NO MORE BS: CHANGE! – Let me Explain

Bird of PreyAs a fourteen-year-old, I was wandering around an office supply store in Belfast, Maine, and came across a bookmark I thought had an interesting statement on it:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I thought that saying was pretty neat, and it helped me begin a process in my own life of learning how to learn and challenging change.  Over time, I began to suspect something out of place in the pattern that quote/prayer was claiming; I do not believe there are things I cannot change!  I know that if a person refuses to change, I can do nothing until that person chooses to change.  But, I remain convinced that there is nothing man has made that cannot be changed.Leadership Cartoon

As a building contractor, I learned that the same tools I am using to destruct a building are the same tools I will employ to construct a building.  An important point where change is concerned, structures can come down, structures can be built, but the human element rests upon their own decision to change or not.  However, many times the structures can influence the individual to change.

Detective 4In the US Army, I noticed something powerful; when living in a Korean War-built Quonset hut, my fellow soldiers and I had moral problems, experienced depression, and struggled.  But,  when we moved into new barracks, many of these problems ceased almost immediately.  Thus cementing a lesson, the environment plays a role in personal feelings and influences desires to change.  In the US Navy, this was more poignantly learned.  I slept in Crew Berthing Three, the rest of the engineering department slept in Crew Berthing Two, and I hated going in there.  Between the smell, the lackadaisical attitude towards maintenance, and the general disorderliness of the compartment always left me feeling depressed.  So, even though I slept in the same berthing as Deck Department, which included the Boatswains mates, the berthing spaces were neater, cleaner, and better all around.  Environment matters and influences personal desire to change or not to change.

As my injuries have worsened with age, my ability to rebuild engines, build or destruct structures, and operate heavy equipment has been reduced dramatically.  But, the lessons taught have remained, there are people I cannot change, but there is nothing that I cannot change.  My wife asks me all the time why do I write articles for a blog.  My answer is rooted in the Serenity Prayer quoted above; there is nothing I cannot influence to change.

Andragogy - LEARNToolsThere are people who I have met who will never change.  One comes readily to mind, I was homeless on the streets of Auburn, Washington, after leaving the US Army in S. Korea.  I had a job but no place to stay.  One night while wandering to keep warm, I met a homeless man who refused to change.  He was homeless by choice, not because of any drinking or drug problem, not because he was not smart enough to get a job and improve his living conditions, but because he chose to be homeless.  He said, “I am who I am, and I refuse to change just to please society.”  A very intriguing thought occurred to me then and has repeated often, am I choosing to be homeless, or am I choosing to grow?

I choose to be a lifelong learner; this commitment sprang from this conversation with this homeless man in Auburn, Washington.  I committed to several principles knowing that I could more greatly influence my environment as I changed myself.

      1. Be Curious
      2. Focus on Active Looking
      3. Review and Redraft
      4. Improve memory and recall
      5. Change your perception

Because there is nothing I cannot change, I know the power of small pebbles in a landslide.  I know the power of tiny snowflakes in an avalanche.  I understand how a small rudder can turn an enormous ship for good or ill.  Nothing man has made that man cannot unmake, remake, fix, correct, or influence change.  There are people no one will ever influence due to moral agency, individual perception, and the valuation of consequences.  But, the environment around that person can be changed, and opportunities provided to encourage a different mindset.

GearsCase in point, an engineering shipmate of mine, was kicked out of Crew Berthing Two for smelly feet, which led to smelly shoes, which upset a lot of people in Crew 2.  He was forced to come live in Crew Berthing Three.  Why did he have stinky feet, a fungus was growing on his feet, and he had never been taught how to care for his feet.  He could wash them 100 times a day, but because he did not know how to care properly for his feet, nothing would change, and his feet would stink.  When my shipmate chose to change, we taught him about foot care, he went to medical and got some fungal cream, and he purchased new shoes and socks.  Why were his feet not a problem in Crew Three; we had better, and took better care, of the ventilation system than Crew two.Courage

Those engineers in Crew Two could not understand that the environment influences behavior, and the influence of behavior led to negative consequences.  The move to Crew Three changed the environment physically and led to an eventual change in mindset for the person.  Could Crew Two have had better ventilation; absolutely, if the members living there desired it.  Since they individually decided not to have better ventilation, the consequence was a smellier and more nasty berthing space.  Environment plays a role in behavior and influences people for good or ill.  We can affect the environment, but we cannot force change upon people who refuse to change.Behavior-Change

Leading to the final thought, why do we need “wisdom to know the difference?”  I  can change the environment around me.  I can change me.  I cannot change other people, but I can change other things and influence the people after changing those things in the environment, causing problems.  Let us examine this from the viewpoint of the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The administrators (people) are causing moral issues and distress in the employees.  Some of the employees like being morally repugnant. Others are ethically obtuse because of job security. Others remain true to themselves and stay in the system to help affect change.

Life ValuedHow does a person change a system built by man; start with the environment, which in this situation are the processes, procedures, and methods of conducting work.  A leader arrives and begins influencing people through how they perform their work.  Then begins the fundamental operations of training to new standards, including ethical, moral, and logical processes and procedures written down.  Then, that leader begins holding people, not written processes, accountable for their actions.  Shortly every person will be faced with a choice, change or leave.  Hence, cleaning and correction become a natural function of the environment, and change is made where many have claimed; change will never happen.

