Monday, April 21, 2014

He Who Hesitates Is...

By Brian Kopack

You know the rest, but we can’t help ourselves.  Why?  Even when we know the consequences, we still chose to do nothing.  We dream big, but it is hard for us to take a chance - even one that might be a catalyst for something positive.  As weird as it sounds, it’s like we are more afraid of success than failure.

Suppose you know someone, or maybe the someone is you, that has a great idea and works really hard, takes a chance and enjoys some impressive success.  But then, some disruption turns everything upside down. Therefore, the someone has to act to recapture whatever they lost: power, security, comfort, whatever or do nothing.

Confused?  Not for long.  Two narratives.  One of the following is absolutely true.  The other might look so familiar it will be like looking in a mirror.


The Exciting Beginning:  It’s the late-90’s.  Technology is advancing opportunities but skepticism (fear) dampers enthusiasm.  You don’t care because you have an idea – one you think will make a difference.  Your passion eventually wins the day and your company follows your lead and embraces your vision for the potential of technology.  For fun, let’s say – enterprise content management.


April 15, 1996 – 100th Boston Marathon

Start - Awesome.  No comparison to anything - anywhere. History – Pageantry – Pure Energy


Fast forward 10 years.  You were right.  Your idea for managing your information through technology was exactly what your company needed.  Your vision was the future.  You bask in the glow of celebrity - a promotion, a raise, the unwavering respect from your peers because you trusted your instinct.


Just past Natick, I run up on a group and at the lead of the pack is him.  Mr. Boston Marathon-4 time winner-hometown hero-probably on the Mt. Rushmore of American distance runners-him.  Bill Rodgers.  We run together for a couple hundred yards, chat a little and then I am off.  I know, right?  I pass Bill Rodgers around the halfway point of the Boston Marathon.  Yep, it really happened.


Five more years pass.  The spotlight isn’t as bright.  Your crowning achievement is starting to show its age.  You have a ton of other responsibilities and addressing the overhaul of your 15 year old system is always next on the list.  You can’t even think of advancing.  You are struggling just to maintain – to protect what you built from ruin.


The back half the race isn’t nearly as enjoyable.  Climbing at exactly the wrong time and, because what goes up must come down, descending at an even more wrong time.  Every step is work.  The last hour’s enthusiasm is gone.  It’s survival to the end from here.


I make the last left-turn onto Boylston St and can see the finish line.  The roar is overwhelming.  Not manufactured-overwhelming like the Super Bowl, or mechanically-overwhelming like the Indy 500.  Human-power + 100 years of history overwhelming.  About 300 yards out the roar is intensifying and I think how cool this is considering the leaders have been done for more than 30 minutes and nobody knows me from Adam.  This is probably what it feels like to be Bono.  Closer to the line the louder the roar.  Unbelievable.  Then I look over my right shoulder.

Bill Rodgers

Smiling.  Waving to the crowd.  Totally owning the moment.  We shake hands and he is off.  I should have raced him to the end.  Then the story would have been how I out-kicked Bill Rodgers at the 100th Boston Marathon.  I didn’t so it won’t.  I don’t know why I didn’t.  I just didn’t.

For almost 20 years, I’ve relived that story each spring.  I hope for a different result, but it always ends the same.¹


How does your story end?

It doesn’t have to be conflict -> hesitation -> procrastination -> avoidance -> fear and loathing.

You can rewrite your system’s happy ending.  Instead of fading away, you can chart it a new course.  We can rebuild it better than before.  We have the technology.  Next generation systems unlock potential that is difficult to quantify – bigger, faster, stronger isn’t an exaggeration.  You know what the success that comes from embracing progress feels like.  Don’t make it a once-in-a-generation thing.

¹The spot where I realize Bill Rodgers is beside me with about 1 minute to run in the 100th Boston Marathon is eerily close to the spot Bomb 1 exploded last year.  Next time I run there, I will pass the spot of the handshake – and where the bomb went off.  My chance for a new ending.

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