It has become a habit of mine to tackle the topic of change as the subject of my column especially when I face or undergo a big change in my life.
I remember writing about change back in 2004 just before I took a year-long sabbatical together with my family in Austin, Texas.
I wrote another when I moved back to the business desk after spending about six months or so as the city desk editor.
In my column last week, I shared with you, my readers, my resolutions as new managing editor of this newspaper, the first aspect of which was about change.
On all of those occasions, I mostly dealt with the inevitability of change — if you don’t adapt, you are stuck in conditions of the past and will eventually perish. On the flip side, I think that if you opt for change, you can challenge yourself and get ahead. It’s advisable to take change by its horns and lead the way.
Looking back, I have not given much thought to the pains of change, change-resisting mental inertia and remedial steps as well as how to implement change successfully.
Taking on this new position and promoting change as the main theme of the newsroom, I think now is the time to sort these things out. Of course, it is not based on my short experience as managing editor but is drawn from a wealth of all my life’s experiences.
The aim of this look-back and soul-searching endeavor is more for my own benefit as I stand at the starting line of my new job.
Foremost are priorities.
When I was young, I wanted to study bugs, especially dragonflies.
In summer, I often spent a whole day going all over the place to catch the elusive emperors. It was only when I was lucky that I caught one with a butterfly net. If you caught a greenback empress, you would tie it with a thin string and swirl it in the sky, the blue-back emperors could be lured for mating and were caught by hand.
My entomological zeal peaked in the sixth grade when experience taught me that one could often end up catching very few, under a large cloud of dragonflies circling overhead together. It is comparable to a sardine run during which sharks and dolphins prey on migrating fish. The small fish move in schools for self-protection, more precisely in order to reduce casualties.
After repeatedly failing into this dragonfly trap, I came to know of one way to beat it ― picking, choosing one from the swarm and concentrating on it before moving to the next. My catch recovered.
The lesson is that change sometimes resembles a group of dragonflies in an organized evasive move so it is important to pick a few and give one’s all to get them done.
The time to introduce and implement change should be as short as possible.
We know that the secret of FDR’s New Deal lay in his achievement of passing through Congress controversial pieces of legislation that would otherwise be dead on arrival due to the lobbying power of interest groups. Of course, his first 100-day campaign would not have been made possible without the political capital he gained from Americans’ outpouring of support in the middle of the Great Depression and a Congress that granted the President his every legislative wish.
We know that FDR’s laws and accomplishments remain pillars on which the United States stands ― social security, the unions, FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.), etc.
There are cases that demonstrate how change can be ineffective, if it takes too long.
The current U.S. President Barack Obama was elected on a platform of change that drew a great deal of support from Americans who were foundering as a result of a protracted war on terrorism and the subprime crisis but now the president faces a divided nation and an uncertain outlook on re-election because of change fatigue. The chances are that people still know deep inside about the necessity of change but become too tired to go on with it.
It is like losing sponsors for change. Winston Churchill was kicked out of office in a vote after victory in World War II by a nation that was eager to turn the page and move forward from the devastation of the war. Churchill was apparently not rueful about the betrayal by the people despite all he had done for them.
In the Joseon Kingdom, Jo Gwang-jo, a reformer under King Chungjong, made a great deal of changes that affected the core of the kingdom but was sacked and victimized in a power struggle. Read about Jo Gwang-jo’s story on Wikipedia.
Now, what does all this come down to?
I feel like I’m at square one but it is not a bad feeling because I know all these entomological and historical lessons will help me to seek more changes. I would rather be caught with my pants down than see no change.
I can’t help it.