Since just before the New Year, I’ve been writing a number of posts on the subject of change–how hard it is, what keeps us from doing it, how we can succeed at it. Scroll down for recent posts. I’ve also raised the question of whether our difficulties with “personal” change (diet, smoking, drinking, exercise) might even be related to our problems with larger, societal change; in other words, if I have a hard time staying with an exercise regimen, will I also have a hard time making myself more tolerant of gays and lesbians, for example?
That leads to this thought: Interviewers often ask candidates for office to name a mistake they made, or talk about a personal failing. The pols often say something self-serving like “Well, Brian, y’know, I just can’t quit thinking about the high dropout rate in Broward County. That’s my fault, I guess.”
But maybe a better and more revealing question, if they’d answer it, would be this: “Describe a large change you made in your life–some habit of mind, body, or heart that you changed, some beloved activity or pleasure you gave up, etc. Why, and how, did you do it?”
I wonder what we’d hear. Ironically, some highly successful people seem to be almost impervious to change, which, sometimes, means they’re impervious to growth. That was certainly the case with Ross Perot, whom I interviewed for a magazine article and a book when he ran for president in 1992. Perhaps because of his early success (he was a millionaire before he was 40, at a time when that was almost unknown), he seemed to believe there was nothing worth knowing that he did not already know. That was one reason he could not tolerate the incessant demands to state his positions on various issues, many of which he’d clearly not even considered before running. If something was important, he, H. Ross Perot, knew it, so please shut up, and if you’re so smart, how come you’re not rich?
From the current crop of contenders, I wonder which presidential candidate has had the most actual experience with change? One candidate would certainly be Mike Huckabee, who, as most people know, was hugely fat for a number of years–big, whopping, Rodney-Dangerfield-joke-type fat. Then, when his doctors told him he was on the verge of getting diabetes, former Incredible Hulk/Huck went on a radical diet/exercise plan and lost more than 100 pounds. And more astonishing is this: He’s kept the weight off for 7 or 8 years. If you’ve ever tried to lose even 10 pounds and kept it off, you know it requires some real discipline.
None of that guarantees that Huckabee would make a good president–I can’t picture voting for him– but those who like him probably like that about him. And if he ever calls on people for some kind of sacrifice or difficult change (assuming any pol would do that today), he would at least have some idea of the pain and challenges he’s asking them to accept.