What We Can Learn from Change

Everyone’s talking change today and, when doing so, most conversations focus on the future and the many transformations we can anticipate. Seldom, if ever, do we take the time to look back at the many changes which have already taken place. There are very valuable lessons to be learned in this practice.

Should you ever be concerned with your ability to cope with future challenges, simply pause to reflect on the many changes you’ve managed to deal with in your past. Having dealt successfully with so many previous issues, we often take them for granted and totally forget how they once loomed before us as insurmountable obstacles.

Think for just a moment about how many radical changes have occurred in just the past 100 years. In the larger scheme of things, that’s actually a very short period of time. And yet, consider the massive transformations we’ve experience as a nation.

For instance, a hundred years ago …

  • The average life expectancy in the United States was 47. Today it’s 77.
  • Only 14% of the U.S. homes had a bathtub.
  • Only 8% of the homes had a telephone and a three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost $11.
  • There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S. and only 144 miles of paved roads. The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
  • Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union. A total of 38 million live in “The Golden State.”
  • The average wage in the U.S. was 22 cents an hour. The average U.S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
  • A competent accountant could expect to earn $2,000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.
  • More than 95% of all births in the U.S. took place at home.
  • 90% of all U.S. physicians had no college education. Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as “substandard.”
  • Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were 14 cents a dozen. Coffee cost 15 cents a pound.
  • Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
  • The five leading causes of death in the U.S. were: 1. Pneumonia and influenza, 2. Tuberculosis, 3. Diarrhea, 4. Heart disease, 5. Stroke.
  • The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was 30! The remote desert community was inhabited by only a handful of ranchers and their families. Today, the population is 603,000 and growing, and that doesn’t count gambling tourists!
  • Plutonium, insulin, and antibiotics hadn’t been discovered yet.
  • Scotch tape, crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented.
  • There was no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
  • Only 6% of all Americans had graduated from high school.
  • Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and the bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.”
  • Coca-Cola actually contained cocaine instead of caffeine.
  • There were about 230 reported murders in the U.S. annually. (Last year Chicago alone reported 509.)

As you can plainly see, many of the changes noted here should have been greeted with praises of thanks and appreciation. Others were tragic but had to be dealt with. Much the same can be said about the changes we face in today’s environment. We’ll welcome and appreciate a great number of them, we’ll fear and loath many others, and we’ll learn to cope and adapt with the majority of them. In the long run, as always, we’ll be fine.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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