This Is Why Anyone Can Change

inspired-work-david-harderIN GETTING prepared for the publication of my new book, The Great Disengagement, I find most of the business world talking about change. The troublesome aspect of change is that many people either believe they cannot change. Or, they are so afraid of changing themselves they won’t take right action. Finally, many people want to change but they don’t know how.

We are recovering from 300 years of conditioning given to us by the Industrial Revolution. In that world, we were promised predictability and survival. The human capital “machine” conditioned us to seek the security of jobs and roles for life. Unsolicited change happened for losers.

I happen to have a unique vantage point that has given me the awareness that all of us can change for the better. All of us have the capacity to transform our lives. This isn’t new age dogma, it comes out of observing thousands of people change in valuable and positive ways.

I began to experience the human capacity for change right after we launched Inspired Work in 1990. In our second month of business, one of the nation’s largest banks became a client.

After years of success and stability, the CEO was looking for ways to manipulate more value into the shareholder’s pockets. That plan backfired and the bank no longer exists. Thousands of their ex-workers came through our programs. Most of these employees had what they believed were “jobs for life.” Some had so thoroughly bought into the promise that many of them came in wearing blue suits and stickpins with the bank’s logo.

Before the participants found new lives and renewed purpose, they had to navigate through the shock of having ten to thirty years of employment come to a swift (and often bitter), end.

Many of our participants got outcomes they never anticipated.

One of them was a young man who had become a senior finance executive. He was the first member of his family to go to college. In fact, he had earned an MBA from an Ivy-league school. He told us of growing up in a family of migrant workers. He did well in school and got a scholarship. But, his passion had never been to climb a corporate ladder and make a great deal of money.

At one point he whispered,

“All I ever wanted to do was to grow things.”

That desire had been smothered because his tribe looked up to a banking executive. But, life isn’t one choice or another. His work in banking, his education and his passion for growing things paved the way for a new life.

Today, he is a wealthy farmer growing premium lettuce for gourmet restaurants across the western seaboard.

Another gentleman had come into the program with his wife. He had been with the bank for almost thirty years. Now in his fifties, he was panicked about finding another job as a middle-aged man. But, on the second day of the program his demeanor had changed so completely that I asked what was going on with him.

He responded,

“I would like to make an announcement to the room.”

He continued by telling everyone he had always been in love with the world of art and that now, he would “devote the rest of my life to the art community.”

Years later, I would open up a copy of the Los Angeles Times and find his obituary which read, “John Morgan, Leader in the Los Angeles Art Community.” He had gone on to open a charity, bringing art education to inner city schools. He raised millions for art museums and he opened up a successful gallery.

Later, his wife would share that for eighteen years, “He always left for work with a smile on his face.”

My friend, Cathy Sandeen is the Chancellor of University of Wisconsin. She predicts that the average college graduate will change careers 4-6 times. How does that apply to Inspired Work?

When someone has a direct experience of change in 48 hours, they know they can change again and again. This opens us up to take advantage of the enormous amount of information that is now available to us. The experience can drive us to get the most out of each professional step we take. Now, someone who came in the door as an unhappy administrative worker can leap-frog through a variety of growth steps only to become the successful CEO and owner of an international business. The experience empowers parents and “breadwinners” the insight to let go of shackles and design a professional life that is not only more satisfying on a spiritual level, it is surprisingly lucrative.

© Copyright 2016, Inspired Work, Inc. (All Rights Reserved)


David Harder
David Harder
DAVID founded Inspired Work in 1990, which has helped over 42,000 professionals transform their relationship towards work. Individuals from all walks of life attend Inspired Work’s public programs to launch new careers, new business or to become more successful in their existing role. He views work as a profound opportunity to become more fulfilled, contributive and effective. Mr. Harder’s leadership, employee engagement, executive development and social networking programs are used in a wide variety of organizations including The Walt Disney Company, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Loyola Marymount University, University of Southern California, The United Church of Religious Science, Morgan Stanley, and many others. Inspired Work’s leadership programs, career development and team building programs produce some of the worlds most outstanding satisfaction numbers in any business: 92.6% out of a hundred. David has appeared on many business and human-interest programs including CNN, KTLA News, KFWB News and Business News Network. David’s book, new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press) offers an entire “crack-the-code” approach to engagement.

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  1. Congratulations, David, for this marvelous article on change. More often than not, it is the fear of the unknown that creates resistance in human psyche. Once you show them how unfounded those fears are and present appropriate examples, like you have masterfully done here, the element of fear vanishes like the morning mist.
    Thank You and Warm Regards!

  2. David, I absolutely love this perspective. I tried to instill in my kids and now grandkids that the landscape may change but you are the same person. Focus on what you have not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.

    • Hello Jane, Thank you so much for the kind words. I agree with your every word. Have a wonderful weekend.

  3. I fully agree with you David. Totally. And I also think that it’s not just about professional life. I believe that modern society leads individuals to identify with an (almost) imposed life-style, and experience a “distorted” self gratification and satisfaction coming from status-quo and sense of “standard” belonging. Anyone subject to alienation gets swallowed up by his existence. And they don’t improve, don’t move forward, and don’t go anywhere in life. They just survive. They do not realize their huge potential. They are not aware they can unleash their full potential and live extraordinary lives. For all of us, every single one of us, can change (hopefully for the better)… you know… whatever you think, you always have a choice in life. I might be wrong, but in my humble view, heaven knows we need better people in the world. Thank you David. Thank you Dennis.

    • Thanks for engaging here Massimo. David (and indeed Beth) have a keen sense of what “change” really means coupled with the ability to eloquently put forth their wisdom of experience.

    • Good Morning Massimo, I’m in the midst of working on my new book The Great Disengagement and your comments are appreciated and timely. Our culture has been lulled into a trance vividly predicted in 1970 by Alvin Taffler’s Future Shock. Most people have fallen into a trance from trying to absorb too much change in too short a period of time. In our group programs individuals routinely change their outlook, vision and behavior in 48 hours. So, I know humans have the capacity to stay ahead of change. Now, it is time to inspire others to see that and learn how to change.

  4. Great article David. Yes, individuals have the capacity to change until the day they die. That capacity goes for learning as well as changing mindsets and habits. Fear is a double edged sword – it can hold us back but also drive us forward.

    • Thank you for your comment Beth. We need leaders like you helping others understand they can do it. The biological purpose of fear is to take us into action. The more skilled our mind becomes in identifying right action the better. This past weekend, famed ballet director Christopher Wheeldon was interviewed on Sixty Minutes. Throughout the discussion of how he has become the world’s most sought after director, he continually talked about fear. This is common with successful people. All of us are frightened. All of us need to take right action. Successful people don’t take themselves out of taking the action to change.

      Again, thank you. I hope to hear from you again.