For authentic success, focus on what hasn’t changed!

This week, I spoke with friends from school after a long time.

We just picked off from where we had left years ago, and the usual laughter, random ideas, intense discussions peppered our conversation. As we talked, I realized something important. 

We often focus on change. We track what we learned, how we grew.

We however ignore what hasn’t changed. And yet, it is the latter that usually allows authentic friendships over long, sustained periods.  Pick a friend from your childhood, teens, or early workdays – there was likely resonance at a fundamental level. You can pick up the phone and have an unbelievably fun, stress-free conversation right now with no qualms.

What hasn’t changed is what defines you as a person. 

I look back at my notes from the Strengths Finders training – it says your traits remain the same since childhood, and so do your strengths. The priority of the strengths displayed may change, but not the strengths themselves.

Interestingly, Jeff Bezos has nailed this focus on things not changing in his approach to business – here’s him talking about this:

I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

Autobiography in Five chapters – a poem

Sogyal Rinpoche illustrates how we keep failing repeatedly by getting into a pattern and finally realize truth and wisdom through this beautiful poem authored by Portia Nelson:

1) I walk down the street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in
I am lost…I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

3) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I see it is there.
I still fall in…it’s a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

4) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it.

5) I walk down another street.

Taken from his insightful, humane translation ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying…

Generational?

As I settle myself into a cozy living room sofa and switch on the entertainment system, a curious thought strikes me – what I am experiencing today is 3 generations of technology – consider:

– the furniture has more or less remained the same (yes I know different materials and styles are in vogue today but the underlying substratum is much the same). Made from natural material (teak in this case), it has survived in form and concept for so very long

– The tv and the radio are an improvement from our father’s generation. Its a credit that the concept of the tv (and the radio) has lived across generations (the form of course is different – the smart tvs (and internet radios) of today are very different from their monochromatic, bulky ancestors

– The ipad and the note 2 are strictly one generation (or actually a part of a generation) old. They weren’t here a decade ago and in their present form/ concept aren’t likely to be with us the next decade. Wearables for instance are catching up quickly – and in a world where you can enter and experience myriad worlds with just your glasses, they probably would take over duty from these devices which look so indispensable today!

Interesting when you think about it – and perhaps worth some exploration about this movement of the ages and the things we value over time. An equally interesting detour is to look at what has similarly evolved in our lives – take for instance:

values – they have not really changed over many, many generations. Shiva, Christ and Buddha continue to guide us (many times through the medium of our elders and teachers) on what to value in life and how to evolve. Values like integrity, honesty, compassion etc. aren’t going out of fashion anytime soon!

Society norms are often a generation or two old. Smoking was considered cool (even medicinal!) a hundred years ago – its strictly a no, no today in most public places. Slavery, gender inequality, racism and many such isms are no longer considered acceptable (thankfully!). Of course other “isms” have crept in which will go out of vogue in the next generation as people become wiser too!

Our jobs, workplaces and vocations are all probably part-generational. Twenty years back – “IT as a career” meant something very different from what it is today and I am sure twenty years from now it will be again very, very different. Computer (immersive) games fall in this category as well. Probably our work timings, work places, the things we read, the heroes we look upto will change to – who would have thought even a decade ago nerds’ stories would capture mainstream imagination in such a big way – remember the block buster movie (the social network) and a tome of a biography (steve jobs)?

Here’s a thought that lingers.

If the above were true, would we want to reconsider how we spend our time?

Would we want to spend more time (and emotion) on stuff that lasts a few years, a couple of generations or through the ages?

Or can we integrate it somehow that what we do today aligns to what sustains through the ages?