Novelty and Characterization
The quest for novelty can be debilitating and, ironically, undermine your future. If you're constantly on the hunt for something new, after all, you'll never focus your time, attention, and energy on the long process of developing the competence that will deliver authentic change. Under a media bombardment touting the latest fads, theories, and systems, the lure of the next big thing at times proves overwhelming.
In the business world, this enemy shows up as the "buffet table" approach to training. We take a bit of Tom Peters, a dash of W. Edwards Deming, a habit or two of Stephen Covey's, a notion from Warren Bennis, and a theory from Peter Drucker. We then lash it together with some Six Sigma, spicy quotes, and colorful PowerPoint slides, and voilą! The result is a "greatest hits" training program.
Lacking coherence, however, the patchwork program fails to deliver. With no unifying design or structure, the result is a very expensive piece of junk instead of a dream car. Yet we continue to cling to a blind, unreasoning faith in novelty. You cannot learn to be an effective leader by chasing after every new interpretation that comes along or trying to cherry-pick tips and techniques from a host of teachers. The same is true in the transformation you are undertaking.
Beware of self-characterization. We make up stories about the world, and ourselves and confuse these stories with reality. We seize upon our incompetence in a single domain, for instance, and cement that into the foundation of who we are. But lack of competence does not equate to a lack of character.
The fact that I can't seem to hammer a nail straight doesn't mean that I'm dumb, lazy, uncoordinated, or incapable of learning. Far too often, we use a simple beginner's mistake to start a story that begins with the line, "I can't do this. I'm too old, too young, too busy, too fat, too uncoordinated ..." (The ways to fill in the blank are endless.) This self-sabotaging statement is often followed by another: "I'm not smart enough, I'm not fast enough, I'm not good enough; it's too late for me."
Another variation on this narrative goes: "I can't learn that; it's too sophisticated, too complicated, too technical." Common to all these statements is one underlying, unspoken theme: There's something wrong with me. This unfounded interpretation that chokes off learning and stunts our growth as human beings, is no less tragic for being so common. That it happens is a part of life. That we let it stop us from living the lives we want is no longer acceptable.