This past Memorial Day weekend I decided to revisit my bookshelf to poke around and reminisce with books I’d read over the last decade. You see, I not only like to collect great books, I also date each one to remind me of when I read it. My ‘invisible finger’ guided me toward a book I read seven years ago titled, “Wealth and Freedom” by David Levin. Wealth and Freedom (I know…sounds boring) is a great read on political economy for non-economists…like me.
In the second chapter titled “Capitalism”, Levine dedicates a segment to a phrase made popular by the Economist Joseph Schumpeter; that phrase being ‘Creative Destruction’ which describes the chaotic changes that occur when a new product (i.e., technology) or service is introduced into the market. For example, remember when the Compact Disc was introduced ushering in the dramatic decline of the use of audio tapes. The most current example is how Digital Video Discs (DVDs) are now ousting VHS tapes from our local video stores. Soon, even DVDs will be replaced by high-speed internet downloads.
What happens to the old products? Gone. What happens to the people that use to work for the audio or VHS tape companies? They eventually move to another position or go to work for these new digital companies. In the end, the consumer wins because a new and more efficient product has been created making our lives more convenient (e.g., no more fast forward, less shelf space for CDs and DVDs, etc.).
Change is the ongoing cycle of capitalism. Introduce a new product. It then creates an upheaval in the marketplace. The upheaval settles into normality until the next creative destruction (new technology) comes along.
As I reread Levine’s description of creative destruction, my mind wandered onto the topic of success. I began to think about the many people who are so comfortable with their lives that they don’t want anything to change. Yet, many of them live quiet lives of desperation; who deep down inside want change. They want something exciting to happen to their existence. But when something new is introduced into their normal daily life, they’re quick to reject it. Herein lay one of the greatest conundrums of success. We want our lives to change, but we don’t want anything to change that would cause us to have to make changes. Huh?!
In the marketplace, change is forced upon us by the creative minds of individuals with new ideas and visions. But in our personal space, who will force change upon us? Who will force us to change our habits of failure into habits of success? Who will force us to try something we’ve never done before? Who will coerce us to move beyond our comfort zone? Who? You, that’s who!
Many of us are waiting for a ‘change agent’, a creative destructive force that will make our lives, in the end, better. Unfortunately, the majority of people wait all their lives for such a creative force of change that never shows up.
I don’t need to tell you that you can’t wait for a creative destructive force to make you do what needs to be done. No ‘great power’ is going to intercede in your change until you consciously decide to make it happen. Nothing will happen until you creatively destroy the old patterns that haven’t been working over the years.
Creative destruction for you is a commitment to stop, evaluate and redirect your energies toward your aspirations regardless of the unintended consequences. You can’t predict what may come when you start to reconstruct your live. You can’t prognosticate every outcome. You can’t always assuage your fear of failure. What you can do is convince yourself that your present life is not enough and that if something is to dramatically change, you must make a dramatic change in your approach.
So here’s what I want you to do. Introduce the cycle of success (creative destruction) into your life. Start a new activity or good habit today. That habit will create some upheaval (i.e., change) in your life which will eventually settle into normality until you introduce the next creatively destructive habit.
Where do you begin? You begin by doing things you’ve always feared doing. Read a book that will inspire you. Begin by doing little things you’ve always put off for tomorrow. Begin by taking small risks and a few leaps of faith so you can begin to reformulate, reconstitute, reconstruct the new you while at the same time creatively destroying the old you.
Like anything in life that’s worth pursing, change comes with a cost. You will have moments when you are uncertain of the direction your headed. There will be moments when you’ll want to revert to the old you because it seems easier. There will be times when you wish you could just go back to your old life. Don’t do it! Although these tendencies are a natural reaction to change, you must resist the urge to regress back to mediocrity.
The outcome of creative destruction will not be immediately evident. Only as time passes and as you begin to redefine your life will you be able to appreciate the benefits of your self-inflicted upheaval. New patterns bring new thoughts which lead to even newer patterns of success.
Albert Einstein defined the definition of insanity as doing the same thing, the same way over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Both Einstein and Schumpeter understood that a new YOU will only emerge as a result of a change in YOU.