This post is part of an ongoing series of primers (e.g., short posts, long articles, etc.) behind my Big Things F@$t™ methodology: a practical guide for aspiring leaders looking to deliver Incremental Value @ $peed™.
I enjoy a good water analogy.
From James Clear, “When rain falls, it flows downhill. If desired, you can collect the rain in a bucket and carry it uphill, but the natural tendency of water is to flow toward the lowest point. Most situations in life have a tendency—a direction in which things want to flow. You can choose to go against the flow (just as you can choose to carry water uphill), but your results tend to be better when you find a way to work with the gradient of the situation. Position yourself to benefit from the external forces at hand and you will get more from the same unit of effort. Energy is conserved and results are multiplied."
Reminds me of my favorite water analogy, “water is always appropriately engaged with its environment no matter the environment. Water never over or under reacts to anything. Simultaneously fluid and powerful.”
I posit that these water analogies elegantly illustrate equanimity in the face of change. Especially the last one: water never over or under reacts to anything…it just flows, working its way through and/or around resistance as applicable. That mindset is critical if, like me, you have chosen to be, or are naturally drawn to be, an agent of change.
It is well documented that all change will experience some form of resistance; the greater the change, the greater the resistance. This is especially true in large corporate enterprises; be it in the form of corporate inertia, innovation theater, or good ‘ole bureaucracy: change yields resistance.
Over time, change agents if not careful will get weary of this constant resistance. The way to manage through the mental and physical toil that change management professionals -- or any agents of change -- face is to better manage the inertia. Or as James puts it, “work with the gradient of the situation”...to maximize the return on effort and your energy. I agree.
As someone who has a natural inclination to challenge orthodoxy, to experiment, and to drive change, I’ve drowned many times going upstream, or “fighting” inertia directly so to speak: I have expended energy disproportionately to the desired outcome.
Over time I have learned that a more effective management of inertia necessitates three elements:
The unifying theme across the three elements, however, is a commitment to change course as the situation dictates; this commitment requires nuance, practice, and the disciplined application (and re-application) of critical thinking tools.
In sum, water displays Stoic-like equanimity in the face of resistance, and works with the gradient of the situation to conserve energy and make progress. Are you (do you want to be) a change agent? Be like water.
So, what else?
During my brief stint as an adjunct professor many years ago, I recall that half of my students had dreams of one day starting their own business. One of my favorite parts of the teaching night was when I presented a random idea and asked the students to put on the brainstorm lens - "what else could you do with this...". Most of the time we would end up in the realm of the zany. Sometimes, however, we would actually land on something achievable and plant the seed. This is an homage to ideas - zany or otherwise.