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The Obstacle of Progress (Part 2)

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. … They push the human race forward. … While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do!—Apple Computers

We begin with the text from the famous Apple commercial first aired in the 1997 Super Bowl, which ends with the admonition of innovation, “Think Different.” And though I’m not going to spend a lot of time reviewing part 1, revisiting the comments I’ve made about Steve Jobs, I can’t help but reemphasize the man and the fact that the organization he led was built on the concepts outlined in the statement above. This mantra turned out to be a summary of how he himself and many others at Apple put a dent in the universe.

Those featured in the commercial achieved greatness and demonstrated genius in their own unique and innovative way, changing the sphere of the world over which they had influence, forever. Google it and watch the commercial; it’s nothing short of amazing!

Let’s take a look at one of those featured in the commercial, Thomas Edison. Have you seen the recent Mazda commercial featuring Edison? According to Forbes, “the brand (Mazda) seeks to rise above its constant 2 percent share of the U.S. market with a new advertising campaign called ‘Game Changer.’”

I used the phrase “game changers” in part 1 of this article. I like that phrase a lot. Let me slip this in now: Wouldn’t you like to be part of an organization known in the construction world (or at least your region) as a game changer? Isn’t just doing drywall the way drywall has always been done a bit boring? After nearly a half century of “doing drywall,” I’ll be the first to answer that. Yes!

But then again, how innovative are you? How determined are you to achieve your goals? How open to new ideas and change are you? Are you leading, pioneering, keeping pace with technology, or are you falling behind? Are you crazy and unreasonable enough to be a game changer? Do you believe that you can change the game, or are you much more “reasonable” than that? Are you finding new ways to do old things and constantly reinventing yourself and your organization, or are you just “doing drywall?”

Edison, with his 1,093 U.S. patents (a record for one man that still stands today), was no doubt a game changer. (Did you know that today’s General Electric was once called Edison General Electric Company?) Mazda says he “defied the naysayers” mentioning the “formula” by which all such game changers change the game. It emphasizes “conviction, creativity and courage” and closes by saying that using that “formula… can change the game, and sometimes it can even change the world!”

Sound familiar? It kind of sounds like something Steve Jobs would say. I’m not even going to try to unpack the obvious truth behind the necessity of conviction, though it does fit well with persistence, that kind of stick-to-it-iveness that George Bernard Shaw referred to when defining the path to all progress. You will recall that “the unreasonable man persists” in spite of naysayers, failure and every other obstacle that rears its ugly head, and that persistence leads to progress. Game changers keep trying. They don’t quit, even when faced with the naysayers’ insistence that their endeavor isn’t even possible. And if that’s not difficult enough, they even keep trying in spite of ongoing failure. Here’s another one of my favorite Edison quotes, conjured no doubt as he forced his way toward such innovations as the incandescent light bulb, motion picture camera and the phonograph and more than 1,000 other inventions: “The most certain way to succeed is to try one more time.”

Edison spent 52 years working on and improving the phonograph and often referred to it as his “baby.” It is said that he failed 10,000 times in his effort to invent the incandescent light bulb. Nevertheless, he insisted “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Edison also said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

What about us? Do we have the conviction, creativity and courage to overcome the naysayers, to reinvent and revolutionize our businesses? Are we willing to quit—once and forever—just doing drywall? That’s where the connection I referred to earlier lies. Business is business. Forget about what business it is.

Are you and I ever going to be Apple or Thomas Edison? But we can be a game-changer. Providing we are ready to wage war (if necessary) with those within our organizations who feel it’s “fine” the way it is. Providing we have what it takes to explore, put up with the journey and never quit as we pioneer our way into uncharted territory.

But be forewarned: You will face unintended consequences by doing so. Take it from one who is ever learning that lesson the hard way. I can modestly concede to dabble in such endeavors. You will soon realize that what you are endeavoring to do in the name of progress is actually going to interfere with business as usual, and the naysayers will stand in line to tell you “I told you so.” That’s when you finally come to terms with and begin to understand a necessary evil—the Obstacle of Progress.

Doug Bellamy is president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. He is known for his original thought, innovative approach and the personal development of unique processes, systems and procedures. He is available for consultation, business management seminars and training. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at

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