Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why Change Is So Difficult

I keep a list of subjects I may write about on my BLOG and, for the most part that has proved a reliable source.  However my thought this week on Why Change is So Difficult was drawing on my memory of a sometimes-presenter on NPR, a Sociologist and perhaps, Psychologist who speaks on the Morning Show about once a month, Shankar Vedantam.

Alas my memory failed me, and although he has a longer presentation of imagery and how it affects results in our lives, I’ll draw on my own experience for the subject regarding Change.

I have some experience with change.  In addition to fifteen major moves and about 18 different duty stations while in the Navy for 26 years, I worked for six different companies in the Health Insurance industry, three of which I was terminated from; twice because of M&As and one because of an economic adjustment.  None of them was particularly stressful, most because of a military pension from those 26 years (plus five in the Reserve while preparing for and going to Dental School).

I’ll give you my list of six tools to make Change Acceptance easier:

1.       Anticipate change:  Every industry evolves or dies and we must modify our position or find ourselves redundant at best.  In my case, during the navy I sought increased education and eventually was selected to take a Sabbatical year at the Naval War College.  Contacts and confidence were easy byproducts of that year.  In the corporate world, I took evening classes to eventually get an MBA.  I became self-taught in Windows Office components, and became active in several Trade Association, travelling top several venues to participate in committee work that helped define what was a” Dental Director”, and gained me a reputation as someone who was current and who asked Good Questions.

2.      When change happens be quick to adapt: My second corporate job ended after a little more than a year when the company had to demonstrate fiscal soundness to get Reinsurance from Lloyd’s of London.  My salary was too inviting a target, but the afore-mentioned contacts meant my feel never hit the sidewalk.  I spent my two weeks working with my Assistant to help her met the challenges and this gained the respect of my team and resulted in an extra week’s employment.

3.      Prepare for Change:  Although this may seem similar to Anticipate, the subtle difference is to have a Strategic Plan and develop the Tactics necessary to meet the challenges.

4.      Build on Your Strengths:  We all are unique (didn’t your mother tell you that you were special?)  Just find your uniqueness and develop a plan to fit it positive into your job or occupation.  I believe my strengths include, I write well and do presentations well, so I volunteer for tasks that use those skills.  I am less proficient in delegation and have found it valuable to become a mentor to someone who may replace me someday, assigning them responsibilities that assist both of us.

5.      Develop Confidence:  There is nothing wrong with a realistic assessment of what you have accomplished.  It offers objectivity in assessing your worth.  One of my bosses once told me I should shop m y talents every couple of years to see what others think my worth might be.  My mother passed on the axiom, “He who doesn’t toot his own horn, may go tootless.”  I have always felt that lesson had some merit.

6.      Security: This last was easier for me than most people, with my military retirement.  I moved from that second job to my third with a 20% decrease in salary but within two years was salaried higher than from company two.  My father always told me that if I worked hard and showed my employers value, the money would follow.  I believe this is generally true.  I made a goal to be “debt-free in 2003” and since then have accumulated significant wealth, in a cyclic economy.  I have now retired three times: once from the Navy, once from WellPoint (when they were bought by Anthem) and once from my consulting job with a Medicare Alternative Plan. Now unemployed for the first time since I met my wife some 57 years ago, I still get calls for consulting projects.  They don’t pay much, but they keep me current in the industry, as well as giving my life some purpose.

So, I hope some of this sagely advice will make sense in your lives.  My next Post (which I hope I have not covered in the three year’s data I lost) will discuss what is happening with the Northwest Passage as Global Warming opens the sea lanes.  I think you will find it very interesting.  Please join me.

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Shirt reads "Class of 2015"
A recent cover of The New Yorker magazine caught my attention and caused me to have a few memories.  In one of those things that happen, I found it difficult to do the research I expected; specifically, to chronicle this year’s Commencement Addresses made by President Obama and offer an opinion as to the why and where he chose those opportunities.  Even more specifically, what he addressed at Howard University and this year’s Military Academy.

I did find and listen to the address he made at Howard.

Howard was the first college started to offer college-level education to what were then called Negros.  It was founded only two years after the end of the Civil War and has enjoyed a stellar alumni including the first Black Nobel Prize winner and first Federal judge.  Although he mentioned the diversity of the present University, and a glimpse of the crowd showe3d several white faces, I felt he missed an opportunity to stress that, choosing rather to show how the graduating class of 2016 was in a position to effect change better than any preceding class.

My very white, Boston-suburban-raised nephew is a graduate of Howard’s Dental School.  He has always seemed proud to be so-distinguished.

The most positive message that the President made was an appeal for the graduates to vote.  Only 25% of college students voted in the mind-term election of 2014 and slight less than half that number voted in the Presidential election of 2012.   While not being negative about reaction groups like Black Lives Matter, he did point out that all positive change requires compromise and a strategy, rather than a reaction.

Sometimes I think we want this more than he does.
Coincidently, as Salutatorian of my high school class, I was able to also give an address, which opportunity I used to reflect on the sacrifices made by our parents in getting us through high school and, in my case, fairly well prepared for college.  Subsequently I was able to make several similar speeches during my 26 years in the service, the major one being my Change-of-Command speech from El Toro Marine Air Station where I was the XO and later CO.  I chose the locale to compare the people who had supported me to the crops we saw all about us: oranges, which grow year-round and require very little care, others to the strawberries, fragile and sweet, the picking of which is an investment in the value other people reap.  And finally, the artichokes, which require several years care before they bear fruit, and the fruit itself generally of a class my father always distrusted; namely, any food where there is more left when you finish than when you stat.  People who require that care and patience are a special and long-remembered class.

I had a friend who was in attendance that day tell me 10 years later, it was the most memorable speech he had ever heard.

So, I am very tolerant with Commencement Addresses and wouldn’t criticize either the choice of school or subject matter and I rather enjoyed the 45-minute presentation by the President at Howard.  I had hope for You Tube to have the one at the military academy, which I believe was the Air Force Academy.  My recollection is that one phrase he used was that this graduating class was the first in twenty years that would not have to go to Afghanistan or Iraq.  Ironically, within a week he sent 1500 service personnel to Iraq.

NPR has a sociologist who reports regularly on studies I find interesting.  A recent one explored why some people have more problems with change than others.  Having just lost the third job of my career when an M&A made me redundant, I’ll explain why I seem to have adapted well and why.


I hope you will join me.