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Views from the Prairie

December 20

Time to Let Go

No matter how highly we value something, there always comes a time when we have to let go. We start companies but have to let go of doing all ourselves in order to let employees grow. We push ideas and have to let go to let others implement them. We have children and have to let go so that they can spread their own wings. We always have to let go in one way or another.

There are a lot of organizations where the top person doesn't let go enough. Certain sports teams are known for how the owner holds a tight grip on the team operations. (And there are always those who argue that such tight control is why the team doesn't have a recent championship.) In history, Ford Motor Company was so tightly controlled by Henry Ford that it couldn't keep up with competitors.

Life throws curve balls. We want to think we know how to handle things and have everything under control, but then, life happens. When everything is upended, there are no experts, no amount of experience fits anymore. Only those who can read the situation and ride the wave will succeed. Often, we can only attempt to ride and then let go of the current direction and adjust in the middle.

In surfing like with riding a bicycle, we are very stiff when we start. We don't know how to relax and go with the flow. Instead, we start on land, learn how to stand on the board and then move out to flat water and try there. We do not have the skills to read the waves and go with that flow.

Same way in business, we can be very stiff and demand that things be done a certain way. But when life "throws a curve ball", our stiffness will be part of what destroys us. We have to let go.

Part of the problem is our desire to succeed - and do so in a certain way. Often, we have to let go in order to succeed because our actual success will come in a different way. Unless we let go of our demands for having everything a certain way, we won't see how our success can come in that new way.

One of the hardest times to let go is when things are not quite going the way we want them to. So many businesses are struggling - almost on the verge of making it. When the business is always a major struggle, we need to ask if we wouldn't be better off letting go of this and finding something new. We can deny the struggle and deny that this isn't a success. We harm ourselves by that denial. We need to let go of our need to be always right. When we accept our failures, we can open ourselves up to seeing a new way of success.

Then, there are the times when the business is clearly failing. There are those who hang on, digging in, filing lawsuits, and never giving up. While that is admirable in the Battle of Britain, that doesn't help us when there are alternatives. It is best to let go and find a new way to grow.

Letting go and accepting failure is often the way to success.

How to tear apart an organization

Sometimes, we get to watch an organization tear itself apart. It can be tough to watch when we care about that organization. Yet, many times, we are powerless to prevent it as the people in charge are doing the actions that would tear apart any organization.

An uncle talked about one experience onboard a warship. The Captain had favorites and treated people differently. He also refused to accept responsibility for the mistakes he made. It resulted in the ship damaged in an attack and badly demoralized. We see the same thing in business and in society. Showing favorites and not trying to treat everyone equally tears apart a warship, a business, and our society.

The Assyrian Empire lasted a long time and withstood many an attack from the outside. Yet, after a time when preferential tax credits were freely granted, people started to resent the special treatment that their neighbors got. It broke apart the society and the next outside attack used those breaks to destroy the empire.

In the same way, the preferential tax treatment the East India Company got helped to break the American Colonies away from the British Empire.

We can see organization after organization being torn apart when the leader thinks that there are people within the organization who are working to oppose him. We do best when we trust that employees do want to help us succeed. We do best when we keep and fire employees based on performance rather than on loyalty.

We tear apart an organization when we do not have fair and equal treatment for everyone. Our society does best when we treat everyone the same.

Risky World

The person who developed a smart watch App to monitor veterans with PTSD tested it on his dad. The day his dad used an air hammer, the App went nuts. It thought that his dad was having a heart attack with beats up to 6,000 per minute.


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