At exactly noon on Nov. 18, 1883, the United States made a change that would affect all citizens. The change worried people so much that panicked editorials lamented its effects, entire towns stopped all activity to brace for the moment it would occur, and one mayor even threatened to jail anyone who went through with it. But in the end, absolutely nothing happened — and I think we can learn a lot from that.
You see, back in 1883, technology was changing things in ways not dissimilar from today. The telegraph and the railroad had made an unimaginably vast country seem much smaller. Before trains and telegraphs, the time of day in a certain community was essentially whatever the clock in the town square said it was. In all, there were at least 50 time zones across the U.S., and often, even neighboring towns would be 5 to 15 minutes apart.
It’s easy to see why a train schedule or information relayed along telegraph lines would need a common, standardized time. So in 1883, the heads of all of the major railroads decided to make it so. It was declared that at noon on Nov. 18, all clocks would be moved up or wound back to make sure the country was in sync under four time zones.
The notion of changing the time did not sit well with everyone. Many feared what would happen if people tried to interfere with something as elemental as time. The mayor of Bangor, Maine, even went so far as to threaten to jail anyone who moved the hands on the clock. Many townspeople reportedly gathered around their local telegraph offices to wait for the official notice as to when the “new” noon would be. When the message came in, the clocks were set — and nothing else really happened. The fears were misguided, and the change has created the reliable standard we all use today.
While this example seems almost laughable today, how often do we find ourselves caught up in worrying about change? It’s so easy for us to spend hours of our time and countless amounts of energy fearing what might happen because of a change. And then, after the change occurs, there’s always the danger of getting pulled into wishing for the past. Of course, any successful change — whether it’s a new job, new house or new color of paint on a wall — needs a degree of planning and preparation to make the transition successful. But fear of change shouldn’t stop you from doing something you know is right. That’s been our approach at NCTC. We have embraced change by not letting fears interfere with what we know we need to do. With the way our industry has changed, we’ve had to be ready to evolve with it. What was once a company offering one product (local telephone service) became a long-distance phone company. Then we became a dial-up internet service provider. Now we’ve become a company that has a broadband network delivering high-speed internet and Wi-Fi, HD television, security services, and cloud services just to name a few. The future will bring even more change.
Through all of those changes, there were certainly concerns and a little worrying here and there. But we’ve always done our homework and made the changes that were needed to make life better for our customers.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” I believe that is the right attitude we should all strive for as we look ahead to whatever changes are in store for us in the years to come.
- Nancy J. White, Chief Executive Officer