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When Change Changes You

A cute fluffy white alpaca (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).
A cute fluffy white alpaca (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Suddenly it seems like everywhere I go online I’m reading about an app called Slack.

Apparently it is like Twitter + Facebook for office types.

Slack’s goal – according to its CEO at least – is to eliminate email.

But his underlying goal is to get back to his family and his herd of alpacas (small furry camels, basically) by eliminating work…or at least some of it.

Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s CEO, did exactly that after selling his first creation, Flickr, to Yahoo for an alleged $25 million.

But then he quickly came back…with Slack.

In a recent interview, Butterfield had this to share about why he feels it is important to reduce the time we spend working:

I think that we’re as a species not quite equipped to deal with the power of this stuff just in the same way we weren’t quite equipped to deal with infinite free calories. This is how people end up with diabetes…we will now have the cognitive emotional diabetes of over interacting with people who aren’t physically present.

Butterfield thinks Slack can help with the tendency we seem to have to overwork ourselves, or (in some cases, most notably Japan’s Karoshi) literally work ourselves to death.


This goes a long way to explain one of Slack’s goals – to take us workers out of the equation to some extent by using robots to answer simple questions, allowing workers to set do-not-disturb hours within Slack and giving employees a more casual and fun platform to use while working.

But what most intrigues me is Butterfield’s assessment of how dangerous change can be.

If we are not ready for change (which tends to come anyway, ready or not) some very bad things can happen to us.

For instance, as he points out, we can take advantage of how easy it is to get food today (no hunting, gathering or foraging for us modern types) and wind up with early signs of diabetes, we can embrace work harder-faster tools to the point where we work ourselves literally to death.

We can forget what it is like to have boundaries, let alone to set them and enforce them.

We can do what Butterfield did post-Flickr – quit work “for good” in a very public way to tend alpacas and make things out of tin – only to be back within the year in the kind of boomerang that usually only happens to, well, boomerangs.

Of course when Butterfield left, he had $25+ million in his pocket…which can buy a lot of alpacas and a heck of a lot of tin.

But apparently it can’t buy either balance or happiness, because his permanent vacation sure didn’t last long.

Which leads me to suspect the moral of Butterfield’s story is simply this:

Seek balance.

In other words, do what only you can do, and find ways to automate, outsource or simply eradicate the rest.

If it isn’t at least a little bit fun, find a way to make it fun or stop doing it.

Understand as best you can what each extreme and the middle ground of any change looks like before diving in.

Position yourself within any unstoppable change as safely and positively as you possibly can.

Most of all, see any impending change as a mentor that comes with many potential lessons to offer – and realize you can pick and choose what lessons you learn as well as how challenging or painful they may be.

In this way, while perhaps you can’t control change itself, you can absolutely have some control over how much change itself changes you.

Today’s Takeaway: What do you think of Butterfield’s statement? Can you think of other ways that change – even the most positive change – could possibly have an extreme effect in your life that might not be so safe or desirable? Have you ever been impacted by change to the point where you felt like it “swept you away” for a time – and only later could you understand what had occurred and how to regroup and move forward? Have there ever been times you did throw yourself into the newest-latest-greatest with positive results?


When Change Changes You

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2019). When Change Changes You. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Jun 2019
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