Knowledge Check!As an industrial and organizational psychologist, I know this is the path forward as I have applied these lessons in my own life.  Changing people, like destructing and constructing buildings, does not occur magically.  Plans are made, planning is carried out, and fundamental change occurs through the environment.  Use the pattern:

      1. Be Curious
      2. Focus on Active Looking
      3. Review and Redraft
      4. Improve memory and recall
      5. Change your perception

Watch what happens!  It is amazing to see and possible to change.  Nothing cannot be changed; only people choosing not to change cannot be changed.  But people are not the environment, and the environment can influence people!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

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NO MORE BS: Change vs. Knowledge

Guns and Liberals - A Pipe DreamWhile reading Christopher Paolini’s book “Inheritance: or the Vault of Souls,” the main character Eragon answers a question about change, saying, “Change itself is neither good nor bad, but knowledge is always useful.”  Long have I maintained a similar approach to change and the desire for knowledge.  What I find most interesting is how often truths become clear when I am not particularly looking for them but remain open to new thinking on old topics.

What is Knowledge?Detective 2

Knowledge is a formula:

Knowledge = Education (Formal +Informal)*Experience*Time

During the knowledge process, change happens.  Even when the decision is to reject knowledge, refute change, or deny change is occurring, the process of knowledge continues.  The problem, knowledge is gained and lost, proportional to our desire to obtain new knowledge.  I love the show “Married with Children.”  In one show, the daughter Kelly learns something new and forgets something old, in a constant cycle.  The same philosophy is found in the movie “Glory Road,” the coach says, “You know what, Shed? You’re like a duck. You wake up in a new world every day.”

What is change?

Non Sequitur - ClassicChange is modification, alterations, replacing, becoming.  There is nothing to fear in change.  Yet, how often has someone made money selling books about helping people change, driving business change, improving people during change, and adapting and adjusting to change.  During my undergraduate degree program, I had an epiphany, “Do you know that every time a business obtains a new customer, they experience change?”  Research supports this epiphany, and I was shocked silly to come to this realization.  I shared my thoughts in the classroom, and I thought the instructor, and most of the class, would have a heart attack and die on the spot.

That week’s topics were all about change in the workplace, and I do not hold that change is an event horizon but a steady strain on a person to move them from where they are to who they might become.  Another shocking idea that scared the class and caused a riot.  Yet, change is nothing more or less than a journey of knowledge, where we choose to embrace learning in the hopes of changing and gaining knowledge.

Why is this important?Leap Day

To answer this question, I ask another, “What is it you want most?”  For that which you desire, you will change to acquire.  Using Shed’s character as an example, after being handed his bus ticket, Shed realizes that he cannot go home in shame, “I’ll never be able to look my daddy in the eye.”  His character does some soul searching, and he returns to fight for a position on the basketball team.  Shed learned that which he desired he had to become willing to acquire, then had to fight to acquire, and only through total commitment did he eventually acquire his desire.

A friend of mine related his experience with a husband and wife.  They were considering divorcing, had concluded they had done all they could, and were visiting my friend to discuss the problem.  This couple had forgotten what they desired and had stopped fighting to acquire what they desired.  My friend helped this couple remember why they originally married in the first place.  Over time, the couple stopped growing apart and began again to desire and acquired what they desired most, companionship with their partner.

Detective 4That which we desire, we will invest in acquiring.  As a kid, I wanted a book.  Not any book; I wanted a particular book worth $75.00.  I shoveled a lot of snow, raked a ton of leaves, mowed lawns, split wood, stacked wood, cut down trees, and did many other odd jobs to acquire the money for this specific book, eventually earning almost three times the money needed for this book.  Then, I gave the money earned to my parents to buy the book for my birthday.  I did not get my book; the money was spent on “other things,” and I was told to be grateful to have those “other things.”  Interestingly, as an adult, when I finally acquired this desired book, a change had come over me where this book was concerned, shifting technology changed the original reason to own the book, and the book now sits less used on my shelf.

Yet, the principle remains a valuable lesson; what we desire, we will invest in acquiring.  We will sacrifice much to acquire a desire.  Consider our fraudulent president; what has he, and his wife, sacrificed to acquire the presidency?  What has Speaker Pelosi (D) invested and sacrificed to acquire?  What has America suffered so the Clinton’s could acquire their desires?

Do we understand the caution in Change and Knowledge?

Change itself is neither good nor bad, but knowledge is always useful.”  Therein lay the caution.  Change is blamed when the consequences of desire are not as valued upon possession as they were before acquisition.  But, if we choose to allow it, the knowledge of that experience is always helpful as we plot future decision-making.  During my time in the US Navy, I learned the definition of a mistake, “A mistake occurs when everything learned, experienced, and achieved if given a chance to repeat, you would not repeat.”  Meaning that the knowledge acquired, the experience obtained, any achievement awards all lay as dross when compared with the original decision.

Never Give Up!Some journeys we travel are not enjoyable, but the knowledge is valuable.  Some journeys we undertake require too much, and we stop long before the lesson is learned, and in stopping, we lose what we thought we had gained.  Some journeys require a period of recovery before the lessons learned become apparent, and then we can choose to allow that knowledge to be useful.  Yet, change remains neither good nor bad; the consequences of our decisions are neither good nor bad; the knowledge is only useful when we choose to allow it to be useful.  You choose; choose wisely!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.