Responding to Change: Will You Be a Victim or Architect of the Future?

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Jeff Cole

Have you reacted to changes you’ve encountered in life or have you responded to them? Do you drive change on a daily basis or are you driven by change? Who is in charge of all this change anyway? This month, columnist Jeff Cole explores an interesting perspective on driving personal change.

One of my favorite change authors is Daryl Conner. In his best-seller Managing at the Speed of Change he wrote a statement I found so meaningful that I had it etched into stone. That rock has been on my desk constantly in my line of sight since the mid-90’s. His statement? "We have the chance to be either architects or victims of our future."

I don’t know about you, but that resonated with me as a very profound statement. You can either make positive change happen in your life and business or wait around and go with the flow – let your future follow the path of least resistance.

Don’t like your job? Change it. Statistically, the odds are not good that the job of your dreams will just fall into your lap. To paraphrase physics – a career at rest tends to stay at rest… When speaking I often ask my audiences this – do you see yourself retiring from the job you are in today? Many people say a resounding "no". So, you acknowledge that career change is in your future – it’s just a matter of when it will happen. It’s also a matter of who you decide to put in charge of your career. I’ve read that a typical person puts more effort into planning their annual vacation than they do planning their retirement or career path!

By the way – nobody says making significant change in your life will be fair, easy, free of setbacks, or totally lacking in risk. Wally "Famous" Amos is a great example of being an architect of his own future. Once a successful William Morris talent agent representing Diana Ross and others, he presented potential clients with his special recipe cookies that he baked in his kitchen. At one point he decided to make a career change and go into the cookie business full time. You may have heard of or consumed his Famous Amos cookies. They became very popular and the small business went into growth mode.

Along the way, however, there were some financial problems and Wally found himself having to sell his business. Along with that the new firm acquired rights to Wally’s name! No problem for Wally – he turned that into a plus, starting over in Hawaii with a company he called "Uncle Noname" (pronounced no-nam-ii) that made cookies and muffins. A lot of unfair and bad things have happened to Wally along the way. When I met him however, he was one of the happiest people I’ve ever seen. When I asked him "why?" he said he just chose to be happy.

Change will come at you for the rest of your time on this large spinning rock we all live on. Some of that change will be instituted by you. Often you will be on the receiving end of a change – for better or worse. While you may not control that change, you have 100% control over how you choose to respond to that change. That’s the essence of being an architect of your own change. Drive those changes that you can. Anticipate changes coming your way (so you’re not surprised) and determine how to best respond to those.

But remember, often your first in-born instinct may not be correct. We’ve all at one time or another wanted to tell the boss that their new, boneheaded change is ludicrous and should be promptly deposited in the dustbin (or words to that effect). More than one person has wanted to just lay on the couch, cover themselves with a blanket and hope the change will go away. However, just because that’s the first response to be neuro-chemically transmitted through a chain of axons and dendrites in your brain in no way means it is the best response.

For better or worse more change is headed your way. The good news is YOU are in charge! What do you want to improve? Your processes, your business, your personal life? You can drive that change starting today! Unwanted change forced on you? That’s all part of the deal – read the fine print on your birth certificate… However, YOU are in charge yet again – you get to determine precisely how you will respond to that change. Through it all you can choose to be angry, surprised, victimized, etc. Or, you can take a lesson from Wally Amos and choose to be happy! Get your blueprint paper out and happy architecting!