Why Change is Good
Originally published: 10.01.08 by Guy Kawasaki
Change equips you to handle any transition. Simply believe that something good will come.
Ariane de Bonvoisin is the founder and CEO of The First Thirty Days Inc., New York. This company runs a Web site that helps people “find the positive in any change” in their lives. She has worked for the Boston Consulting Group, BMG, and Sony Music. In this interview she explains the importance of embracing change.
Answer: Every day we experience changes in the economy, the stock market, politics, business, the environment, education and healthcare systems, technology, and our family and home life. Change is the only constant in life .
When we become comfortable with change we are equipped to handle any transition.
Question: What are the key things to focus on in the first 30 days of going through personal and professional change?
Answer: As difficult as it may seem, it’s essential to focus on what might be good about the change and to begin to ask yourself better questions. Trade disempowering inquiries — “Why am I so unlucky?” “Why did this happen?” “Why is life so hard?” — for positive questions such as “What is positive about this situation?” or “In what way is this change a gift?” Begin to believe that from all change — even the most challenging or painful — something good will come. This is the change guarantee.
Question: Why are some people and businesses better at change than others?
Answer: After interviewing over 1,000 individuals about their experiences with change, I’ve found that there are nine principles that make people good at change:
- They have a positive belief about change and are generally optimistic. I call these people “change optimists.”
- They believe in the change guarantee: that something good always comes from change.
- They know that they possess a “change muscle” — that they are strong, capable, powerful, and intuitive enough to handle any change that comes into their lives or that they want to initiate.
- They refuse to become paralyzed by “change demons” — negative emotions that arise during change.
- They don’t resist change — choosing instead to accept the reality of their situation.
- They understand that their thoughts, words, and feelings have a direct effect on how easily they move through transition.
- They believe that life has a deeper meaning than what can be seen or felt and that no change is arbitrary.
- They surround themselves with a support team.
- They refuse to get stuck during change. They keep moving and take care of themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Question: How can individuals flex their “change muscle” in business to get them on the path to success?
Answer: Each of us has a change resumé filled with dozens of changes that we’ve already made and experienced. You’ve used coping mechanisms to get through past changes, and it’s essential to remember that these are available to you again.
The “change muscle” remembers everything that you’ve been through and gets stronger with every change that you experience. This stacking effect helps to make the next change a bit easier than the last. In your business, create a change resumé to acknowledge and recognize all the changes you’ve already been through. It’s a reminder for everyone of what you have already succeeded at navigating.
Question: What is a company’s “change quotient?”
Answer: A company’s change quotient reflects how good it is at change. A score is given on a scale of 1-10 based on the nine change principles and a series of questions about how those connected to the company move through change.
The change quotient examines everybody’s reaction to change: the CEO, the employees, the customers, and even your competitors. As an employer you have a distinct competitive advantage if your team is good at change.
Question: What are the initial points to consider with making the change from the corporate world to entrepreneurship?
Answer: A change of this caliber requires a shift in identity . This is often the hardest type of change as both your internal and external worlds will transition.
When starting your own company, it’s essential to hone in on your calling or passion — why do you really want to start this business? This is what will keep you going long before the money, prestige, or the fun shows up.
And don’t be in a rush. Most of us overestimate what we will get done in a month and then underestimate how much change can happen in a year. Give yourself time.
Question: In uncertain times, how can business owners and job seekers navigate the changes they are increasingly enduring these days?
Answer: Focus on what you can control when times are uncertain: your thoughts, your beliefs, your health, your self-esteem, and the people you choose to surround yourself with. And make an effort to find your core strength; the part of you that won’t be shaken when everything around you is changing.
Question: What are the most common mistakes that cause people and companies to fail at implementing change, and how can they do better?
Answer: Those who have a difficult time with change often get stuck in their “change demons” — emotions such as blame, anger, regret, fear, doubt, and shame that come up during change. Remember that each change demon canbe replaced with an empowering positive emotion. \
Those who struggle with change also:
- Hide and think they are alone — they don’t ask for help.
- Place their trust in sources outside of themselves when they should be listening to their intuition.
- Become busy and distracted instead of making time to get quiet and mindful.
- Take too much action or not enough.
- Move slowly through change because they think it will be less painful. I call this using a butter knife instead of a butcher knife — sometimes change requires you to cut directly to the heart of the situation.
- Compare themselves to others.
Question: What are the most important principles to help those with start-up aspirations?
Answer: There are three:
- Change Muscle: You are strong enough, smart enough, and intuitive enough to get through any change that comes your way. Have unshakeable faith in who you are and what you can achieve.
- Change Support Team: Surrounding yourself with a strong circle of positive people, advisors, and friends will help you move through the challenges of starting a business.
- Change Demons: Challenging emotions will inevitably arise during starting a business. Remember that they can be replaced with a better, more empowering alternative, that everyone feels them, and that you can move forward despite them.
Question: What are some of the major changes you encountered in building your company and how did you overcome them?
Answer: These are the major changes I dealt with:
- Transitioning from being part of acorporate culture to life as an entrepreneur is a significant identity shift. Among other changes, I had to get used to creating my own schedule and living without a set, secure salary.
- Raising angel money and securing investors was a continual challenge as a woman without a team, as a first time business owner, and as an entrepreneur with a company based on a then obscure concept: change and life skills. When things looked discouraging, I focused on my calling, to help others through change, and kept moving forward.
- Becoming a CEO has its own set of challenges. I’ve found that building a team that shares similar values and work ethic is an ongoing process that involves moving through uncomfortable situations. Specifically, parting with employeeswho are not the proper fit for the company.
- While developing the company’s branding — taglines, logos, etc., I accepted advice from way too many people. I eventually stuck to my intuition and went back to the very first logo.
Guy Kawasaki is a managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm and a columnist for Forbes.com. Previously, he was an Apple Fellow at Apple Computer Inc., where he was one of the individuals responsible for the success of the Macintosh computer. He is the author of eight books, including his most recent, The Art of the Start, which can be found at www.guykawasaki.com