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Resistance is futile

September 25, 2013

I gather I’m pretty late to the game when it comes to the phrase “resistance is futile.” It may be that I noticed it before now, but it just didn’t “stick.” Well, recently, at a TEDx conference, a speaker showed up on stage with Google Glass and a T-shirt sporting that phrase along with a graphic that caught my eye. And now, the phrase and all its various meanings has definitely “stuck.”

After laughing at the graphic, explaining it to my wife and listening to the presentation, I stared some more at the graphic (I’ve made my own version shown below if you’d like to stare at it too.) It made me start thinking about how the whole concept that “resistance is futile” struck me.

What’s the joke?

Resistance Is FutileFor those not familiar with electronic schematics, the squiggly thing is the symbol for a resistor. Resistors are very important in electronics and provide a vital function. And they do exactly what the name implies, they impede the flow of current. What’s “funny” to us geeks is that the solid line going around the resistor is what’s called a “short circuit.” Current will take the path of least resistance. Since the wire going around the resistor has very little (negligible) resistance, the current will go right around the resistor as though it wasn’t even there. So the resistor is superfluous and therefore “resistance is futile.” I know, if you have to explain the joke, it isn’t funny.


Back to the phrase. My first response was actually, well . . . to resist! What a terrible thing to tell me I have no choice, that I should simply be resigned to fate. The competitor in me didn’t like that one bit. I can make choices. I can think, decide and take action. Don’t tell me that resistance is futile. That will just convince me I should do everything I can to resist. I simply do not like being resigned to the status quo.


But then, there are some things that I just have to admit are inevitable and to resist is to waste time and energy. Death, for example. As far as this carbon based unit is concerned, death is inevitable. I can try to resist it and with all due respect to Ray Kurzweil, resistance will be futile. However we can perhaps redirect things a bit.

Taoism, Martial Arts, Sailing and Resistance

What? An eastern philosophy? Self-Defense? Ancient sail boats? What do they have to do with the topic at hand? And furthermore, what does any of this have to do with business and leadership? Patience. I’m getting there.

On my bookshelf are more than two dozen books on Taoism and Martial Arts. They represent more than a decade of study both academic and, in the case of the Martial Arts, physical training. What all of that invested energy taught me was that . . . resistance is a waste of energy if not exactly futile. Instead, redirecting an opponent’s energy is much more effective and efficient. This is even truer when it comes to fighting Mother Nature. I love the admonition from my sailing days, attributed to Bertha Calloway, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” Taoism, Martial Arts and Sailing have all given me life lessons that made me a better leader and now help me to continue to grow as an executive coach. They provide rich metaphors for what we do as business leaders.

Resistance is futile, adjust the sails

As business leaders, we need to know when to adjust the sails to efficiently and effectively harness the winds of change in the global economy. We can bitch and moan and try to resist or we can work to determine what’s so in our world and adjust our sails as well as our point of sail (new destination) when necessary. The winds of change come from an infinite number of directions with an infinite range of strengths from gentle slow breeze to sail-rending gales. As leaders, we need to be constantly forecasting what we believe the wind will be doing, we need to be constantly checking our navigation, we need to be always mindful of the seaworthiness of our ship of business and we of course have to be continuously drilling and training the crew.

These are the questions we as leaders have to ask ourselves: What is our destination (mission) and the vision (why) of how (strategy) we will run the race to get to our goals? Are we ready for the inevitable wind shift? Is our vessel as ready as it can be? Is the crew trained and in shape? What are the rewards for being in this race? Resistance to change is futile; so do we know how to be nimble as a crew and work together with continuous change?

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