Comfort is the Enemy of Change


Noel A. Pinnock – Contributing Writer

Alexander Pope in the An Essay on Criticism book (1711) wrote, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” The verb “err” means to do something wrong; to make a mistake is “to err“. “To err is human” because all people (“humans“) make mistakes. Unfortunately, we are programmed at an early age to think that failure is bad and this belief prevents individuals and organizations, alike, from effectively learning from missteps. As children, we learn at some point that admitting failure means taking blame! How can we respond constructively to failures w/o giving rise to an “anything-goes” attitude? Executives when asked, reported how many of the failures in their organizations are truly blameworthy, their answers are usually in single digits – 2% to 5% but when asked how many are treated as blameworthy, they say (after a pause or chuckle) – 70% to 90%. Amy Edmondson and Mark D. Cannon (Harvard Business School) writes:

“It hardly needs to be said that organizations (individuals) cannot learn from failures if people do not discuss and analyze them. Yet this remains an important insight. The learning that is potentially available may not be realized unless thoughtful analysis and discussion of failure occurs. For example, for Kaiser [Permanente’s] Dr. [Kim] Adcock, it is not enough just to know that a particular physician is making more than the acceptable number of errors [in misread x-rays]. Unless deeper analysis of the nature of the radiologists’ errors is conducted, it is difficult to learn what needs to be corrected. On a larger scale, the U.S. Army is known for conducting After Action Reviews that enable participants to analyze, discuss, and learn from both the successes and failures of a variety of military initiatives. Similarly, hospitals use “Morbidity and Mortality” (M&M) conferences (in which physicians convene to discuss significant mistakes or unexpected deaths) as a forum for identifying, discussing, and learning from failures. This analysis can only be effective if people speak up openly about what they know and if others listen, enabling a new understanding of what happened to emerge in the assembled group.”

I have written this before and for edification purposes you can review it once more:

“You see, hindsight is always 20/20 but in order to realize the power that is produced in failure we must first be able to acknowledge it; second, analyze it; and third, learn from it. German theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein once stated, “We can’t solve yesterday’s problems at the same level of thinking we are at when we created them.” In order to get back up when we have fallen down requires a change in our beliefs as well as in our thinking because when we change our beliefs, we change our thoughts, and when we change our thoughts; we change our feelings and when we change our feelings; we change our actions. At the end of the day, top of the morning, it’s about taking action after the error, failure, short fall, opportunity for improvement (OFIs), or whatever word or phrase you find acceptable in your lexicon.  Those that catch, correct, and learn from failure before others will succeed but those that wallow in the blame game will not.”

It’s ironic that college and most of the schooling we receive teaches us that accuracy is key and failure is bad. They don’t really teach or equip us with the skills to know how to get back up. The first thing we see when we get that Scan Tron or blue book back are the red errors or the comments addressing the deficiencies. This doesn’t promote a culture of achievement but a culture of failure with little to no opportunity for improvement. I remember Pastor Charles Swindoll whose grandfather said to him after wrecking his grandfather’s car pulling out the barn…his grandfather said, “It’s alright Chuck…It’s alright…I can always fix this old car but I only have one grandson.” Wow – let that sit right there for a moment. Hmmm…I know if it were me and my parent’s car, I would have probably been dead, beaten, pressed down, and shaken together…LOL – it’s okay to laugh.

Change is an elusive beast. In fact, someone once said that no one likes change but a wet baby but I am here to tell you that change is inevitable, constant, impersonal, and ever present. Although we may try to avoid it we can’t escape it. Change is such an extraordinary, sometimes uncomfortable thing, isn’t it? So many of us crave it but fiercely resist it, fueling an ever-escalating inner civil war.

In our society, we may have taken the privilege of comfort too far. It’s so easy to stay comfortable. Too warm? Adjust the air-conditioning another degree cooler. Too cold now? Turn the heat up a few degrees. We insulate ourselves against anything that is the least bit uncomfortable. I’m not talking about the extreme discomfort of not having a roof over your head or of being the victim of abuse or some other horrible circumstances. I’m talking about the everyday entitlement that leads us to believe that everything we want should be handed to us, that mastery can be attained through a bit of dabbling or by short bursts of obsessive attention. Here are five reasons (count with me 1-2-3-4-5) why change is important:

  1. Change will help you focus on the person you need to become and the leader you need to be
  2. Change ensures life stays exciting…who wants to live a boring life (no one eats the same thing every day) – The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a change in results
  3. Change leads to opportunity and opportunities lead to victories – Opportunity doesn’t knock but you have to knock on the doors of opportunity and if you don’t get in then…break the window
  4. Change helps you move on and provides the stairway to a new role…in life there are no elevators to get you there and what may get you there may not keep you there (pow)
  5. Change means progress and gives double for your troubles by building your testimony that will encourage others who are in trouble. 

At the end of the day – Comfort is the enemy of change because it enters your home as your guest, remains as your host and eventual becomes your master. Most of you decided to pursue a degree of higher learning because you were not comfortable with your current job, salary, or career trajectory. The desire for change motivated you to take action in order to reach a desired result or end and I am very proud of each of you for evicting comfort and taking change out for dinner. At least when you finish the meal you can pay for the bill because change is a good date and shouldn’t be treated as a one night stand. #getatit!


Comments are closed.