My dad was never much of an innovator.
He was great at fixing things and turning sows’ ears into silk purses but you wouldn’t consider him somebody who really kept up with or stayed ahead of trends. Whether with technology, music, health or within his field of work in the building and construction industry, Dad was proud to be ‘old school’.
To be honest, I’ve inherited some of the same tendency to glorify the past and talk about the ‘good old days’ and when I was a boy…
It was a surprise when I got an e-mail from my dad recently – the first one he’s ever sent. In his life. I had a bit of a chuckle initially but afterwards I shed a tear or two because it brought home to me so much about my dad’s struggle to build a successful business, to stay in the workforce and to provide for his family in the way I know he wanted to. It upset me because I’ve also seen his physical and emotional health decline due to that same struggle to adapt to change and to be open to new ideas or ways of doing things.
Time and again I see these same patterns of behaviour showing up with business owners and managers. That largely unconscious state of being closed to new ideas, techniques or technology. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be such an issue, but for the other people who are open to new ideas and innovation who are now leaving you behind!
There’s a common saying that life is about the ‘survival of the fittest’ but as Charles Darwin demonstrated, the species most likely to survive is the one most able to adapt to its surroundings and changes in those surroundings.
My dad’s focus in life (and sometimes obsession) was on being the fittest – on being the person who persisted the longest and slogged it out til he got a result. Dad certainly was physically fit and strong. Right up to the point where all that fighting and slogging and running and striving took its toll. Illness started to creep in when my dad hit the age of forty. Without his physical (and the related emotional and mental) fitness and strength, my dad really had nothing else to get him through.
He’d never kept up with changes in his industry and struggled to find employment doing something other than literally swinging a hammer. He’d not developed much in the way of leadership, planning, management or marketing skills. He’d never invested in any further education in his chosen field because he was always too busy working for a living. Cliché yes, but while dad was working for a living, life kind of passed him by.
My father subsequently ended up on and off welfare through his forties, until heart surgery and back issues meant he couldn’t work anymore at the ripe old age of 55.
Dad’s still alive and fighting and I’m grateful to have him around. He turned 70 last year and in spite of his failing lungs, damaged heart and chronic pain, looks like being around a while longer. Our 3 year old daughter loves her Pop and I love to hear her giggle and call him ‘silly Poppy’.
I can’t help but wonder though – if my dad had adapted a little more, kept up with change and invested in himself, perhaps he’d be living a little more comfortably, moving a little more freely, and sending me emails more often…
Pro tip: Invest at least 30 minutes a day in yourself. Read a book. Go for a walk. Attend a seminar. Watch a YouTube video about something useful (no cats on vacuum cleaners) Those small investments will pay off big time in a year, 5 years, 10 years. It’ll keep you aware of what’s going on in your marketplace and above all, will keep your mind open to adaptation and change.