Protectionism: Lack of Confidence?

When we desire protection from a perceived, non-physical threat are we really saying that we lack confidence in our own abilities?

Before we delve into that question more deeply, I want you to know that I lost a political battle in one of my CFO jobs and ended up losing that job. I also worked as CFO for a company that was bought. CFOs of the acquired company rarely, if ever, survive an acquisition. I didn’t.

I tell you these things so that you don’t think I’m someone who is speaking without benefit of experience. I have experienced the challenges of having lost good paying jobs. Now to today’s topic.


Did I feel a sense of loss when these jobs ended? You bet I did…until I remembered all the skills and abilities that I had developed over the years. Then these “changes” became new opportunities, not losses.

Over the years I’ve encountered countless people who have had similar experiences tell me “It was the best thing that ever happened to me.” I know that it was true for me as well.

So why is it that some of us desire protection? If the vast majority of people find that changes foist upon them often end up being “the best thing that ever happened,” why do we fear change?

Love what you do

I’m sure that some simply love what they do and want to keep doing it for the rest of their lives…especially if they’re nearer retirement than the beginning of their work life. While that’s an understandable sentiment, it’s not a healthy one.

All aspects of life are dynamic. It’s impossible to isolate ourselves from change. The alternative is to embrace change as an opportunity, to find new ways to utilize the skills and abilities we developed over the years, to recall the excitement we experienced as we added these skills and abilities to our repertoire…and know that you can do it again. There’s nothing quite so uplifting as confidence in yourself…in your ability to learn and adapt.


Some people become used to a certain routine which includes going to the same job every day, seeing the same people and doing the same work. There’s comfort in familiarity. And, conversely, discomfort with its absence.

While these are natural feelings, they ignore the realities of life…nothing in life remains the same forever. The desire to be protected from things that disrupt our lives is understandable and often sparks a desire for protection from the changes that we’ll inevitably face. But it’s unrealistic.

If you have kids, you know that no matter how hard you try, you can’t protect them from all the risks they’ll face…nor can any government protect you from the challenges you face in your job. Governments can’t prevent the development of new technologies, nor should they. They can penalize countries with economic sanctions, but these sanctions aren’t going to prevent the people in these countries from looking for ways to improve their lives.

What we can do though is recall the superiority of our abilities and find new ways to employ them. At the end of the day the only security any of us has is our ability to learn and adapt. The only real protection we possess lies in the expansion of your skills and abilities. If you’ve stopped learning, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.

My dad was a classic example of the right way to protect yourself. I grew up in a small town in Illinois. He was the lead mechanic for the Ford dealer there. Every week Ford would send out new booklets on the problems that mechanics were encountering and solutions for these problems. My dad read the booklets religiously every week.

We lived only an hour from downtown St. Louis. My dad made nearly as much as the union mechanics in St. Louis while living in the small town he loved. Why was he able to do this? Because he excelled at what he did, because he was continuously improving his skills. He could easily have gone to St. Louis and gotten a job…something his employer knew well.

For you

If you’re looking for others to protect you from change, you’re going to be disappointed. Not only that, but you’re going to be missing out on all the good things you could be enjoying if you embraced change as opportunity.

When you feel the desire to be protected, pause for a moment. Remind yourself of the times in your life when a change that was foist upon you ended up being “the best thing that ever happened.” Recall all the skills and abilities that you possess. Then look for ways that you can employ them in jobs other than the one you currently possess.

Finally, remember that your power and your value lie in your ability to learn and adapt. That your security and that of your family is only assured when you continue to expand your knowledge and capabilities.

For our kids

Instill in your kids an understanding that:

  • Change is inevitable.
  • Confidence in their ability to learn and adapt enables them to adapt to change more quickly and effectively.
  • Security comes from continuously expanding their skills and abilities…and it’s fun learning new things.

More importantly, live these messages. They’re more likely to believe you if they see you living what you say.

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