In my teens, my friends who could ski well took me skiing down some of the most difficult terrains. I fell a lot but I learned fast. I became good enough to avoid falling most of the time. From that time on, my performance plateaued. I no longer improved.
A decade later, I started learning Chinese at the age of 26. I worked hard. I learned fast. And then I plateaued. Instead of trying new vocabulary and sentence patterns, I stuck with the familiar ones. Safety. No one laughing at my mistakes, but not winning any speech contests.
These two personal cases are examples of the “success can be a barrier” principle. It’s not just me. It’s not just in our personal lives. It’s in business, politics, sports, the arts. It’s in every aspect of life.
This seems to be where we are in the automotive industry for example. I recall my 1970s Dodge Valarie. I could barely keep the engine running whenever it rained in Vancouver – which was often. Compare this to the many brands that stop and start the engine whenever they stop for a few moments. The engines are so sophisticated now. Why make an electric one?
I think the same can be said for many products made today. A majority of them are made in China and in Asia. Prices are low. Supply chains are working. Customers are buying. Profits are made. So why change? Simply because this is not sustainable. Most of our consumption is driving climate change. We’re now at a climate crisis situation. The threat multiplier of climate change is increasing biodiversity loss. Our living planet is dying. People in the factories are often paying the price as well. The rest of us people won’t be far behind.
When we put the planet and people first, we innovate. We move to a circular economy. An efficient and productive economy with less pollution and more opportunities for more people; not just the rich who have access to the big capital.
Yes, it might mean doing things differently. Radically different in some cases. Even oil and gas companies can make the transition to renewable energy companies. You can make a change too. Like a swimmer hanging on to the edge, you can let go and swim in the race. You might not win the gold, but at least you’ll be an Olympian. Don’t let your success hold you back.