A True Story of a Skunk At My Feet

A True Story of a Skunk At My Feet

One balmy evening after dusk I was relaxing on the patio with my legs outstretched. Crickets had begun to sing, and Venus was slipping toward the western horizon. I had enjoyed another productive day. Everything was perfect. I wanted nothing to change.

Just then I noticed a small animal of some sort off to the right. It was already dark, so I couldn't quite make out what it was. Slowly approaching me, the furry thing waddled right up to my shoes and stopped.

You can imagine my horror when I realized the animal wasn't a feral cat, and it wasn't a squirrel. Nor was it a raccoon or a possum. It was a skunk, a polecat. I kid you not. For minutes that seemed like hours, it sat on its haunches just inches from my feet. I was never so perfectly still in my entire life. I didn't breathe. I didn't swallow. I didn't blink.

In an instant I went from wanting nothing to change to wanting everything to change, immediately and radically. Yet I could do nothing. If I had so much as burped, this little beast would have fouled the entire neighborhood. Everything within a quarter mile would have stunk for days. I could only wait it out, in perfect stillness and utter silence.

Eventually the skunk moved on, and I could exhale and blink again. Five minutes later I felt a sneeze coming on, and I prayerfully thanked the heavenly stars that I had not sneezed while my uninvited guest was sniffing at my feet.

This incident occurred several years ago. I recalled it again this week when the subject of change came to mind. I've noticed that, for some people and some companies, the thought of change can bring about such anxiety they react with terror and paralysis.

That isn't a problem in the presence of a skunk, figuratively or literally; the paralysis suits you just fine. But if the challenge you are facing requires that you change for the sake of innovation, or personal growth, or subject-matter mastery, or credibility, or a behavioral correction, or relational empathy, or anything else of importance or value, it most certainly is problematic. Your paralysis is part of the problem.

Regular readers will recall that a couple of my recent posts focused on helping people to identify the need for change and to muster the will to change. Indeed, change is a continuing theme of the MindingGaps blog, for change is the currency of leadership.

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