Pardon Me, Do You Happen to Have Some Change?

Photo Credit: Marianne Barnes, Castle & Key Distillery, Frankfort, KY (Instagram: @mariannebarnesmd)

I’ll just go ahead and put it out there. I hate change. It’s everywhere. No matter where I look — there is change. People push it on you daily. A little at a time until eventually you are fed up and that’s all you feel like you have is change. Especially pennies. Why in the world in the United States of America are we still offering change in the form of a penny? Did you know it actually costs the U.S. Treasury more to mint a penny that we place value on the penny? How ridiculous. We should all just sign a petition to eliminate the penny. Call your Congress person. Do something about change!

Wait a minute….you thought I was talking about a constant change in what we do, how we do it, why we do it? Not the penny? I guess we should cover that while I have your attention as well — at least from this GenX’ers perspective.

Now that kind of change — a change in anything I do: a process, a habit, a mindset….now this is a fascinating topic. Hold on to the change in your pocket, because it might get a bit rocky between the margins in this post!

Think about this, have you ever considered the complexity of driving but have no recollection or memory of getting from point A to point B? Habits are powerful.

Which Arm Goes In The Sleeve First?

Depending on when you see this, I would bet you don’t know what arm you first put through the shirt sleeve when you got dressed. Pants, shirt, shoes — you name it. Most of us get dressed and don’t give it a second thought of how that happens. It just happens. A habit we have and have never considered changing.

One of the best books I ever got my hands on was The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Summaries are available everywhere, but Bloomberg has a pretty short read here. While there is some science stumbling on terms that I found myself fighting through — the book is chocked full of practical examples of how individuals and organizations find their way in to habits…and more importantly out of bad habits. One of the most mystifying to me is the example of a 71 year old man named Eugene Pauly who lost part of his brain to a viral disease. It just happened to be the part that helps us manage short term memory. He asked the same questions repeatedly because he never remembered asking the question before…but you could ask him about anything 40 years earlier and he could recall it as if written for an encyclopedia. His wife was his best friend through it all — even getting him in the habit of taking a daily walk around the block. But one day she became frantic when he had just walked out of the house unannounced and nowhere to be found. Fifteen minutes later, he walks back in the house and sits down in the living room. He had walked around the block by himself — but the man could not sketch out his path, name the streets, the color of the neighbor’s house, or any details. He just did it out of habit. The routine had lodged itself in his brain to automatically happen. That’s the power of habit.

First there is a cue: An iPhone dings during a meeting. Then there is a routine: The iPhone is discreetly examined. Then there is a reward: A Words with Friends opponent has made a move, and now it’s time to pounce. We crave the ding and the rush of endorphins it promises.
- Bloomberg, Power of Habit Book Review

So specifically for today — I ask the bold question:

Why is the natural gas industry so reluctant to change?

Now hold your horses — the Kentucky Derby is over and I’m not trying to start a fight. It is a serious question though. I can find a few examples of how our/my industry has been reluctant to effect change. In training, processes, culture…the list goes on. My two cents (yes, back to pennies) here:

  • It’s a heavily regulated industry that can barely sneeze without having to fill out a form. Whether it be on the revenue and profit side of the business or the design, operations, and maintenance side (for utilities and interstate regulated pipelines) — you can find PLENTY of regulations.
  • We haven’t had to. I know what you’re saying, “Now Gary, that seems like an easy thing to say.” Consider it for a moment though. Those opposed to fossil fuels/hydrocarbons have historically attacked coal and mostly left natural gas alone until the last few years. Renewables were a far flung idea of revolutionists for a long time. However, subsidies (there’s a different topic for a different day — energy subsidies) and technological advancement have changed the landscape. At least within the US, the social mindset of being environmentally conscience has also changed. For the better in most respects.

Just as in Duhigg’s book, a moment of crisis can lead to exceptional change. I’m not sure I would describe the natural gas industry as being at a point of crisis, but in the need of change — yes.

Millennials & GenZ = Change

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal referenced a LinkedIn survey and broke it down for the average number of jobs each defined generation had held over a decade. As you can imagine, the Baby Boomers seem to stick it out with one employer the longest. GenX averaged 2.5 jobs per ten years. You guessed it, the Millennials set the record at 4 jobs. One every two and a half years! While that may sound crazy, I wonder if it is the new norm…or a fad? Regardless, the automatic conclusion when you’re talking change is to assume the younger the person, the more acceptable of change. Let me throw a wrinkle in that. I have a 17 year-old daughter that can have an emotional train wreck when something changes with planned activities. Whether that be something with her friends, travel plans with the family, or even a test being changed to another day in one of her classes — she can come unglued faster than Trump can type out 140 characters on Twitter. It amazes me! So age is less of a factor of change acceptance in my opinion than sometimes personality or how someone was raised. Regardless, I think we need to make sure we keep an open mind for who we THINK will accept change and who will not. Those that you think will not may be your biggest champions in leading change.

Challenge Time: Ready To Take On Change?

So as I wrap up, let me ask you a few questions and challenge you on making change. Personally, I’m challenged myself on accepting some of these — and I’ll explain more in each challenge.

  • Put your watch on the other arm, wallet in the other pocket, smartphone somewhere else on your person. I recently was challenged to do this from our Southern Gas Association Management Conference in Baltimore. Our speaker, Chic Thompson, related doing this to finding opportunities to smile. I think it is fitting here. By the way, I couldn’t wait to take my watch off the right arm. I wore it there all day and it was annoying. Yep, my resistance to change is strong.
  • Reverse order your email inbox and address 10 emails that you claim you cannot get to. Another curiosity I have of others is how they manage their email inbox. For me, any outstanding tasks remain there until I get them moved to a task or quickly completed. Aside from that, my goal is less than 47 unread email messages in my inbox. Why 47? Well, why not? However, I could never find my way back to the older messages. So one day I did a reverse order listing and BAM! I worked through old messages like never before. The trick here is sticking with it long enough to change the habit. Then again, if you clear your inbox daily — I want to hear from you on how you manage this!
  • Take a different drive/walk to work, school, anywhere. Observe people. Interact with what is around us. This leads me to the header image for this post. I came across the image in Instagram from Marianne Barnes of Castle & Key Distillery with a drive she took through the countryside outside of Lexington, KY. I stopped cold in my tracks. I was missing out on my 30–35 minute trek to the office each day. So, to take a bite of my own medicine I started a CHANGE of path about a month ago. Wow! It has forced me to pay attention and I get to see things I’ve not seen in a while…and I think my travel time is down. Even if there is no possible way you can take a different path to a destination (I challenge you here), use a different entry door, walk around your vehicle the opposite way, chain the bike to a different post…something! Through this experience already, I’ve learned why airport travel is so intriguing to me — it’s the encounter with the unknown.

Let Me Know

Offer feedback on anything about change — but specifically your good (and not so good) experiences with the challenges above. Help me to determine the next post through this journey together. Help me be better through your experiences. I’m ready for a change — in something, anything. Just don’t ask me for a penny. I don’t keep change in my pocket.

Originally published at on June 22, 2017.

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