If You Break It…

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Hacking Your Future is a free weekly memo that provides readers with practical and applicable tips for uncovering their future success. Readers are challenged to re-imagine their personal and professional narratives, goals, and objectives, and re-invent their lives and work in a manner consistent with their new vision of the future.

This weeks focal point: Remember that train table I lovingly and thoughtfully constructed for my son almost two years ago? In my very first newsletter, I related with great pride the hard work and creativity I poured into this gift for my then two year old. Update: he destroyed it…again…and again…and again. Each time, we had a very serious talk about why we should take care of our toys and how difficult and time-consuming it is for Mommy and Daddy to reconstruct the tracks. We tried glue. We screwed half the pieces down. We went in for a simpler design. Despite all of our efforts, in a matter of days, our son (displaying amazing strength for a toddler) would manage to “crash it in to the sea,” an idea he gleaned from his favorite episode of Thomas and Friends. In the episode, however, it only happens one time to one train, who is recovered and restored and all is well…but I digress.

So, why am I sharing this with you? I’ve decided there is a lesson to be learned here about how we relate to up and coming generations. They are so curious, entrepreneurial, and technologically advanced, but also inexperienced and seemingly reckless at times. They are a force to be reckoned with and it is understandable that the older generation would be somewhat wary of the way they choose to do (or undo) things. It is somewhat reflexive to view new perspectives that don’t neatly fit into the current dominant worldview as incorrect, disruptive, or even a threat. It is also difficult to relinquish control over a system, an organization, or the world at large. We built it, we own it, we have the best ideas about how it should be used, right?

I don’t have to tell you that this mindset, though easy to have, is dangerous and the best way to ensure that all of your efforts do go to waste. If we do not engage the curiosity of young people, then the missed opportunities for growth, reinvention, maybe even revolution, could be catastrophic to the overall good we have been striving to create. Instead they need space to be creative and the freedom to fail, if we ever expect them to be truly successful. We also must understand that their new vision of success will naturally differ from the current one.

Therefore, I have decided to relinquish ownership of the train table to my son. After all, I built it for him and he is entitled to have his own ideas about how to use it. For now, his trains are running wild and free across countertops, racing down the hallway and over windowsills. Even the baby has joined in with a train in each hand. I imagine that one day my son will want to rebuild the tracks, and then, it will be up to him to determine how best to do it. Until then, what appears to be “broken” to me might be a very important scenario in the imaginative world he is creating. I don’t want to waste any more time interfering with this process, but instead I am opening myself up to what we both might learn from it.

The Fulcrum: Take time to identify areas where you can relinquish control this year. The results will bring far greater productivity, energy, and excitement both to yourself and your organization.

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© J.P Nichols & Associates Inc. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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