4th Floor Walkup

Yesterday, an entrepreneur told me of his father, who died at 81. The father lived in a 4th floor walkup until he was 79, when a fire in the building forced a move to a new building. The new building came with a wonderful view of the East River and an elevator. The view was nice, but the elevator eliminated those eight flights of stairs up to the 4th floor. To this day, the entrepreneur is convinced losing that daily climb up the staircase was the death knell for his father.

It’s often quoted folk-wisdom that climbing stairs adds years to your life. That’s interesting, since the goal of human civilization, once past the creation of the civilization itself and aside from war, has largely been the elimination of all possible effort associated with life.

From elevators to Google search, anything that eliminates effort is rewarded; from rotary dial phones to manual crank car windows, anything that adds effort is penalized. Day by day, year by year, more and more effort is removed from life, leaving more and more effortless life, more and more elevator rides through existence.

Is there a price to pay for that?

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The Nature of Change

More than 9 out of 10 patients do not change their lifestyles in response to their doctor’s recommendations.

More than 70 percent of corporate change efforts fail.

Humans hate change.

It’s a simple fact of life. There isn’t any easy way around it. In general, humans hate change.

That rule extends beyond individuals into groups of humans: families, tribes, organizations, companies, communities and nations. Humans hate change.

As individuals and groups, we tend to get locked into a way of doing things, a set of perceptions and a set of expectations. Anything that forces us to change anything about what we consider normal is usually resisted.

Even in the face of overwhelming evidence for the need for change, we will resist change. For example, the majority of people who suffer heart attacks do not make long term changes in their lifestyles to eliminate or limit factors that contribute to heart disease. In other words, even when it’s a matter of life and death, humans hate change so much they won’t change even to save their own lives.

There are university degree programs in change management; multiple national and global professional associations of practicing change management consultants; countless thousands of trained, certified and degreed change management practitioners and a cornucopia of books, videos, workshops and tutorials on implementing change. In spite of all this learning and all these resources, there has been relatively little improvement in change rates in humans or groups of humans.

Why is this so?

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