The trouble with the future is the past.

September 15th, 2016

That which is most likely to hold you back today and tomorrow is yesterday.

When you are in the change business, you quickly learn that your best friend and worst enemy is the past. Best friend because it informs you, thus preventing you from fulfilling Einstein’s well-known definition of insanity. Best friend because it excites you, thus providing the impetus to move forward rather than remain stagnant. Best friend because it reassures you, providing a comforting albeit false sense of security that your now-proven ability to survive yesterday is some sort of indicator that the same will continue to be true, provided you repeat that general set of actions. But the question you should be asking is not what’s right about something, but rather what’s wrong. And it is in the answering of that question whence came the realization that the past is something we could all do without.

“Ahh, you must be mad!” I can hear the wild protestations now. “Without the past, history would be doomed to repeat itself.” Really? I quite doubt that. I mean, I can’t even get my cappuccino machine to repeat itself from one cup to the next. “How would we learn, without knowing what did and didn’t work?” Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been one to learn by making mistakes in the present. In fact. what I most often take from the past is an inexorable urge to lean on it like a crutch, clinging to ‘just enough’ as good enough because it provides some security against the irrational fear of utter failure. I would have to say that, being in the change business, the Sisyphean task with which I am faced most often is eschewing default mechanisms, and encouraging colleagues and clients to do the same. To remind myself, and those I work with, that not only will the safe port always be there should the adventure get too scary, but that the port is not so safe after all. That standing still is an illusion, and like it or not you are either on the bus or under it. And that the only safe bet is to arm yourself with knowledge and good colleagues, trust them both, go with your gut, take a deep breath and step out into the abyss. But don’t do it with dread; do it with wonder. And for God’s sake don’t be thinking about the past in that moment, but rather be in that moment, and in the next if you can muster the wherewithal.

Happy travels.

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