My Grandma on my mom’s side used to tell us stories about her childhood. I remember a tale about her shoes. When the soles wore out, instead of buying new shoes, her father would re-sole them with rubber from old tires. She and her sister were mortified to kneel down at the communion rail at church for fear that their classmates would be able to read Goodyear on the bottom of their shoes.
(I can’t help but think how much the bottoms of modern-day sneakers look like tire treads, with brand logos stamped upon them. Perhaps my grandmother and her sister were just ahead of their time?)
I can certainly appreciate the thriftiness of my great grandfather, but I share this story because of the times we persist in trying to make something old work when we’d be better off letting it go.
Like a routine that served you well for years.
Or perhaps a client relationship that used to be fruitful.
Or maybe it’s a mindset that led to many beneficial decisions.
Just because something served you well in the past doesn’t mean it’s serving you well now.
Seasons change. The world does, too. And as we age and collect new experiences, we gain new knowledge and grow in wisdom. Hanging on to an old routine, relationship, or mindset may actually be a barrier to growth and future success.
In the olden times, they used to store wine in animal skins. As the alcohol fermented, the skins would naturally expand. A problem occurred if you tried to put new wine into old wineskins. Already brittle and stretched to the limit from the process, the old wineskins would burst when the new wine fermented.
Resulting in a ruined wineskin. And even worse: bye-bye, wine.
It’s worth considering that the original wineskin – the one now stretched and brittle – was good for its original use. It served its purpose splendidly. Opting for a new wineskin for this new batch of wine is not a condemnation of its performance. It simply won’t work for preparing new wine.
It helps to get in the habit of asking yourself one of the most useful questions ever: WHY do I do it this way?
Answering that question, honestly and accurately, is a terrific way to determine whether or not that old way of doing things is still serving you.
With our family moving into a new home in a new city, I have taken it as an opportunity to re-think my old standard operating procedures. Everything from my work schedule to our family routines, and even where we put things in our kitchen, is up for reconsideration.
I’ve been asking “why?” a lot.
When we moved in, we reflexively put our oven mitts and dish towels in the same drawer, just like we’ve always done. It didn’t take long to get frustrated with how inconvenient it was to fetch a towel from the drawer when washing dishes. Upon further review – aka asking “why?” – we determined the reason for storing the two things together in the old house was that we had limited space, and the oven and sink were right next to each other. With more drawer space and the oven and sink further apart in the new house, this arrangement no longer made sense.
It’s a simple example that applies to every area of life.
We recently booked our first in-person speaking program since last March. After almost a year of doing virtual programs, it’s a prime opportunity to re-evaluate my on-stage presentation by asking a lot of WHY questions. Of course, it would be easier to resume doing what I’ve done in the past, but that would be like putting new wine into old wineskins.
Or, going back to the metaphor of the recycled shoes, I could certainly take the new things I’ve learned doing virtual presentations and slap them on to the old way I’ve always done in-person programs. Instead, I’m planning to re-channel all this experience into a brand new thing, which I suspect will be even better. There will be some heavy lifting involved, but I’m excited about the possibilities.
What area of your life could benefit from a new way of operating?
Indeed, sometimes we keep things as is because change is hard and the status quo is more comfortable. Sometimes we’re just too busy to consider anything else. And sometimes we just haven’t been mindful enough to stop and ask, “Why?”
I’m a pretty nostalgic guy. And I’m all for upcycling whenever possible.
But sometimes you just need to spring for a new pair of shoes.