This is the weekend edition of TheMarioBlog and will be updated as needed. The next post is scheduled for Monday, January 28
TAKEAWAY: This is part 26 of my occasional series 40 Years/40 Lessons, which I call a sort of career memoir, capturing highlights and reminiscing about what has been a spectacular journey for me, doing what I love most. Today’s segment: all about the importance and the magic of change and how, yes, it can make you feel young.
Illustration by Ana Lense Larrauri/The Miami Herald
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
― Mother Teresa
Change. Not an easy verb to conjugate in any language. Even less easy, to internalize it and to apply it.
My life, like that of most of you, has been punctuated by constant change at every step. Perhaps never more dramatically than when, at the age of 14, I was uprooted from my native country, Cuba, and found myself in a new country, the USA, learning a new language, adapting to the reality that it would be life without my parents for an indefinite period of time (it was almost 3 years), and that I had to transform myself from a child actor into the description of refugee—-obstacles everywhere from the time I got up in the morning and faced a teacher whom I did not understand, only to leave school and head for a restaurant to work part time as a bus boy collecting dirty dishes.
That’s change all right.
As I reminisce about these important and interesting years in the making of Mario, I believe that, the sum total of those days was change in the six figures plus.
It was change or perish, change or survival, change and optimism, taking each day as it came. Funny, usually the next day was better. Still is.
To this day that is how I approach life, and how I approach change.
My own career spanning 41 years abounds with change, in projects that begin with a desire for change—-not that it is always executed to the maximum.
Both wanted to go from total black and white to color—that is a big, painful change (for editors more than readers, of course). Both wanted to change, without losing their iconic tradition and presence. But change must make a dent. In these two publications, it did.
For me, there is always one moment that defines the change, that one split of a second that illuminates the situation, like a harbor light does the sea or a city, far and wide.
At The Wall Street Journal: I took one look at the front page and said—if what most people look at first is the What’s News column, then this is where we should take the brush and paint with color, immediately. I did so. They liked it. It’s still there.
At Die Zeit—change was slow in coming, as in 10 prototypes that could not seal the deal, but, alas, finally a dossier on a definition of German elegance led to prototype #11 and the start of the fabulous Die Zeit that you see today, much enhanced, I must add, through the work of talented art directors which include our own Jan Kny.
Perhaps the most recent moment of change and illumination for me: migrating to the digital world of online, mobiles and, especially, tablets. Change invited me to its digital table.
I accepted the invitation. Started to play with the toys. Love at first sight.
You must give change a chance, it is part of the arrangement.
Don’t just peek into the door marked Change. Be brave. Push that door, invite yourself, come in, and close the door behind you.
Today and change
I am almost at the doors of my 66th birthday—-I like the look of the two 6’s side by side, like a couple in love, united forever, some say the six represents the devil: two devils walking with me in 2013? Nice. I thought one was enough, but maybe not enough. Let’s adapt to that change, too.
Not a day goes by that someone will not ask me (usually with a broad smile, knowing the answer, perhaps, or embarrassed to be asking):
Mario, when will you retire?
I have no idea, I tell them. (The truth)
But I know deep inside that I will know exactly when to retire: the day that I wake up without the passion in my belly. A passion for life. A passion for this wonderful craft of ours. A passion for dispensing teddy bears of change along the way. But one cannot simply dispense change without believing in it.
I often say that I wish I were 29 years of age. Not because I am not happy with my double 6’s, but because these are some terrific, energetic, exciting times to be in the media business, that I wish I had more time to enjoy it.
But I am not 29 and will not be again (thank God), so I try to have breakfast with change each morning. And I pray that change will be my companion each night before I retire. When it happens, how sweet it is.
Change as cliché
Embracing change is such a cliché, isn’t it?
No, I don’t just embrace it. Change and I go back a long time and I hope it will accompany me till that precious last moment. Change and I have a love affair. One of those rare and genuine forever love affairs.
To me, change has the scent that seduces. I try to wear that scent when I face editors, publishers, designers, professors, students, family and friends. It is the scent of the positive, the optimistic.
Change is the opposite of lament.
Change, to be carried out with gusto, must not be part of the job, a requirement, something you are told to do, as eating your green vegetables and fastening your car seat belt.
Change has to come from the heart.
Change is organic. To be real change, it requires that we change our minds about what was, and open them to what could be.
Here is the view from the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw:
“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
This is a quote we need to post around newsrooms, boardrooms and living rooms everywhere.
Of all my projects at the moment, the ones barely moving at the back of the pack are those where an editor cannot change his/her mind. Editors who have decided to dance all night with Miss Nostalgia, if you will. Editors for whom Change is just a ghost: scary and flat footed. While they dance to the tune of nostalgia, they don’t hear the sounds of change, therefore they don’t feel it.
You can’t sell the notion of change without feeling it deep inside yourself.
I travel over one million miles a year and if you ask me what I do the most, the answer would be: dispensing the magic of change.
Do I believe in nostalgia? Indeed, I cherish it. To me nostalgia is an armoire full of cherished memories that should stay intact.
Nostalgia is sweet. Change is effervescent.
Or, as J.D. Salinger wrote in The Catcher in the Rye:
“Certain things, they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.”
Warning: But let’s not put our printed newspapers in one of those big glass cases yet. Newspapers are not ready for the armoire of nostalgia. They are lively, organic, moving and eager to be changed. Yet, I run into a few “top media managers” here and there who are intent on placing their print product in that glass enclosed armoire, lock it, and throw away the key. I have little patience with those and, to be honest, they are the ones who manage to get Mario angry.
If I have learned a lesson in my time, it is that change is necessary to advance you and what you do, and, believe me, to keep you young at any age.
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