The sophomore slump happens. Musicians battle this regularly. The first album is killer. Lots of air play, multi-platinum sales, Grammys by the truckload. But when the second album is released, it’s compared to that first breakthrough. That second one will almost always fall short. It’s the same with the first season of a television series. The “perfection” that is the first season cannot be duplicated. Second season comments include: “The acting seems forced, the storyline weak and new characters are unwelcome.”
We, the people, are funny and fickle. And while there may be times that the first season or album are all that we need (future blog coming on this!), what might it say about us that our initial offerings of praise are replaced later with criticism, assumptions about performance and even, venomous words. Our infatuation with how things were constricts us.
Nostalgia is a beautiful thing. I can hear a song or see a photo and be transported to a different time and environment. It’s almost palpable. I see the walls of a room, the gymnasium of the high school or the waves crashing against the shore. I can smell the sweaty locker room after practice, the sweet bouquet of my wife’s hair or the homemade gravy (sauce for you non-Philly Italians) in my grandparents’ kitchen. I can feel my hand being held by one of my kids or the grip on the steering wheel on my first car. We fantasize about time travel when a song, photo, book or movie can transport us faster than the speed of light.
Nostalgia is a distraction. Just as beautifully as nostalgia can make us feel, it serves as an unintended anchor to a time never to happen again. We can long for a return to when things were better, easier, less crazy. The rose-colored glasses we wear when looking back blind us to the rough patches, the pain of heartbreak and to the truth of its story.
It’s why change can be so very difficult for us. “That’s not how we’ve done it” becomes a badge of honor to wear during transition or advancement in an organization. And while the context might not be some story about winning the state championship on 4th and 22 from our own 30-yard line, we hold onto the memory of how good a certain process is. I’ve known dedicated workers, who regularly complained about a system, stage a coup to revolt against a change to that system. And though it sounds irrational (and it just might be), it is easy to understand. The known means power over it.
We can craft the story we want and manipulate the pieces to suit our needs. Even in our complaining, we own it. We know well the failures of the process and will heartily share those but introduce something to change it and watch the complaining move from what is known to the unknown about to take over. The benefits of that broken system will be brought to the forefront. “Yeah, I know that the other system was broken, but this new one just can’t work.” We won’t allow the next iteration to thrive. We derail ourselves and it’s difficult for us to see that as it’s happening.
Resistance to change serves no one. Our knee-jerk reaction is to recall how glorious things were and how this new reality has ruined what once was.
Change isn’t only a business imperative, it’s a personal reality. The best way to shake the ill-attached sentiment of nostalgia is to label what life was really like. A song can take me back to that sweaty locker room where I spent hours running track in high school, but not all those memories are great. I was an insecure teenager trying to find his way. That’s not a great feeling, but it’s part of the story. It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good. It just was. And my kids don’t hold my hand like they used to, but they are now moving into the next phase of life and it’s a joy to watch them shine. My tears at their departure should not make me resistant or non-supportive; I have been a part of their journey. I am to celebrate their successful navigation of life to date. To resist is a waste of energy; to sit and cry is okay at moments, but to stay in that state is debilitating and affects my view of reality. Change at work is not much different.
Things were not as great as you might think. The next iteration might not feel the same way as the last. Embrace it. Complaining about something you’ve not done is fruitless; refusing to change is stagnation and irrelevance. Truth is truth, but the process that’s being altered may not be something to dig your heels in for. Grip those core truths in your life and hold fast; use your energy then to travel the road of change in procedure, product and process.
When I would dance alone in my room as a 13-year old, I never dreamed that I would be using a laptop computer to write, taking breaks to check my smartphone for emails, tweets and texts. Not all change is bad. And the change yet to come might not be either.