Things Change

“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” – Robert C. Gallagher

Whenever you find yourself anxious or upset about a business or personal situation, it will be remarkably helpful to think about a reality of life that seems to escape people who are under stress: Things change!

This reality began to hit home with me in the late 70s, following a meeting with about a half-dozen of the top brass at Harper & Row Publishers (forerunner of today’s Harper Collins). Harper was a mainstream, 150-year-old company at the time, and neck-and-neck with other publishing giants such as Simon & Schuster and Random House.

My wife happened to have been with me at that meeting, a meeting that turned out to be a bit contentious. A couple of the big shots were being especially uncooperative regarding my proposal for a long-term relationship that involved my publishing other authors’ books, though the tone of the dialog was civil.

After about an hour, my wife and I said our goodbyes and departed. At lunch, we discussed what had transpired at the meeting, and she made a comment that has proven to be eminently insightful to this day. “You know,” she said, “as I looked around the table, I thought to myself, ‘For all we know, most of these people won’t even be with Harper & Row a year from now.'”

I didn’t think much about it at the time, but within a few weeks my wife began to look like a prophet. The president of one of Harper’s top divisions, who had been at the meeting, left the company, and the vice president who had given me the most grief was fired.

Within a few months, two more executives who had been in attendance bit the dust, so only two were left standing. And, by applying a large dose of persistence, I was able to get one of the remaining two to support my plan. (The other one ended up retiring shortly after we launched the project.)

As result, I made publishing history with Harper & Row. With the company’s backing, I republished a book that had sold only about 10,000 copies before running out of steam. Through a full-page national advertising campaign, I marketed the book to No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list for 15 straight weeks.

When the smoke had cleared, that once-dead book – Doug Casey’s Crisis Investing -had become the top-selling non-fiction book of 1980. And through my relationship with Harper & Row, I was able to publish a number of other New York Times best-sellers over the next couple of years.

It goes without saying that all this astonished the mainstream book-publishing industry. More important, it indelibly fixed in my mind the philosophy that you have to keep pressing forward when you believe in what you’re doing … because the landscape changes every day. Be patient, and many of the obstacles you face will simply disappear with the passage of time.

So if there’s something in your business or personal life that’s causing you a great deal of grief, be my guest and profit from my experience. Remember that what you see right now is only today’s circumstances, and those circumstances are not static.

People get fired… they change jobs… they die. Friends become enemies… enemies become friends… rivals go out of business. Irritating humanoids move away… teachers and coaches retire… nuts fly airplanes into tall buildings and change a thousand and one things about day-to-day life (even creating new opportunities for some). The Internet is invented… Amazons and Googles appear out of nowhere… the list is endless.

Since that historic meeting at Harper & Row, I can’t even count the number of times I have witnessed this phenomenon. As a result, whenever I’m feeling stressed over a situation, I try to take a deep breath, relax, and remind myself that things are going to change.

That, in turn, motivates me to keep moving forward each day. And, guess what? Things always change … putting me that much further ahead because I never stopped.
Time is going to pass anyway, so you may as well keep making progress. The one thing you never want to happen is to look back and think to yourself, “Gee, as it turned out, if I had just kept moving forward, things would be different today.”

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