Constantly Change the Changeable While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchangeable
(This covers the sixth chapter from Rabbi Daniel Lapin‘s book Thou Shall Prosper. Each chapter is one part of a set of core principles that approach business and money as spiritual practices, referred to as the ‘Ten Commandments for Making Money.’ I’m reviewing the sixth ‘Commandment’ here. My plan is to go through all ten. You can find out more in this post discussing my thoughts on the book. All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, come from the book.)
You can doom yourselves in two constraining ways: (1) You can blind yourself to the things that never change, and (2) you can blind yourself to those things that must change.
If you spend any time being alive, you soon realize that change is an inevitable part of life. Usually, it’s uncomfortable as well. So, we don’t always welcome changes when they come, but we almost always recognize their necessity…eventually.
So, while the idea that stubbornly resisting needed changes is foolish could easily be expanded on, let’s instead look more closely at the other arm of this ‘commandment.’ The idea that some things can and will never change, because I think that’s a concept that suffers a certain level of rejection in this Post-Modern era we’re in.
For example, whether you are an individual, family, business or government, you cannot always spend more than you accumulate in income. You can play around with creditors and banks all you want, but eventually they’re going to want a complete payment of what they’re owed. If you can’t muster it, then you’re going to have a problem. This is something that never changes, no matter what year, century, city, continent or tax bracket you’re living in.
If we spent some time thinking about it, a list of statements like that one above would be formed, and a lot of them could be applied just as universally. Knowing that there are some rocks out there that you can cling to is a comforting thing. Yet, those rocks out there aren’t the only places we should be finding our stability.
Each of us needs to determine what rocks we have also firmly planted within each of our lives. These aren’t as universal, but for us, they are just as solid. These are our personal core values. They are the things that, for each indicidual, will never change.
You might not have a tight grip on what your core values are, but you almost certainly have some. If you want to get a better handle on these, here are a couple of suggestions:
1. Consider your priorities. Most of us think we are defined by our work, but our lives are far more than that. There’s our families and our communities. How we play and how we grow. The way we reach for something higher than ourselves. These things should all reach a balance with each other, and sometimes you have to be willing to sacrifice one to give another room to flourish and achieve equity.
2. Write some down. If you want something undefined to gain some clarity, go through the effort (and discomfort) of codifying them with specific text. Keep a list of your core values that you occasionally modify or expand as you further identify and refine the rocks you cleave to in life.
Some quotes from the chapter that stood out to me:
Either you can pretend that everything changes constantly with no fixed reference points, telling yourself that a new high-tech business paradigm exists that regards eyeballs on web sties as more important than profits, or you can refuse to acknowledge that material aspects of existence in the world are constantly changing, remaining rooted in the past, distrusting modernity and spurning comforts with Luddite-like intensity.
Neither of these options are good. There is a time for innovation and time for tradition. Both have their place, and each must occasionally give way to the other.
In each case of innovation, in any industry, millions of dollars’ worth of equipment is scrapped. Amazingly, that apparent destructive and wasteful behavior is exactly what leads to greater wealth and to increased standards of living for millions of people. The downside is that people lose money they had invested and, even more wrenching, workers lose jobs during those regular upheavals.
This is a tough and tragic reality. The choice is either to accept innovation along with the pain of some or to reject it and assure poverty and pain for almost everyone all the time. But the reality is that there is no way to hold back progress. […] Technical knowledge of the world and its practical application expand constantly.
This really hits home for me. A business or corporation that makes its living providing a technological products or services to its customers better have a plan to keep its assets up to date. This means planning to make upgrades to that computer in the next five years, for example.
In business, constant innovation along with creative destruction is often the “least bad” of the choices. Whether it is firing employees, pulling the plug on a project, or leaving behind a safety net to try a new field, we must be comfortable with the idea that even positive change will most times have negative components.
To grow, personally or financially, you have to be willing to suffer the discomfort of sacrifice.
Just as the buggy-whip maker was affected by the arrival of the car, as was every citizen of the world, you are going to be affected by the implementation of plans that you may not even be able to picture today. You need the ability to let go of the old in these cases and to embrace the new.
Sometimes, when the world around us is changing, we want it to stop to protect the career that we’ve worked so hard to grow, but that’s not always feasible. You shouldn’t force other people to support your dieing industry when you are unwilling to make the sacrifices to keep it profitable.
They knew that some things never change. Businesses that don’t do something valuable for others do not survive and should not survive. Profit is a way to measure how useful a business is. That doesn’t ever change.
A business stays in business by making money by providing goods or services that are valuable to its customers. There is no other way.
Through always thinking video and not snapshot in this way, genuinely compassionate and charitable religious Jews and far less vulnerable to the politics of poverty. They recognize that not a single person has everything he or she needs or wants, and therefore poverty is more a state of mind than a state of pocket.
When we realize that life is a video, we’re less likely to fall into the trap of making long term decisions (or writing legislation) based on an individual snapshot. My fortunes at the age of 23 were radically different than when I reached the age of 32. A decision made in a rush at one stage could seriously hinder progress when that stage is well behind us.
That’s my take on Rabbi Lapin’s Sixth Commandment for Making Money. Keep looking here for my thoughts on the Seventh Commandment: Learn to Foretell the Future. Don’t worry, it doesn’t involve a crystal ball or Tarot cards. I predict I’ll have it up by the end of next week. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions about this chapter, whether you’ve read the book or not. Thanks.
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