The (RED-iculously hard) work of change – the work we love.

“A short preamble” (credit to Jerry Durham “what I believe”)

Change is hard.  Sure, it’s obvious at some level…..but let it sink in a little deeper.  Let the statement soak all the way in.  It’s really really hard.  Sometimes, as much as we think we want the change (or know we need it), we’d rather things just stayed the “old way”….the comfortable way.  We’re willing to tell ourselves half-truths in hopes that we don’t have to change “all the way”….that maybe we can keep a hold on to the past in a more tangible way than just the memories of “good old days” that are so fresh and crisp in our mind.

The experts (armed with piles of evidence) say that change happens first as a mental process….that long before we ever outwardly change, first we must change our minds; that before ANY real action can happen we must win the no-holds-barred death match with ourselves that we are locked in……where pros battle cons and we do our best to get ideas organized into words and eventually actions….but we don’t do this in isolation….we do this with the influence of the world, or at least the slice we choose to live in, poking and prodding us in every conceivable direction – and not always forward.

I haven’t written on this blog since late July…..when I froze my ass off during Ironman Lake Placid, laid it all out there and imprinted my memory with a truly extraordinary experience, even while still coming up short of my goal.  Looking back, it was clearly the account of someone about to wrestle with some change… I knew (and know) that I’d have to hang ultra-distance up for a while and, as someone who in a fleeting moment that he may not even remember rocked me to my core said: “imagine how much good you could do if you put all that time and energy into something that really mattered”.  Change is hard.

So although this blog has traditionally been about a guy on a journey to earn the right to race at the pinnacle of a sport he loves….maybe for a while at least (experimenter?) it’ll be about a guy who is trying to work at the pinnacle of a profession he loves, or a guy who is trying to “Dad” (verb: the art of being an amazing father figure) at the pinnacle of imagination who wants nothing more than to provide his kids with an opportunity and the courage required to chase their dreams with vigor. Dunno.

The good news is – it won’t be nearly as hard as picking the leaves off a Sequoia (partly because, as it turns out, they have needles – credit to Steve Anderson)…..but I’m certain it will be a RED-iculous ride

Now, as the gentleman from San Fran said, “start the clock…..”

It was 10PM and I was standing in a microbrewery chatting with a farmer from Iowa.  It’s a conversation that I could have all day with a person who I have a great respect for.  More people should care as much as this guy.  I had already had a few beers with a whole table of people that care a lot…..and that was only 10 of the 20 I was at dinner with…..which followed a short, but always meaningful conversation with my favorite arborist-PT about the future…..but I was shot….absolutely exhausted and ready for bed. 

Yes, I’m an early to bed early to rise type…..but that wasn’t it.  I was shot because I had spent the last 8-10 hours listening and thinking through (and on occasion spouting a little passion – shocking right?) some of my profession’s “great challenges” with people (many of whom must have had amazing Dad’s given their courage and vigor) who are also wrestling with change.  

  • Some have been in the game much longer than me; people who receiving a firm handshake from is more validating than I could put into words. 
  • Some are just getting in the game; a new breed of activist-students that make it seem like there is a generation of world-changing “crazy ones” just over the professional horizon…..and, refreshed, I can’t wait to see it. 
  • Some, who are kind enough to make it safe for the passionate misfits to speak their mind (not to mention get dinner reservations for 20 of them so the conversation could continue – thanks Jennifer Wilson)
  • And then, there are some, who I consider more alike than different, who are crazy enough to think they can change the world…..and for the right reasons have committed to being the ones who do.

The long day ended with another short ferry ride across the river – and this time with 2 more people who I have great respect for…..both very different in their approach, but both getting impressive results on their respective journeys – results that, like so many in the room that I was lucky enough to be a part of again this year, push the rest of us…they challenge us to grow… let go of the fond memories or at least see them for the rearview they are in… break with tradition… disassemble our current processes and put them back together, not unlike our customers, better and stronger… embrace teams and take down barriers (ENOUGH WITH “SILOS” PEOPLE)…..and, hard as it is, to change.

Thank you to those who put together another great Graham Session.  Thank you to the relative few who show up ready each year to take on great challenges in hopes to change our world.  Thank you to the many teams and families that support this relative few to make it OK to get here…..because change is really hard….and without every single contributor doing what they do…..without enough barriers down….it just won’t happen.

I am honored to be part of a profession who is poised, as is clear by the quality of the leaders in the pipeline, to stop complaining about how hard it’s going to be or how unfair it seems (thank you Dianne Jewell, your willingness to share insight and wisdom during our 2 minute conversation was exactly what I needed)….and is ready to get behind the wheel and drive (thank you Sharon Dunn for, as always, keeping it real).

Great health and the amazing quality of life that comes with it can be accessible to every American in THIS lifetime.  It will require great change.  It will push us past our perceived limits more often than not. And that is hard….

But the effort it takes, as RED-iculous as it seems at times, is our choice. I am proud to share the journey with so many others who have chosen to NOT be gripped by fear, but rather who have chosen to take on the difficult….who have chosen to carry the torch for a while….who have chosen to lead AND change.  We’re not there yet…but not to worry – that was only day 1.

To the journey of 1,000 miles, keep moving forward.

Mike Eisenhart, PT