Choose your own adventure: prisoner or pioneer

“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” – Deepak Chopra

My wife spent last week in San Francisco at Dreamforce, and by all accounts it was a week well spent; she returned full of inspiration and ideas, with both of those take-aways extending far beyond the workplace.

One of the major conference themes was that of philanthropy and wellness, and the keynote line-up included such luminaries as Sean Penn, Petra Němcová, and Deepak Chopra.  In his session, Chopra used the quote above (which I’m guessing is from one of his books); when I saw/heard it, I was quite struck by its potential to create change.

While the message obviously applies to many areas, I’m going to very briefly focus on the professional aspects.

How many times have you faced resistance to an idea because “that’s not what we’ve done before”, or has the opposition started with something like “well, in the past we…”?  Did you feel frustrated that your idea didn’t even get a fair shake, simply because it was new?  That seems a pretty ridiculous reason for shooting something down, and one that is almost utterly without merit.  It’s also a missed opportunity to make significant change.

We can all find incrementally harder and incrementally smarter ways to work – and our output is going to increment in turn – but true progress is the result of disruptive change: a new technology, a new process, a new idea.  Sure, trying something new has a risk of failure, of the occasional blunder, but not trying something new comes with an assurance of mediocrity.  Luckily, we as leaders (even if only of ourselves) are free to choose.

Trying something new has a risk of failure, but not trying something new comes with an assurance of mediocrity.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an argument for just wildly engaging in lots of crazy activities, but it is most definitely an advocacy for escaping the past and defining a new future (in a responsible and calculated-risk kind of way).  Only organizations that foster (reasonable) risk-taking and truly, honestly, genuinely tolerate the failure that is the unavoidable price of progress will be pioneers.

Only organizations that foster (reasonable) risk-taking and truly, honestly, genuinely tolerate the failure that is the unavoidable price of progress will be pioneers.

Two parting notes:

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Posted in Leadership, Management

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