Adaptation of the species

On a recent Saturday morning I ventured out to run a trail. It had been some time since I had run this particular trail. But as I ran into the bush, the environment  reminded me as to why I should run it more often. The whole trail is incredibly scenic. It  follows a river – upstream, and then back downstream – through a variety of native bush, including kauri, rimu and totara. The trail follows an old tramway, which was originally used to extract kauri logs. The railway lines are no longer there, but many of the sleepers are, and of course the basecourse chunky metal  that supported the railway line. It’s not a groomed gravel trail, and you need to watch where your feet are placed to avoid turning an ankle.

I picked my way over old railway sleepers , carefully watching every footstep - which was not a hardship in such beautiful surroundings. But I did start to regret that I had not packed a headlamp in my backpack. At this pace I might not make it back before dark. On the other hand, slow and steady in an incredible natural environment gives one time to contemplate the problems and potential of the universe without interruption.

Some time later I realised that I was now running on a trail section that DOC had recently upgraded to a smooth gravel surface.  (As an aside it should be noted what an incredibly efficient job DOC do, on a miniscule budget. It is a pity more of the government fiscal wastage couldn’t be diverted to DOC). The surface might have changed, but my pace had not, so engrossed was I in solving the problems of  international diplomacy in my head. I realised then that if I picked up my pace on the smooth sections, I might actually make it to my favourite bakery before they sold out of freshly baked croissant.

There is a story about a frog that is happily swimming in a barrel of water. The barrel is over a fire, and the water is gradually heated. The frog gradually adapts so much as the water temperature changes that eventually it boils to death. Even though the trail surface had changed, my pace had not picked up. And even though the water boiled, the frog failed to leap out of the barrel.

Very often when the environment around us changes slowly, or incrementally, our behaviour fails to recognise those environmental changes. We just keep on doing what we have always done, accepting the changes that make life easier, but not radically changing our behaviour. We sub-consciously accept the “new normal” without stepping back to examine whether eventually it will boil us to death.

The evolutionary history of human beings teaches us that there is always an updated normal. There are times when the environment and circumstances don’t change incrementally. They change incredibly suddenly. Which in turn forces us to confront that change and consciously make changes to our lives to adapt. And in the case of some, to seize the opportunity presented by those changed circumstances, and take advantage of them. But usually the change is incremental, and we don’t seize the opportunity, we just roll with the changes.

There are so many daily opportunities to not just do what we have always done, but to examine what would happen if we made major changes in what we do and how we do it. Back in the GFC there were numbers of agents who were confronted with a stalled market and realised that they had no option but to change. And many changed career as a result.

Seth Godin recently blogged: “I’m just doing my job.  But what if you weren’t? What if you replaced “doing” with “improving” or “reinventing” or “transforming”? When we do our job, what happens to it? Does it go away, to be replaced by tomorrow’s endless list of tasks? What would happen if we had enough confidence and trust to reconsider the implications of how we do what we do? “

What would be the implications if industrial agents didn’t say  (as their residential counterparts might)  “Want to View?”, and instead said “Here are the numbers as I see them”