Meeting the Challenge of Change

Excerpted from Straight to the Top and Beyond:
Nine Keys for Meeting the Challenge of Changing Times


"The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order."

- Alfred North Whitehead

This is a book about change and about how to meet the challenges of the coming millennium by continually striving to go one step beyond your previous experience. It is also a book about achievement in the face of uncertainty, and of learning the lessons from the struggles we face on a daily basis. More than anything else, it is a book about discovering the potential that lies within and making the most of the opportunities that are offered to us throughout our lives.

We are living through one of the great transitional periods of human history, where economic, political and social change is occurring with lightening speed. Events taking place on the opposite side of the earth inexorably influence our daily lives. We cannot stop this change, nor can we ignore it. But we can increase our ability to adapt, to manage change effectively, and to benefit from the adversity that change creates.

In these rapidly-changing times, the metaphor of adventure offers the perfect vehicle for articulating a strategy that will help us address this challenge. By definition, an adventure is a journey with an uncertain outcome and adventurers are people who pro-actively seek out difficulty in order to stretch their potential against the unknown.

Today, the pace of change dictates that we must all become adventurers, leaving behind the known world of our previous experience and moving with confidence into the unpredictable world of the next millennium.

To succeed in the 21st Century, we must learn to embrace change, to become comfortable with uncertainty, and to become visionary and adventurous in dealing with the new social, political and economic environments in which we will, like it or not, be forced to live.

In meeting the challenge of change, one of the greatest difficulties will be in shaking off the suffocating demands for security that dominate the lives of so many people. Over the years, in seeking to support those in our society who are unable to look after themselves, we have created a wide-ranging security net that is resulting in an alarming trend towards large numbers of individuals who no longer seem willing to take personal responsibility for the consequences of their own actions.

Increasingly, we see a growing component of society that looks toward government, the law courts, or the insurance industry to bail them out when something goes wrong or when the going gets tough. And all of this is occurring at a staggering financial cost that we can no longer afford.

But this was not originally the case! The world that we take so much for granted today is a society that has evolved through the centuries of risk-taking by our predecessors, for whom every day was an adventure. The explorers, fur traders, settlers and pioneers who developed this land had no security system to fall back on. These were people who saw the opportunities offered by this vast continent and had the courage to let go of security in accepting the risks that the new world would demand. And they were also willing to accept the consequences of their actions, whether the results were positive or negative. It would never have occurred to them that life could be led in any other way.

The problem of security, of course, is that once attained it becomes increasingly difficult to let go. To progress as a society, we have to leave behind our established comfort zones and leap one step beyond into the future. Such a step demands courage and commitment, but once taken will lead to increasing excitement and opportunity. All kinds of things will start to occur that would never have resulted if that initial step had not been taken.

In fact, the adventure of life is only to be found by continually striving to go one step beyond in search of discovery and new challenge. Children do this as a matter of course, but, as adults, we must force ourselves never to be satisfied with the secure world that we have created through our past efforts. Instead, we should continually be placing ourselves out on that limb, where we have to perform to our maximum potential. In adopting this philosophy, we will have to take risks, but risks that have been carefully controlled through adequate preparation and analysis - and risks for which the resulting consequences have been carefully considered, acknowledged and personally accepted.

In the process, we will discover our real selves — and gain a better understanding of our real potential. We owe it to ourselves to continue to search for a more complete awareness of the strengths that we can apply to our goals in life, but also a more pragmatic and realistic acceptance of the limitations that we carry within us. After all, it is our strengths and our limitations that make us who we are — and without a full knowledge of both, we can never be fully aware of what we are capable of achieving with our lives.

The trick is to set increasingly difficult goals as we progress through life. Having attained each goal in turn — and increased our knowledge of our potential in the process — we can gaze off into the metaphorical distance and project what the future might bring. But, as we come down off each peak of achievement, we must continually apply this new-found knowledge of self towards even higher peaks, as we struggle forward towards the next horizon of endeavour.


"There are places to go beyond belief."

- Neil Armstong



















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