Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a motivational speaker who can speak about the difficulty of change as evidenced in Russia (after communism), South Africa (after apartheid) and Egypt (after Mubarak) at your next business event. Contact us to check availability. The full transcript of the above video is included below.


Full Video Transcript:

Hi and welcome to another edition of Strategic Business Insights. Today we’re going to talk about change and how difficult change is, and we’re going to look at some examples on kind of a global scale and also on a little bit more of a personal scale.

But here’s the thing: Let’s say right now you’re at a 6 out of 10 on the happiness scale. In other words, you’re doing okay, but you’re 6 out of 10. But you have a vision that you can get up to an 8 out of 10. In other words, you can become more happy if you make a change. You can get into a better place in your life.

Here’s the reality: You never go from the 6 directly to the 8. You go from the 6 down to the 3 first, and then you have to build back up to that 8. When you make a big change in your life, you don’t go straight up – you go down first and then up. And let me tell you, from the 3—this is the important part—from the 3 the 6 looks pretty good, and a lot of times people are tempted to go back to what they had before.

It’s very important. You’ve got a vision now of where you are and you can have a better situation, but once you start making that change you go down first, and when you’re in that transition mode things are pretty rough and a lot of times people go back to what they had before rather than fighting through to get to the 8.

So let’s look at a few examples on a global scale. Let’s look at Russia. When communism fell and Russia began the transition to democracy, it was hard. It was hard. There were lineups for food. Everything collapsed. Nothing was working anymore. The institutions hadn’t been built, so everything got really bad. And there were times when they voted back in elements of communism to try and go back because the current situation—that transition mode—was so awful.

And now they have indeed built back up and there’s a lot of hope coming out of Russia right now. Things are actually pretty exciting. I was in Moscow earlier this year and there’s a lot of buzz in Moscow. There’s a lot of excitement. So they’ve built back up, but that transition mode, it wasn’t a short period of time – it was like 10 years of chaos.

Let’s look at South Africa. When apartheid fell, which is great news, but yet again there’s a real transition mode because now people were in ruling capacities in that country that had never been ruling capacities before. They didn’t know what they were doing. And there were struggles.

The public isn’t always that educated. They don’t necessarily understand why the transition is so difficult. All they know is before when the minority white population was ruling, they all seemed like they were rich and they were like living in the lap of luxury with opulence. So they just automatically assumed. They’re not economists. They don’t understand how these economies actually function. So they just assumed, “As soon as we get power, we’re going to be living in the lap of luxury just like the white people were.”

And it’s not true. The wealth comes from business. A lot of the business left the country. The institutions were being run by people who didn’t have a lot of experience running the institutions. Everything had to get rebuilt, and they’re still rebuilding to try and get back to where they were, and then hopefully higher at some point in the future. But it’s difficult, and there are some of that them think, “Gosh, we had it pretty good before!”

Look at Egypt. When Mubarak fell, they had a vision for a better tomorrow. They wanted change. Now, there are all kinds of different political issues that came into play in Egypt, but let’s just look at the business component. The single biggest industry in Egypt is tourism, and when the whole revolution happened and Mubarak got kicked out, all of a sudden Egypt’s in chaos. There were protests in the streets. The tourist industry vanished. It literally vanished. It was gone.

So all of a sudden their entire economy collapsed. Unemployment skyrocketed. Government resources went way down. Now, of course it helps that the military has been getting money from America and certainly a lot of money from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and others. But the bottom line is the actual tax-based, the actual economy of Egypt, collapsed after that change. They’re in that 3 right now, trying to rebuild.

Now, what happened with Morrissey, that’s an entirely different issue, so I’m not even going to touch that. But the bottom line is that their economy right now is worse off than what it was before. They were at a 6, they wanted an 8, right now they’re a 3 and that 6 looks pretty good. Back then they had stability and the economy was functioning, even if they didn’t have the rights that they wanted.

So let’s get to the personal side of this. What about you? Maybe you want to move. Maybe you want to move from one place to another place. You’re going to be happier when you’re in the new place. Well, get ready: When you make that change, it’s going to get worse first. You’re going to have to get your utilities set up again and a new Internet connection and new neighbors and figure out where you’re going to do your laundry or whatever it might be; if you’re buying a house, obviously laundry is inside. But you have to get used to a whole new thing. It’s going to be a struggle to make that change.

What about your job? Do you want to get a better job? Do you want to leave your job? A lot of people aren’t that happy in their job, so maybe you want to leave and get another job. I support that, but you’ve got to get ready for that change. It’s going to get worse first. You have to get used to a whole new…

Let’s say you get another job. And getting another job is not that easy these days, but if you get another job, now you’ve got to figure out the rules that function in this new workplace, and some people are going to like you and some people aren’t, and you’re going to have to learn all kinds of new skills. At least now you know how to function in your job, even if you don’t like your job. You understand the rules of engagement. If you make that change it’s going to get worse first, and then you can build back up.

My brother Tom made a huge change when he was in his mid-30s: He decided to go back to university. He had been a chef for like 13 years, and so he was a chef of restaurants. And he called me up once. He’s like, “I’m going to go back to university and get a four-year degree.” He had to start from scratch because all of his credits that he—he went to university earlier in life but it had been more than 10 years, so he couldn’t transfer those credits to the new program. So he had to go through four years of university.

I told him. I said, “You’re crazy. You’re crazy to do it.” But you know what? He did it. And it was hard. During that four years he didn’t have any money, he had to study all the time, it was a real struggle – meanwhile he’s in his mid-30s, so he felt like he should be past that stage in his life. But he stuck it out. He stuck it out. He fought back from that 3.

I’m sure there were times when he thought, “Gosh, I should just go back to being a chef.” He had a pretty good life as a chef. But he fought back up and now he’s got this great job – he’s an urban planner up in Canada. He’s doing really well. And I’m super-proud of him. I’m super-proud of what he did because he went through that transition. He went down first and he went through that struggle and he fought back up, and now he’s at that 8.

I’m sure his life isn’t perfect. I’m sure there are things he’d like to change. But it’s better now than it was before, and he went through that struggle to get there.

So think about the changes you want to make in your life and just know that it’s going to be a struggle. That shouldn’t dissuade you from doing it but it’s managing expectations. You need to know that you’re going to confront those challenges. But when you fight back up and get to the other side, you can look back and be proud of the transition you’ve made. It takes guts and it takes tenacity. And I hope you do it.

Thanks for watching this video. My name is Patrick, reminding you as always to think bigger about your business, think bigger about your life.

Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a keynote speaker who has spoken at business conferences in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.