Does what you’re working on today really matter at all?
Sisyphus is a fascinating but little-known character in Greek mythology. He gets in some pretty bad trouble and is tasked with spending eternity rolling a huge boulder up a giant hill only to have it fall back down to the bottom where he returns to repeat this mind-numbing, muscle-crushing exercise. His life is spent fuming in unending frustration and toiling in futile effort.
Do you ever feel like Sisyphus, like you are banished to repeatedly perform the same boring tasks that comprise a dull and uninteresting life?
Have you ever asked this question, “Why are things the way they are?” only to receive this answer, “Because that’s the way it’s always been.” Maybe it’s time for you to stop accepting the status quo. Who cares if this is always the way it’s been done if nobody can explain why it’s still done this way.
It happens all the time. I’ll be sitting and talking with someone and they say something like, “Man, I’m just not feeling close to God anymore” or “My marriage just isn’t quite what it used to be.” I’ll ask them the same two questions wise people have asked me when I had similar thoughts.
- What are you currently doing to foster those relationships?
- What of those current actions is different than your previous routine?
The wisdom behind the first question is obvious: If someone is complaining about their level of happiness but is unwilling to work on improving it, a separate conversation needs to happen. They need to be reminded that nobody owes us happiness.
The wisdom behind the second questions is fairly simple as well yet can be much harder to actually put into practice. Many of us are failing in life, marriage, and work because we’re simply living in the past, still celebrating past successes instead of focusing on the present and preparing for the future. But another group also needs to hear this question: those who keep doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results. Sometimes what we need most is is what we want least: CHANGE.
But why is it that some people tend to live through times of change better than others?
- Why in the world do some people seem to enjoy change?
- Why do some marriages succeed while others fail?
- Why do some people get promoted while others settle into unintended complacency?
Why do older adults struggle to keep up with the most recent social media apps but teenagers seem to move fluidly from one to the next with little to no learning curve?
Why are newspapers dying but writers are thriving on Twitter/blogs/online magazines?
Why was R.A. Dickey an awful pitcher for years with the Texas Rangers but then later won a Cy Young award with the New York Mets?
The answer to all these questions lies in one simply word: disruption.
Disruption is inevitable. It is not a question of “if” but “when” disruption and change come crashing down. As much as we might wish to, we cannot control it. But we can control our response to the unexpected.
Some people seem to enjoy change more than others because they know disruption of the status quo can be a really good thing.
Some marriages succeed while others fail because two people refuse to get stuck in a marital rut that eventually erodes away their life together.
Some people get promoted while others settle for unintended complacency because they know every significant advance in the history of the WORLD started as a disruption from the norm, an unexpected and probably unwanted change.
Older adults struggle to keep up with social media (if they even want to) because they are flabbergasted at the idea of learning 3 new platforms once they have finally mastered one. They don’t want to change.
Newspapers are dying because they refuse to move to online platforms…you know…the places where everybody else has been reading the new for a few decades now.
Last and definitely least, R.A. Dickey was so terrible for so long as a Texas Ranger because he was a bad pitcher. Until he took unexpected time off (because nobody wanted him) and reinvented himself as a knuckleballer. In 2012 he accomplished what no other knuckleballer ever had; he won a Cy Young award (given to each league’s best pitcher).
So what about you?
I doubt you need to ditch your career in marketing to reinvent yourself as a knuckleballer. But who knows?
You probably do need to consider how to lean into disruption instead of running from it. You do need to learn how to harness the potential blessing of unexpected change.
In his book, Tribes, Seth Godin takes it one step further. He advocates for you and me to not merely lean in to change, but start causing it! Be a change agent in every arena possible. Don’t just accept the disruption. Start it!
One of my friends wants Apple to make a Southern version of Siri named Charlene that would call you “honey” while always telling you where the closest sweet tea was. Think a digital, less-racist Paula Deen. Maybe she could mutter disapprovingly “Bless his heart” when some madman cuts you off in traffic.
If this Charlene Siri could encourage you to change a stuck area of your life, she would simply say,