Written two and a half years ago.
June 16, 2009
I’m afraid. Leaving for boarding school has left me in uncertainty, a feeling of nothing being the same or right all around. Close to home, it’s beautiful and the people there seem nice enough. It’s a necessary change, I tell myself. Nothing will allow me the same opportunity of going wherever I want for college. Another school of higher caliber can’t be found, and I can go for free. It’s overwhelmingly clear, facts and advice from those close to me backing it all up, what I should do. Yet, I still feel that silent tremble, the slight shiver that passes through me when I imagine the place. It is still strange and unfamiliar, and I can’t be any more fearful than I already am, no matter how excited, proud, or happy I know I should feel.
Change is a funny thing: we may cheer for it, fight for it, or put all our hearts behind making it happen, but still — we have a sense of hesitance behind the wall of optimism and support. It is our nature to be cautious, and we are programmed with mechanisms to guide us away from the new, whether it is beneficial or detrimental. That resistance to try, to discover if it hurts, both hinders and helps us. Those who can push past that initial distress are more often the ones who are successful; through that discard of anxiety, they reap the opportunities that change brings. The freshness of air and cleanliness of life, the letting go of the old to find the exciting and new, is theirs alone.
The world is littered with examples of this natural coding, but there is not a better example than that of organizations; they are, after all, composed of people who feel that reluctance inside themselves. Large companies make decisions daily that affect their future, much like we do individually. Similarly, they enjoy the comfort of sticking with their familiar, battle-tested methods of profit and process. They become complacent in their riches and perceived prosperity, and they choose to stay the same, never venturing to try anything different. They are afraid of losing what they already have, failing to see what they can gain.
Like the bigger corporations, smaller businesses feel that doubt to act on any unproven way of gaining profit or revenue. Yet, unlike their larger brethren, they do not have that fog of contentment to cloud their decisions; their eyes are on what’s ahead and not what already has past. Though this is often how it works, it is not always the case — large companies occasionally take these risks as well, but only when their success is guaranteed — it is the company that can grow big, stay focused, and be daring that becomes a great company.
Steve Jobs is returning to Apple at the end of this month, back from his hiatus to deal with his health problems. People are relieved that he’ll be back running the company that he built as a young man and resurrected years later. But, imagine what will happen when Steve is gone, a few years from now. Will the company crumble or lose sight of what it is, like it did in the ‘90s before he came back the first time?
Apple has been built from the inside with people that he chose himself, with similar values and visions for the company as he has. He trusts them to continue the high-quality, great experience culture of the company. Though Steve himself won’t be there, his knowledge and taste will. It is a risk, a change of power that will happen. But Apple has shown before that they are willing to be undaunted; they released the iPod when Napster had just been shut down and the digital music market didn’t exist. The iPhone was their first entry into a mature market that they had never dealt with before. The Macintosh was the first computer to actually transcend the fuzzy green text on a screen to become the first computer you could actually interact with. The opportunities to succeed were there and they seized the chance to try and get them. It’s in their DNA, in all the people that run the company; they overcome that proverbial hump of doubt to to the amazing. So when Steve Jobs does retire, whenever that will be, I know that Apple will still be as gutsy and smart as it has been in the past — they are made of intelligent people who know what works and when to try something different. In an Apple without Steve, they’ll have the chance to try something divergent, something even he couldn’t see; possibilities to create more fantastic work than before.
As people we are built to adapt and flow with the changes; likewise, we are also made to resist it as well. We can’t just stay as we are, stuck in the mud and immovable. That fear inside can’t hold us down; it can’t keep me from going to boarding school. Because if we look ahead and see what opportunities are there, we can fight the cold shiver, overcome that natural instinct. Then, with an audacious feeling and a sharp plan, success isn’t far.
I know that doubt is natural; it is beatable. I can see the opportunities now, the positive where I only saw negative before. The excitement is rising for what can be, what I can do at this new place. And when that uncertainty creeps back, I acknowledge it and walk past. I smile, just waiting, anxious for what’s to come.