In a world filled with change, it is often not the physical changes we find difficult but rather the emotional and psychological impacts of letting go of the way the world used to be.
These transitions come in three stages. The first is called Separation.
Kodak didn’t fall behind because it couldn’t make digital cameras — the company actually invented the digital camera in 1975. Kodak failed because, psychologically and emotionally, it couldn’t let go of its old identity as a chemical photographer. This inability to Separate from its past left a huge gap for others to fill.
The original owners of Starbucks built a business that sold coffee equipment and coffee beans to a local market. Despite the opportunity of becoming the world’s largest coffeehouse chain being clearly laid out for them by their marketing director, they couldn’t imagine themselves as a global coffee retailer. It didn’t fit with who they saw themselves as. To make that vision happen, Howard Shultz literally had to buy the company from them. And only then, once the company was controlled by people who had emotionally and psychologically Separated from their old identity, could the task of building the new identity begin.
The same applies to all of us. Only when we have Separated from the past can we truly begin to build the future.
And in this time of churning, when so much is changing all at once, knowing how to let go of the past (in a way that lets you take the best of it with you) is fast becoming a critical skill. Another step to becoming antifragile.
When did you last experience a major change in your role or identity? Did you need to let go of your old identity before you could step fully into the new one? Would it have been useful to have known how to do that faster?
Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)