Embrace Change, Risk Mistakes: My interview with Bill Marriott
“It’s by embracing change and risking mistakes that you get ahead.” ~ Bill Marriott
One of the things I most love about my work is the people I get to meet. So it was a huge honor to be invited into Marriott headquarters to interview J.W. “Bill” Marriott, who has spent his life building the Marriott hotel chain. With hotels in 87 countries (and counting), it’s come a long way from the 9 stool root-beer stand his father C.W. Marriott started out with in 1927!
If you aren’t in the hotel industry you may not know that Marriott International recently made a USD$13.6 billion acquisition of Starwood hotels -think Sheraton & Westin. It’s been regarded as bold move by industry analysts; one that’s made a few people nervous. (I think that’s partly why I was invited along!)
Change, even change for the better, has a way of stoking anxiety. By it’s very nature it creates uncertainty and triggers our instinct for self-preservation. How will this change affect me? What if I can’t adapt? What if it fails? What if I get left behind? What if….?!
The truth is that change is never easy. There’d be far fewer people stuck in jobs they loathe and living lives of quiet desperation and never realizing their potential. Bill Marriott summed it up well:
If C.W. Marriott had been averse to change, I wouldn’t be writing this today. Not only did he have to change his business mix past root beer to keep his customers coming in over the winter months back in the late 1920’s, but he would never have ventured out of the restaurant business where he’d made a name for himself to open the first Marriott motel in 1959. Today Marriott International has over 4,400 hotels with several thousand more to join the Marriott family when the Starwood acquisition is finalized (making it the largest hotelier in the world.) Not bad for a business that began as a soda stand.
Of course as human beings we are wired to want to stick to what we know we can succeed at, where familiarity is high and the risk of messing things up is low. Yet as I wrote in Stop Playing Safe, playing it safe can leave people (and organizations) stagnating, languishing… getting too comfortable for their own good. As I have written before, growth and comfort can’t ride the same horse. Confidence is like a muscle, if you don’t keep flexing it, you lose it.
I hope you’ll watch the 3 ½ minute edited clip of our interview above or at this link. Near the end of our half hour conversation, Mr Marriott turned the tables and asked me a few questions. It gave me the chance to add to his earlier comment that ‘success isn’t final’. “Neither if failure,” I said. When we realize that risking failure is just par the course for success, it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities.
In the bigger game of life the only thing we can ever really fail at is letting our fear of change – of the new, untested and unknown – keep us from daring to create and contribute more than we ever otherwise would. Left unchecked, that fear drives people to think small, play safe, and avoid the very risks required to live a more meaningful life. Much less to build the world’s largest hotel chain!
So I invite you to reflect on these three questions:
- Where do you need to make your own bold move?
- Where is fear of making a wrong decision keeping you from making a right one?
- What would you change if you were willing to trade familiarity for possibility?
Remember, your desire for safety will always pull against your desire for growth. It’s why living your best life requires living a brave life; embracing a mindset of “Let’s see what’s possible!”
Needless to say, it was pretty darn inspiring meeting someone in their 80’s still doing just that!