Martin was one of the best shows of the 90’s. This show was the best balance of comedy, love and real life. Initially, Martin was just entertainment. Today, some of these episodes serve as a road map that can help navigate the real world.
In Season 2, Episode 27, Martin experiences a series of changes that contain common lessons about change that could be applied to one’s personal or professional life.
Scene 1: Change can be unexpected
This episode opens with Martin’s lady, Gina, her friend Pam and his buddies Tommy and Cole at his apartment looking to solidify their plans for the evening. Gina explains to them that Martin is depressed after losing his job and she really wants to cheer him up.
Martin had the #1 rated Talk Radio Show in Detroit. He was at the top of his career but after his former boss, Stan, failed to pay taxes and the station’s new owner wanted to go into a different direction, Martin became collateral damage.
In the episode prior, Martin was blindsided by the news that the IRS was going to seize the station if Stan didn’t pay his taxes within the allotted amount of time. Change was happening to Martin whether he liked it or not. Just like Martin, change happens to us and it is often unexpected. As an entrepreneur, maybe your original idea didn't resonate with your audience the way you intended . If you’re a budding entrepreneur, perhaps you were recently laid off. As a employee, perhaps your company has acquired another division and your team dynamics have drastically changed. Whatever it is, things are changing all the time. How you handle change will determine your success, not change itself.
Scene 2: Change can be painful
In this 23 minute episode, we saw Martin lose it all. He lost his job. He lost his house. One could even argue that he lost his mind (selling t-shirts with BruhMan and almost selling his finance’s engagement ring). Not only did he feel internal agony of losing but Pam (Tichina Arnold) didn’t hesitate to reinforce this thoughts of being a loser.
Afterall, he was local celebrity and after series of unfortunate events, he was simply another unemployed person in Detroit. Truth is, we all lose sometimes. Rapper Big Sean said it perfectly in a recent interview at Power 105.1, “you can’t pursue a W without taking an L.” American Idol winner and vocal sensation Fantasia put it this way, “Sometimes you gotta lose, to win again.”
It’s not the losing that makes you who we are, it’s how we react to losing. Don’t be your own Pam. Find the lesson in the loss. Ask healthy questions like “What would I do differently in my next phase of life? What did I learn? How did I stand out during my time there?” Try to avoid the unhealthy questions like “What did I do wrong? Or what am I gonna do now? The healthy questions will reveal the light at the end of the tunnel while the unhealthy questions will delay your transition.
Scene 3: Change is Forceful
It was acknowledged in the first scene that sometimes, change is forced upon you without warning. In this scene I want to acknowledge that change also forces you to do things differently. In this episode, Martin is seen trying to revisit his career in radio, again. His efforts proved to be unsuccessful. So, Martin decides to try something new. First, he tried telemarketing (don’t try to sell speedboats over the phone, it won't work). Next, he pursued retail (good idea, wrong tactic. You can't sell damages clothes above market value). Lastly, he tried to sell t-shirts outside of a Whitney Houston concert (always double check your work). The night he returned from the concert, he realized he had hit rock bottom. It was at the moment that he exclaimed “I don’t have time Gina, I have bills” that he realized that he was being forced to do something different.
Finale: Change your mind, change your circumstances
In the final few scenes of this episode, Martin revisits the place where Martin Payne became Martinnn, the WZUP radio studio. He finds that everything has changed. There is no crew. There is no engineers board. The only constant in that scene was his old engineer, Sean.
(Sidebar: Sean was a mockery for the past two seasons of this show. It’s not ironic that he was the only person left at the company. This is just a friendly reminder that just because you’re the underdog or a peon or seem stagnant doesn’t mean you won’t be recognized for your hard work).
Sean asks Martin a fundamental question about his next steps in life, “what’s your plan?” Martin replied proudly that he doesn’t make plans. Sean said confidently “If you don’t have a plan, you can end up in a rut.”
Annual plans are not just for big corporations. What does your life look like next month? Next year? If you don’t know, this may be an indicator that you don’t have a plan. You need one.
Rerun: Managing Change
Planning before and/after change is very important to maintaining your sanity, livelihood and relationships. We saw in this episode that Martin did a poor job of managing the changes he was experiencing. As a result, his sanity, livelihood and relationships suffered. This is a fictional show but it is reality for a lot of us. But it doesn’t have to be. While some change we can’t predict like a layoff or an accident, some change we can predict like matriculation or company growth. I don’t have a sure fire way of managing the unpredictable but below are ways that can help you manage change in your personal or professional life so you don’t end up in a cult worshipping Brother Rock (see the next episode):
1. Schedule time to plan and play out potential change scenarios.
This applies to your personal and professional life. As I previously mentioned, you cannot always predict change but that which you can predict you should identify and follow steps 2-6. I’m not oblivious to the fact that sometimes, change is a surprise. In these cases, move to steps 2-6.
2. Identify your role in the change process. Are you a change agent? Is change happening to you?
In some cases, you will make changes and in some cases changes are made for you. If you’re the change agent, do your best to make change as painless as possible but utilizing some of Kotter’s 8 Steps to Change. When change happens to you, simply prep for the new normal.
3. Don’t just let change happen to you. Make a transition.
As we saw with Martin, sometimes change just happens to you. There’s nothing you can do about it. In these cases we should readjust our thinking and our reality to make a transition into the “now.” Dwelling on what was or what could be only makes it more difficult to feel “normal” again. You can’t be your best like this. You MUST adapt to your environment or you will be consumed by it.
4. Surround yourself with the Ginas and Tommys in your life, not the Pams
Throughout the changes he faced, Martin was sure to keep people around him that supported him. Keep in mind, these people don’t always know what you should do next. Sometimes, it’s just good for these friends/family members to be a shoulder for you to lean on or an incubator for you to bounce ideas off. Support is very important during and after change. No one man is an island. Stop living like it.
5. Remember the change you’ve conquered in the past for encouragement
If you’re a success junkie , when you win, you keep going. Pastor Toure Roberts put it this way “Even though you’re clapping, I’m still grinding.” You keep going at your dreams with this “on to the next” mentality. Sometimes, you forget the ways you’ve won in the past, especially when faced with a loss. Truth is, you’ve conquered change before. Whether it was your first day of college or your last day at your job. Remember these moments. By completing these steps, you will have written documentation of how you’ve conquered changed that will help see you through your next change moment. In the words of Mufasa’s spirit in the cloud, “Remember who you are…” You’re a winner and a change conqueror.
6. Always ask yourself and others, what’s next? Then plan for it.
This one can be a bit tricky. How can I plan for the unknown? It’s easy actually. Just challenge what you know as the truth by changing it. You must stay ahead of the changes that you will inevitably face. If the company you work for recently restructured your department, ask your manager or department head for the motivation behind the move. In that answer you can probably find ways that the company will change next. Feel free to dive deep into your industry and take a look at your competitors. This type of investigative research will help you answer questions before you've had the chance to ask them.
If you implement these change management strategies, I am confident that the next time something changes in your life, whether personal or professional, you will be prepared and fearless in your efforts to conquer it.