Change Is Dangerous – Do It Anyway

In case you missed it earlier this week, the Tuesday Daily Wake Up Call was called “Channeling Jack Nicholson” and offered the perspective that Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was not crazy, but rather courageous in challenging the status quo. I got lots of feedback on the post, and this one stuck out for me: “That could get me in a lot of hot water.” Indeed, it could, and it often does. I’m often challenged by people who say that my perspectives are naïve, but I challenge back – I’m not naïve, and I fully understand that there are risks associated with change and challenging the status quo. It’s not whether there’s a lack of risk, but whether you’re prepared to do it anyway.

Over the course of history, change (and challenging the status quo) has been and continues to be dangerous. In some cases, that danger is physical and potentially life-threatening (e.g. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, etc.). In other cases, the risks can be financial (e.g. losing a job, missing out on a promotion, not getting a pay raise) or personal (e.g. rejection in the form of lost friends or relationships). Make no mistake about it – change and challenge are dangerous, and knowing the danger is what allows you to be a change agent on purpose and while being diligent.

It doesn’t serve you to seek to create change or challenge the status quo with a naïve view that everything will be okay. That’s unnecessarily risky – taking a risk without knowing it’s a risk – but when you know that something’s risky and do it anyway, you have a much greater chance of achieving your objective AND not becoming the victim of your dangerous efforts. Contrary to what you might think about my perspectives, I don’t think that change is easy (or safe), but I do believe that we need some courageous change agents in virtually every aspect of our culture.

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Jack Nicholson’s character stood up to the system (and his friends), and he paid a high price. If you’ve seen the movie, what do you think Jack Nicholson would have done IF he’d known how it would turn out for him? Would he have stayed quiet? Would he have let the system function without his challenges? Would he have played the game that the institution wanted him to play? I have my opinion, but it’s only a movie – or is it? The question for all of us is not whether change and challenge are safe – we already know that they’re dangerous. THE question is whether the changes you seek or the things you seek to challenge are worth the risk.

I can’t answer that question for any of you, but I know this for certain – the world certainly can use some more people who are willing to enter the danger of change, challenge the status quo and make a difference. Let’s all channel some Jack Nicholson!

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