Nothing lasts forever, and what to do about it

March 19th, 2015 by Douglas McEncroe · 5 Comments · Leadership

IMG_0088A few days ago I went to visit my favourite café in Madrid where I had lived for twenty-five years. I returned to live in Sydney three years ago but I still miss those great “tostadas” and “Cafés con leche”. As I approached the café I was surprised to see that it was all dark inside, I felt a terrible tension rise in my stomach as I got closer until I got to the door and my worst fears were confirmed, Café Río Frío, a virtual institution in Madrid, had closed its doors forever.


I had brought my iPad with me to show three of the waiters a short video of my five-year old twin girls. I knew it would bring them joy. I met these guys when I first arrived in Madrid and they had been my companions throughout the different stages of my life there, witnesses to the highs and the lows of my Spanish life from the loneliness of the early years, to my attempts to get local girlfriends, to the creation of a group of true friends, to the beginnings of my company and to the different stages it went through, to visits from my family and international friends, to my first tentative outings with my future wife and the blossoming of our love and finally to the miracle that was the birth of our two little girls and their first visits to Río Frío where they caused much havoc. It was the disappointment of not being able to share the latest news of my life with these waiters who had become my friends and the realization that I would never see them again that left me absolutely gutted as I stood outside the closed doors on that cold Saturday morning.

As I walked back to my hotel I thought to myself, nothing lasts forever and felt a great sadness rise up within me. The next day I asked myself, what does one do with that? Do you resign yourself to the sadness, do you try to replace it with something similar, do you just try to forget about it or do you do something else? As the weekend progressed I slowly began to realise that my “Río Frío” is irreplaceable. I understood that although I can’t continue adding new chapters to that story, it lives on inside of me and is a part of who I am. I realised that I had to accept the fact that it had finished but be thankful for everything it had given me. Finally, I understood that I need to continue with something different that one day will form a new part of my continuing Madrid story.

In organisations too, people don’t want the old ways to end

In my work with organisations I see again and again resistance to change. People faced with change have similar feelings and reactions to the ones that I felt as I stood outside Río Frío. People don’t want things to change and if they are forced to change they try to replace the old with something so similar that it represents no change at all. Although we can empathise with their feelings and understand their resistance, their attempts to replace the old ways with something similar are doomed to failure; one has to move on to a new and different future.


What can we do when faced with a change we don’t want?

Here are some ideas of what we can do in this situation:

  • Try to understand why the old situation had to end.
  • Be thankful for all the good things it gave you.
  • Come to an acceptance that the old situation has finished.
  • Don’t avoid feeling sad. It is OK to feel sad for a while.
  • Don’t try to replace it with something similar, it will never work.
  • Look to the future with optimism.
  • Try out new things and look for the good in them.
  • Move on with energy, with a hunger for life.


I will always miss my Río Frío and I will be forever grateful for the kindness my three waiter/ friends showed me over all those years. But I also look forward to tomorrow and to creating new chapters in my life.


5 Comments so far ↓


    Dear Doug, I witnessed your sadness facing this sad encounter. You’re right. the hardest pain often comes from losing our contact with other human being we shared wonderful experiences with in the past. Great 8-points action plan for the future. We have to realised that we are living times when these changes and disruptions will be an essential part of our lives. Times to stick to deep foundings and values. Thanks for your post.

  • Douglas McEncroe

    Thanks Quique, yes our values are like the north star and they help us in times of change.

  • Tim O'Connor

    What! Rio Frio closed? It’s taken me three years to come to terms with the fact that you, Cecile and the girls are no longer in Madrid within range for a quick visit.

    Now I start the loss transition that you are already part way through! Rio Frio was always a feature of my visits to Madrid (together with walks in El Retiro.)

    And just to add a thought to your 8 point plan… it’s often the case that leaders responsible for leading change, whilst equally affected by it, are generally further on in the process of coming to terms with it than those they are leading. It sometimes takes effort to acknowledge that others need their time to mourn before they can then rally behind the change programme.

  • Douglas McEncroe

    Thanks Tim. Our times together at Río Frío and in the Retiro are among my fondest memories of my life in Madrid. I agree with your comment, leaders need to be patient. As you said they started the process earlier and so need to give their people the time that they in fact have already had.

  • Michael Hollingdale

    Interesting story Doug. I liked your reflections on the disappointment you experienced. Our local cafe in Swanbourne Western Australia changed hands recently. With new staff and a new coffee blend, we along with many faithful followers deserted our local for about 3 months. Happily the old blend has returned and so have we. The makeover is an improvement, but it isn’t the same. That’s the point of new ownership; differentiating yourself from the old. Sometimes it works. If it doesn’t work, I take your point to be thankful for the good experiences you enjoyed with the old.

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