What are you ‘weighting’ for?

What are you ?weighting? for?

The military’s position on “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was reversed this week, and I honor that decision by writing this to celebrate breakthroughs. Breakthroughs occur when people give up resistance. What most people think is just “my opinion” is also a form of resistance. Resistance is the inability to hear something new. It could be as simple as not bending a policy because “It’s our policy” even if it could benefit both parties and upsets a guest. Resistance is a peculiar thing, because it often masquerades as “the way things are” or “the right way.” But in the true manner of evolution, eventually there is a shift, a tipping point, and a breakthrough occurs.  

People may say they want change; companies may say they want change. Sometimes, it is nature itself that forces us to change. Whatever the cause, it is in most human beings’ nature to resist change. I recently spoke to a group of people who declared they wanted change in order to play at the top of their game, but when I presented a system that wasn’t so “command and control” they put the wall up and hunkered down behind it. 

This may be hard to hear, but most people’s resistance comes from listening to what they already know (listening from the past), what they have heard (regardless of how suspect the authority) or because they are afraid new information requires change and/or energy. In terms of progress, this is like going through life with a 100-pound weight around your foot. Getting to the future will be slow going, indeed.

In fact, our industry has had this particular weight around it for quite some time, and it took entrepreneurs like Bill Kimpton and Chip Conley to blaze a new path via lifestyle and boutique hotels. They simply threw out the old rules and reinvented a previously predictable industry. It took hundreds of years to shift the paradigm from the “acceptable” hotel business model. This can be exemplified by Barry Sternlicht, then CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, who turned to me in 2004 when I was managing the flagship W New York hotel and said, “Nanci, we need more mohawks, piercings and earrings on the men.” This was a long way from “ladies will be dressed with pearls around the neck and men will not wear any jewelry.” Woo hoo! Let the lifestyle freedom bell ring!

When I cut my teeth in this business, I was excited to soak up the knowledge of this wonderful industry and all who came before me, but more often than not, I wondered why we did the things we did.

Simply, it is difficult for the great majority of people to hear what they don’t already know or to go against the teachings of the mentors who went before them — “If I run with the pack, I won’t be singled out.” But imagine if every new painter followed down the path of the master teacher without his or her own flourish.  Our museums would be filled with portraiture of women who look like they are sucking lemons, dour men in white wigs and cherubs. Life demands change. So does art, and so does business. 

You may not even notice the weight of the 100-pound ball when you are not moving forward. However, when you are ready to progress, unhook yourself from the status quo, check the past at the door and invite new thinking. How many new thoughts have you had this week? Stop “weighting” for others to come up with it. It’s always been up to you … and me.