On December 10th, 1914, Thomas Edison blew his factory sky high. He told his son to get his mother and her friends, saying, “They’ll never see a fire like this again.” His son was baffled, but Edison told him, “We just got rid of a lot of rubbish.” Later in the day, when the New York Times interviewed Edison and asked him what he was going to do next, he calmly replied, “I’ll start all over again tomorrow.” Edison was sixty-seven years old at the time.
Like Thomas Edison, we choose how we see change. We can view it as either a catastrophe or as an opportunity to grow.
Sometime back in February of 2015 I was forced to switch gears and change my career quickly. Little did I know that this experience of alarming uncertainty was a gift. It didn’t feel like a gift at the time, and I wasn't happy about it, but I needed to innovate and change. But this type of change often feels uncomfortable, and uncomfortable doesn’t always feel right.
A Scary Change
Fortunately, a month later I found another publishing job and went from a management position at a large company to a management and very tactical position at a small company. That company had a large print subscription product that was very easy for me to manage. Their backbone, however, was deeply digital. Monthly traffic dwarfed what I was used to, and I had to figure it out how to test and quickly convert that traffic into dollars. Luckily, I had a great team and some past colleagues who had already planted a seed or two.
Strategist vs. Tactician
Before moving from one company to another I had a very clear advantage. I already understood strategically how marketing functions dovetail together. I knew which of the myriad of levers to pull and which gears to engage to execute campaigns. On March 1, 2015 I went from knowing to doing. After eighteen-years of understanding and communicating what needed to be done, I now implemented my own strategy. But truth be told, I enjoyed my new role far more than I thought I would. The “doing” was becoming fun and any worries melted away as I got closer to the core of executing my own strategy.
The Good Old Days
Earlier generations of marketers within the publishing business never experienced the recent pace of innovation and change we see now. After spendingtwenty years in a print-based world, you knew almost everything there was to know. You were at the top of the knowledge circle and could run a high-level agency, publication, or even start your own. Publishing was in my DNA; my grandfather spent his career in the publishing world; but, he also did the same thing day after day until he was sixty-five. Yes; there was financial stability, a high level of comfort and limited change; however, he was ultimately bored.
Boredom is the Mother of Invention
No one likes to be bored. I know that if I had been born in 1920 and retired in 1985--just before the digital revolution, I would have been bored. Today’s reality is this: the rapid pace of change is a blessing or a curse depending on your view of boredom - it's the root of all evil or the mother of invention. Over the past two years I realized if I am not learning new skills, I’m dead in the water; both professionally and personally. Back in early 2015. I chose to see the stressful part of change simply as learning and growing. If I don’t learn and if I don’t change or innovate, there’s a good chance that inevitably there will be boredom and frustration. Along the way of change there is failure, or the more friendly term “teachable moments” and successes. A virtuous cycle forms; we fail, we learn, succeed and even if we do fail we will still learn — win, win, win.
Choosing how we look at change, I realized I had a couple of options when it came to moving my career forward
A: I could stay the course — and in some circumstances, this is perfectly normal and sustainable. In my case, however, continuing in print publishing made my future options very limited.
B: I could innovate, keep learning, failing and repeating the virtuous cycle of reinventing myself. I have come to embrace the rapid pace of change in marketing and publishing as a gift to keep me honest, engaged, bewildered and frustrated and, like Edison’s factory; completely blown up. I’m always learning, growing and rebuilding.
Never Give Up...Never!
The gift I received over the past two years is a much better understanding of innovation and change in business. I know that how I see change is entirely up to me (I must own that) and when faced with a change I am forcing myself to see the glass as half full. I now understand that being uncomfortable is, well, uncomfortable, but it should be to allow for transformation. I’m learning to see setbacks as gifts, and if my endeavors get blown to smithereens, I start all over again tomorrow morning.
As football legend Tom Brady says...never give up...never!
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