Um... the ball is in the air

I suppose in a literal sense it would involve some heavy equipment, a relatively large crew, planning, co-ordination and enough time to make it happen, but in a figurative sense it seems “moving the goal posts” is comparatively simpler — at least it feels that way.


Moving the goalposts (or shifting the goalposts) is a metaphor, derived from goal-based sports, that means to change the criterion (goal) of a process or competition while it is still in progress, in such a way that the new goal offers one side an intentional advantage or disadvantage. (Wikipedia)

A situation that is frustrating to be sure.

Although I will say, its cousin “Moving the goalposts while the ball is in the air” will bring the toughest to a knee (sometimes pounding the ground and uttering those icon words, “Damn you, damn you all to hell.”). In this case it’s all about chronology, the goalposts get moved after you have initiated the activity(s) to meet the goal — you kicked the ball, it’s in the air, it’s on target… and then the goal posts get moved. Incredibly frustrating for the kicker (and her team), figuratively speaking.

There is no commentary regarding how to stop this from happening — the world is a dynamic place; something it will always be. The posts will move because someone wasn’t thinking, deliberately wanted to shift the posts for their advantage, lacked an appreciation their actions would impact what you are doing, had to react to a situation outside everyone’s control, et cetera, et cetera. It’s simply a truism that the posts will move; not always, but more than you would like.

Stay aware, over communicate and validate what you are doing will still achieve your goal, and as they say, never assume. And if the ball is in the air when those goal posts move there are two options that come to mind — figure our how to kick another ball very, very quickly, or figure out where the ball will land, have a plan to pick it up, and kick it through the posts before they move on you again. And remember, even if you miss scoring, you have still progressed the ball, and that’s the most important thing,

All figuratively speaking of course.


I propose we do this...

I will go out on a limb and say that it is very rare that the first idea, first prototype, first draft, or the first of "anything" is also the last — in fact, I will be so bold to say it never happens.


The first of anything will be challenged, torn down and rebuilt, built upon to the point of being unrecognizable, or spur on something else that makes it irrelevant. It can be an uncomfortable process to be sure; both practically and emotionally. My favourite saying to illustrate this is, "Everyone who is first through the wall gets bloody; everyone", and metaphorically speaking the more different your "proposal" is from the norm, the bloodier you will get. And crazier still, it is the only way to progress in anything. 

At the very least it is a reminder that if you aren't uncomfortable you are not moving in the right direction, as well as highlighting the truism that you need to "be comfortable with being uncomfortable". Both very important reminders, but even more importantly, it is a reminder that someone needs to step up and say, "I propose we do this" — be it a new idea, a new way of thinking, or simply a first draft of the thinking around the table. Progress needs a starting point; it needs a champion. A case in point is a presentation for a strategic plan I worked on which had 27 versions in the end — not because the first version was fundamentally wrong, but because we needed a started point to challenge what we had, try to break our thinking, and initiate an iterative process of improvement.  

Anything new needs a Champion to move it forward, protect it, and foster it, as well as work through the natural challenges and pushback that come your way — not always something for the faint of heart, which I suppose, is why they call them Champions.


Different only happens when you do what you do differently.

"Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result"


This is the popular urban definition of "insanity", and I suppose a formula for frustration, and definitely insight into the truisms of the universe and a window into the contradictory relationship between the desire for sameness and the need to do something differently. 

Although most certainly debatable, I will say it is the randomness of the universe and the free will that's inherently found in all of us that explains why everything is always in flux — sure there are universal laws that come into play, but it's randomness that has it rain on that outdoor party you've been planning for three weeks or it's free will that explains why a lawyer decides to quit his job and open up a coffee shop that puts your favourite haunt out of business. For good or bad, right or wrong, the world around us is always changing — it's something we are constantly dealing with and something we are constantly trying to control. We work very hard to create an environment that is understood, familiar, consistent and dependable, and this is crucial for our well-being, security, and quality of life. We need the familiarity of "sameness" when we get home after a long day or when we are manufacturing 1,000,000 widgets.

And so the dance begins as we hold on to that "sameness" we have created and then forever struggle to protect it from the randomness and free will in the world — and even crazier still, we intuitively know that as the world changes, we need to change with it. It's this contradictory dance that allows us to create that environment of "sameness" we so very much need to progress over the long run. It's important to point out the tools we use to maintain control of that familiar, consistent and dependable environment are not the tools we need to change with the world — and this brings it back to the quote "doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result" (which it seems, and rightfully so, is truly the definition of insanity).

The tools we need to "change with the world" are all about doing things differently; not doing it the same.

  • The mindset to understand the need to do things differently.
  • The ability to communicate why it is important to do things differently.
  • The ability to actually do what you do differently.

It's in understanding we need to think and do things differently that we are actually closer to controlling a perpetually changing world.