, has to say on the topic. “If t he rate of change outside the organization is greater than the rate of change inside, then we are looking at the beginning of the end.”

If you are leading the life of your choice–whether or not you hold a management position on your job–you need to be aware of the changes happening outside the organization of your life, changes that can impact you and those people and things you hold dear.

Numerous reports, for example, tell us that in less than 20 years, robots and artificial intelligence could replace 40% of the jobs currently held in various industries. If you will still be working in 20 years, it may be time to start researching what your job may look like in the future.

As hard as it might be to imagine yourself being replaced by something mont human, it may help to imagine other possibilities. Don’t reject the unthinkable. In fact, sometimes the weirder the concept, the more likely it may be to yield important insights. Tom Peters, who searched for excellence in the 80’s and sold millions of books on the topic, advises companies to ‘have at least one weirdo on staff.” The person who thinks in divergent ways often possesses insights that don’t occur to those committed to maintaining the status quo.

Whether you are currently employed by a company, anticipating an entry into the job market, determined to go it alone as a solopreneur, or simply seeking to make calibrations to your life, use these questions to help you prepare for a future that will not
resemble the boundaries of your life today. If you doubt how quickly any given institution or practice can change, just consider the differences in the 2016 presidential election process and the 2012 process.

1. What was your reaction when you first heard about a specific change, such as the predictions about robots? Now think about a change that has already impacted you.
2. Did you have negative feelings about the change (such as guilt, fear, anxiety, anger, betrayal, or hopelessness)? How can you cope with them? If the change you are considering has already happened, how could you have coped with your feelings in a better fashion?
3. How did the change affect you personally? What were the advantages and disadvantages? Were you able to objectively analyze the costs and benefits? How could you have done a better job?
4. What were some of the questions that you had when the change was announced? How did get answers to these questions? How could you have done a better job of getting answers to the questions?
5. How did your family or others close to you react to the changes? How could you have presented the information to these individuals in a better fashion? How could they have provided you with more support?
6. Were you ready for the change? How did you prepare for the change? How could you make yourself ready for the next change?
7. What support did you receive from those who populate the various circles of your life? How could you have obtained better support?
8. Did some new opportunities arise for you as a result of this change? Were you aware of these potential opportunities at the beginning of the change?
9. What losses happened as a result of this change? How did you cope with them? How could you have coped with them in a better fashion?
10. Do you feel betrayed at any point by an individual, a community, or even life itself? How did you regain your trust?
11. How long did it take for you to bounce back from the change? What could you have done to make yourself more resilient and bounce back faster?
12. What new skills or learning did you have to acquire after the change? How quickly and effectively did you learn these skills? How could you have done better?
13. Do you feel more secure about changes that will confront you in the future? If not, what plans do you have for coping with the next change?

It was John F. Kennedy who asserted that “change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” Ideally, to end with another metaphor, you are obeying the law and, in so doing, are preparing for an improved future.

Dr. Marlene Caroselli is an author, keynoter, and corporate trainer whose clients include Lockheed Martin, Allied Signal, Department of the Interior, and Navy SEALS. She writes extensively about education, business, self-improvement, and careers and has adjuncted at UCLA and National University. Her first book, The Language of Leadership, was named a main selection by the Executive Book Club. Principled Persuasion, a more recent title, was designated a Director’s Choice by the Doubleday Book Club. Driving Mr. Albert: 365+ Einstein-Inspired Brain Boosts, her 62nd book, will be released by HRD Press in Winter, 2018.

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