The only thing that never changes is that things will always change. This is the truest statement that I've found in life and the closest thing to a timeless truth I know. No matter where in history you look, this statement is true. No matter what you think will happen in the future, this statement will true. Aside from a few people who just love to argue, I don't think I'd find too many people who'd want to be on a debate stage and have to refute this idea.
And yet, there is so much energy spent on trying to keep things the same.
How is it that the only consistent thing in our lives - that things change - is the thing we give more energy to preventing than anything else? There are entire political movements focused on keeping things the way they are or making them like they used to be.
But if we know that things are going to change, that there are going to be new beginnings and there are going to be eventual endings, why do we pretend like only the first part of this is true?
In companies that I work with or have worked for in the past, so much of the emphasis on culture happens around the hiring and onboarding process. So much of the energy given to team members happens when they first arrive and in helping them get up to speed on the work they will be doing, the team they just joined, and their future with that company.
But how often do we level with our teams and employees and discuss the end of our work together one day and make their exits as honorable as their entrances were?
Early in my career, I took a stretch role for a young company with a first-time founder. They'd had a great career in sales,, and their track record caused me to jump to an uncertain future. They gave me a shot when others didn't but with the knowledge they were taking as much of a risk on me as I was on them.
In my first full week, my new boss sat me down and said, "What do you want to do after you're done working here?"
I was shocked. I'd just been hired! What were they talking about?
"I know that this is not the company you are going to retire from - heck, this likely isn't the company I am going to retire from. So, while I have you, what do you want to learn that will help you get your next job or make the next leap in your career? What can I teach you that will give you an unfair advantage the next time you have to write a resume? I want this to be the turning point in what I hope is a long and successful career for you. I want you to look back at your time here and tell others, 'That's when things changed for me.'"
It was one of the most important conversations of my career. They saw me not as a cog in their wheel but as a professional on loan for a period of time. They wanted to get the most out of me for as long as it made sense for me to work for them. But they let me know that they knew I would leave if this role was no longer the right place for me to be, and they showed me that they'd fight to make sure that it continued to be.
That has become one of my favorite conversations to now have with people who work for me. I know that it is a stop on their climb to the top of their career. I want to be one of the best parts of that story and then support them when they make the jump to what comes next.
But I think that that can only happen if there is an acknowledgement that this current construct is temporary and it will eventually change, so how are we gonna make the most of this right now?
My Grandmother was a physical education teacher and was always known for saying, "Make sure to quit while everyone is still having fun." Plan your work with the end in mind and make sure that it is over while everyone can still look at their time playing as a fun memory.
As 2023 ends, I am asking, What do I need to quit while I'm still having fun? What parts of my life have run their course and can be finished well? What relationships have run their course and I can be grateful for but move on from? What habits or routines no longer serve me the way that they used to?
Or perhaps the toughest one for me: What expectations do I have of myself and others that need to be left in 2023?