Constant change

David Carradine. Ed McMahon. Farrah Fawcett. Michael Jackson. Billy Mays. Karl Malden. Steve McNair. The Grim Reaper is on a roll.

What might the deaths of these high-profile people have in common with the likes of Gary Hart, Gary Condit, Jim McGreevey, Mark Sanford, and John Edwards, among others?

Or how about Lyndon Johnson, Spiro Agnew, and Richard Nixon?

Or G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, Mark Fuhrman, Wayne (Dog) Chapman, and Don King?

Answer: Things change!

We do not live in a static universe. Nor do people or situations remain at a standstill on our little speck of cosmic dust. Mountains erode. Riverbeds dry up. Technology moves forward. The economy fluctuates. Even laws change.

Who could have predicted that the celebrities I listed in the first paragraph of this article would all be gone within a one-month period?Or how their departures would change the lives of those they left behind?

Gary Hart is long gone from the political scene, forsaking his frontrunner position as the Democratic presidential nominee for fun and games with a good looker named Donna Rice. That opened the door for Michael Dukakis to become the party’s nominee in 1988. Things change.

Some 20 years later, John Edwards in Hart’s footsteps with ex-party-gal Lisa Druck (the “director” and “camerawoman” extraordinaire who decided, one day, that it would be cool to transform herself into “Rielle Hunter”). Things change.

Following in Edwards’s footsteps was Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina, one of the favorites for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Who benefits? Try Mitt Romney. Things change.

Let’s go back to the 60s…

Following his loss to John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon turned right around and ran for governor of California in 1962 as a sort of consolation prize for his failed presidential bid. Only one problem: He lost! That’s when he delivered his famous “You won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore” speech. Finally, the Nixon era had come to an end. Things change.

Hold it. Not so fast. On March 31, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson stunned the nation when he went on national television and, almost casually, said, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” Which cleared the playing field for Bobby Kennedy to grab the Democratic Party’s nomination in 1968. Things change.

But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the election: Bobby was assassinated. And that, in turn, cleared the playing field for — Yikes, back from the dead! — Richard Nixon. Things change.

Nixon’s election to the presidency led to the rise and fall of Spiro Agnew, Watergate, and a third-stringer named Gerald Ford. Ford lasted only a few years, but just for being an accident of history, he became rich and famous. Who ever said life was supposed to be fair? Things change.

And let’s not forget how Watergate catapulted a whole cast of previously unknown characters onto the national stage — Chuck Colson, G. Gordon Liddy, and John Dean, for example. Colson has become famous for his Prison Fellowship Ministries. Liddy has hosted his own radio show for years. And John Dean still pops up periodically as a television guest and college-campus speaker. Things change.

And where would Oliver North and Mark Fuhrman be today had they not been thrust into the limelight through accidents of history? North’s Iran-Contra conviction was ultimately reversed on a technicality. And Fuhrman, though convicted, never had to do jail time. But these men used their unexpected fame as a launching pad to stardom. Things change.

Of course, they had nothing on Wayne (Dog) Chapman and Don King, both of whom were convicted of murder (though King’s charge was later reduced to manslaughter) and opportunistic enough to use their infamy to become wealthy celebrities. Dog, in fact, is so cunning that he was able to hold on to his celebrity even after being recorded using the dreaded “N” word in a telephone conversation with his son. Things change.

Which brings us to Sarah Palin. From out of nowhere, John McCain picked Palin, a complete unknown, as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. Suddenly, a star was born! Things change.

Then, on the evening of July 3, 2009, Palin did her version of LBJ’s 1968 surprise announcement by informing the world that she was resigning as governor of Alaska. Her inexplicable action registered 8.4 on the political Richter Scale. Following on the heels of Mark Sanford’s demise, Mitt Romney must have felt as though he had won the lottery. Zap! Just like that, most of the competition was gone! Things change.

The list is of epic changes is endless…

In the 1940s, the invention of the modern air conditioner becomes the catalyst for a population explosion in the unbearably hot South and Southwest.

Fifty years ago, cash begins giving way to credit cards. Today, credit cards are giving way to bank debit cards.

Pay phones (remember them?) give way to cellphones.

In 1980, the major television networks are caught off guard by an upstart cable TV station called CNN. Sixteen years later, CNN is overwhelmed by its ideological opposite, Fox News.

In 1995, a kid from Albuquerque puts his Internet bookselling idea into practice, calls it, and ends up dictating the business strategy of Borders and Barnes & Noble for years to come. A few years later, two other kids start a little search-engine company called Google, which becomes the first serious challenge to Microsoft’s overall dominance. Facebook… MySpace… Twitter. What’s next? Things change.

All of the above comprise but a tiny sampling of some of the major changes that have taken place fairly recently. If someone were ambitious enough, he might spend a few years putting together a book — a very large book — on all the major changes that have rocked the world over, say, the past 100 years.

But you don’t need to read such a book to reflect on what change means to you. I’ve given it a lot of thought over the years, and my conclusions boil down to this:

1. Life does not stand still. Count on it. Never carve your plans in stone. Strive to make flexibility an integral part of your being.

2. Rather than fearing change, think of it as an exciting aspect of being alive. Sometimes the unknown disappoints — even devastates — when it makes its appearance. But more often than not, it brings with it incredible opportunities. Practice expanding your mind to be on the alert for the offsetting positive in every negative situation.

3. Fight the numbing effects of homeostasis — the tendency to maintain the status quo. Hanging on to yesterday’s reality is psychologically unhealthy and can cause you to be out of touch with today’s reality. Yesterday is a cancelled check. Tomorrow is a postdated check. But today is cash.

4. Keep moving forward. Action is the oxygen of success. You have to keep hitting those singles and doubles to stay in the game of life. Because if you’re at bat long enough, that perfect pitch eventually will come across the plate. And that’s when you have to be ready to hit it out of the park.

Simplistic. But it works for me.

Just realize that the way you view change will have a dramatic impact on the decisions you make, the quality of your life, and your future success (or failure).

Things change. Think about it.

[Ed. Note: To learn how to survive and prosper during the turbulent years ahead, check out Robert Ringer’s powerful audio series Succeeding in a World of Chaos. And be sure to sign up for a FREE subscription to his one-of-a-kind e-letter A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World.]