My seventeen year old son Hunter is graduating from high school this year and will be leaving his predictable, fairly comfortable schedule to launch himself into a world that will be quite different from what he has known for most of his life. Not surprisingly, he came to me a few months ago to let me know that he is pretty nervous about his future, as it’s a big change for him. Hunter is a well-educated, well-travelled, bilingual, very social world-class athlete, so whatever he ends up doing I’m confident it will work out well for him. However, in spite of his advantages, change creates worry and doubt in him as it does in all of us.
We talked about the fact that while our educational system drives kids to make early decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, there is also a big world out there with plenty of opportunity. He felt somewhat comforted with the realization that he very likely will work at multiple careers through the course of his productive years, and even more so by the fact that he can change his choice of job/education/lifestyle when it suits him. But he is still nervous because of one simple thing – the unknown.
Our industry is facing a significant number of changes and unknowns both currently and in the near future. When the bottom fell out of the price of oil, we saw a dramatic shift in spending patterns across Western Canada. We watched as politicians and environmentally minded folks descended on Paris last year for the COP21 conference, emerging two weeks later with announcements that brought a renewed focus on moving the renewable energy sector into the mainstream. Closer to home, many of our own colleagues at work are opting to shift gears into semi or full retirement, being replaced with younger eager employees who bring new energy and ideas into the workplace. All of this means that whatever our status quo might be, it’s soon going to be quite different.
So, what should we do as the comfortable ways of doing business fade into the sunset? Well, we have a couple of options. The first one looks like this:
Dilbert by Scott Adams, 2010
Alternately we can look for ways to use change to our advantage:
Dilbert by Scott Adams 2015
OK, so that might be taking the “use change to your benefit” concept a bit too far. But you get the point. Just because something is different doesn’t make it bad. In fact, think back to all of the good things that came out of changes to the industrial and social landscape. If you live in a cold climate, you probably have a safe and reasonably priced heat source in your home. No more collecting firewood. How about the fact that that you likely have quick access to a dentist or doctor to help with your aches and pains? In the mid-1700s, local advice for a toothache was to bury a potato at midnight when no one was looking! And the fact that you are reading this blog on a computer means you are not relying on a quill, parchment and carrier pigeon to communicate with family, friends and workmates.
Many of the changes that are upon us will ultimately lead to cheaper and more reliable renewable energy, streamlined work processes, building materials that will allow power poles to easily last 100 years or more, and energy management systems that will integrate multiple energy forms seamlessly into your home and business. Don’t believe me? How long ago was it since the internet showed up? What about Gore-Tex replacing oil cloth? The electric stove? You get the point. Change is usually a good thing, even when it initially scares us.
By the way, now that Hunter has had some time to think he is considering becoming an architect. Or perhaps a professional athlete. In many ways it doesn’t matter, because the real win is that he is ready to take the world head on, changing with the times as needed. Just like we all should.