They is You; They is Me; They is Us

I often look at a situation out in the world (esp. a commercial / business one), turn to the friend with me at the time (even if that's an internet connection away), and say "you know, they should really do ..." and then mention a suggestion for improvement / change / etc.  But lately I've been catching myself and others at this point.  "They" already did something; they saw the market need for their now-existing business and filled that need.  This was likely due to a gap in the market, unfulfilled by a previous business.  Instead of sitting around and giving free suggestions to "they," the business owner made the change they wanted to see in the world.  We have that power too.  

I believe that many people grow up not knowing that they have the power to change the world through the act of starting a business (or running for office or getting a promotion).  Many people assume that you just go out and get a job and then a few more after that first job and then sometime later you retire.  But we can create jobs too.  We can create businesses.  We can create that change.  And not just in creating businesses but in all aspects of life.

They is you.  They is me.  They is all of us.

I have been reading  The Big Store: Inside the Crisis and Revolution at Sears about the rise and fall of sears throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  The chairman of Sears, Ed Brennan, did a magnificent job of explaining the non-existance of "theys" within Sears itself:

Brennan's hands fell to his sides.  His head tilted to one side in a way that informed all of personnel in from the Southern Territory that a parable was coming.
"When I started in the business about twenty-four years ago with Sears, I started as a salesman in Madison, Wisconsin.  And, as it often happens with Sears people when they are not working, we would sit around over a cup of coffee or lunch and talk about our bosses.  Typically, we would refer to the bosses as 'they.' I can remember sitting around as a salesman and talking about 'they' and saying to myself that we could do a better job than 'they' can.  We referred to them always as 'they': They ought to do this; They ought to do that.
"Then, after a while, I moved to the next level of management - a division manager - and we would sit around and have lunch and a cup of coffee" - Brennan paused for a long breath now - "and I found that we were still talking only about 'they,' only 'they' were a notch higher on the ladder ..."
The story followed the entirety of Brennan's route through the company.  As a store manager he talked about "they," the group managers.  As a group manager he talked about "they," the territorial vice-presidents. "I thought, perhaps when I became an officer of the company, and I got to come to Chicago, this would change.  So I came to the Tower when I was a territorial vice-president, and I went to the board meeting and I listened to the discussion.  They were talking about what was going on in the stores and the buying organization, about our management.  Suddenly ... it dawned on me."  His voice rose now to a high pitch, and his clasped hand unlocked - unfurled, really, as if to illustrate the opening of himself and the light of his epiphany to the others: "It dawned on me, there ... is ... no ... they. They is us!  We is they! And that is what this company is about!"

They is you.  They is me.  They is all of us.


Update: A good friend of mine pointed me at this short clip from an interview with Steve Jobs that also does a fantastic job of explaining this concept:

Sears Tower image from Flickr/ Michael Caroe Andersen

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