In his fabulous book Traction, Gino Wickman tells the story of the “Dog and the Nail.” A man walked up to a home in a rural area where a man was rocking on his porch with his dog lying next to him. The man noticed the dog was in obvious pain, moaning in low rumbling tones, so he inquired, “What’s wrong with your dog?” The elderly man replied, “Oh he’s lyin’ on a nail.” “Well, why doesn’t he get off the nail?” the man asked in bewilderment. The old codger shrugged and said, “I guess it don’t hurt enough yet.”
From changing a bad habit, to letting go of unproductive employees or even regions investing in important infrastructure, too often change is slow to come and unfortunately is often delayed until we “hurt enough.” Though the focus this month is on Women In Business, the real theme isn’t just women, it is change. The ascendance of women in the workforce is one of many changes the modern business world has embraced, though there are still vestiges of those who have yet to get off the nail.
Know Enough To Want To
I have observed that people only change when one of two things happen. First, they know enough to want to. The call of the four fishermen in the Bible, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” was such a compelling and unexpected opportunity, that they immediately left their nets and followed. Why? For the same reason families will save all year to come to Orlando to visit one of our world-renowned theme parks or someone leaves their stable job to pursue an entrepreneurial dream – they know enough to want to!
Most people, when they see something better or more promising, are drawn to it like bees are to honey. We sacrificed to go to college and later to send our children there because we knew enough to want to. Every one of us has met someone, or you are an example of someone, who left the familiarity of the country of their birth to come to the United States because they knew enough to want to. We get in shape, we step into the unfamiliar, we exchange our hard-earned money for some new innovation, or we initiate a change, any change, because we have been exposed to reliable information that says, “If you change, this will be the benefit.”
Hurt Enough To Have To
There is, of course, another powerful source of change: we hurt enough to have to. Anyone who has wrestled with an addictive or compulsive behavior in themselves or in someone else knows that until the pain of staying the same far exceeds the pain of changing, we stay the same.
Some can get to that pain point by simply knowing what the result of not making a change can mean. Others will stay in their house while Hurricane Katrina is bearing down, until the Coast Guard has to rescue them in a helicopter. They are like the old curmudgeon who responded to the pollster’s question, “Do you think the problem in America is ignorance or apathy?” with, “I don’t know and I don’t care!”
Lao Tzu astutely identified where such an attitude would lead: “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”