It’s an old joke you probably have heard before. But it came to mind during a recent conversation with a friend.
Two friends, Bob and John, were out hiking deep into the forest. Suddenly, they come upon a large bear. They scurry up a tree to escape. They are safe, for now. But the bear isn’t going anywhere. After waiting, for what seemed like hours, they realize they need to do something.
“I have an idea,” Bob says. “When the bear lays down to rest, let’s make a run for it. Otherwise, we’re never going to get out of here.” John agrees. After a while, the bear laid down, ready to take a nap.
“Now,” Bob whispered. “Let’s go.” So they quietly climbed down from the tree and started tiptoeing away. As they were almost in the clear, the bear suddenly awakes. With a growl, he chases after the two hikers, pursuing his next meal.
The bear is increasingly gaining ground on Bob and John. Looking back, a panting John cried out to Bob, “We’re not going to make it! Don’t you know you can’t out run a bear!”
“I know that,” Bob yelled back to John as he sped away. “I just have to out run you!”
The bear is chasing you and you can’t out run it. At least, it feels that way. My friend and I were talking about change when I thought about the joke about the bear. Changes in his job, and the probability of change on the horizon for this area, mainly relating to the hog industry. And change is the bear, and the bear is gaining ground in a hurry.
Remember when you used be annoyed and made fun of those people constantly checking their smart phones. That was just a few short years ago. Now, it’s so commonplace, you pay it little attention. (Besides, you now probably have your face so locked into your smart phone that you don’t even see them.)
Around five years ago I bought a new laptop computer. Needing help setting it up, I phoned the help desk. The person who helped this technologically challenged good ol’ boy from Clinton was sitting behind a computer in India. It was amazing back then. But today, less than five years later, it seems more surprising to call a helpdesk, or service center, and not get someone with a foreign accent. Yes, the bear is gaining ground.
It’s hard to outrun the bear because the rate of change is increasing so fast. So called, “generational change” used to be considered around every forty years. Now it is ten years or even less. So what do you do to keep from getting eaten by the bear?
Well, like the joke, you just have to be faster than others. By the way, that doesn’t mean you have to be faster than everyone. You still might be able to somehow survive the changing landscape, but you will need to be faster than the majority if you want to really prosper. How do I get faster?
Probably most important, to survive and prosper in a rapidly changing world, you must be willing to change. Author Louis Cole wrote, “Change isn’t change until there’s change.” Fighting change is sometimes necessary and needed. But fighting change often only delays that inevitable change, and makes it even more difficult when it does actually happen.
Next, be aware of your surroundings. You need to know where the bear is, how close he is to you, and what is your escape route. You outrun change by also being aware of your surroundings, by being informed. It may be a news article, a class, a meeting, or a conversation. Whatever it is, make sure it is from a variety of sources so that you can make an accurate choice in the direction you are running.
Because the bear is out there and he is gaining ground. Some see the bear and, by innovation and determination, will be able to stay ahead of him. But others won’t. And it’s tough when you get caught by the bear of change. If you don’t believe it, just ask someone who used to work at a sewing plant or at a tobacco market.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]