Thinking about the future in reverse

It is no secret that I struggle for inspiration to write.  Or is motivation?  Maybe opportunity?  My head is full and I am overflowing with observations, but for some reason it doesn`t make it to my hands.

Is it possible to have carpal tunnel that blocks thoughts from the brain to fingers?  I am certain there is. I have it.

So here I find myself on a train for a work trip and I am ready to write.  It seems that all I needed was to get out of my space and be alone among others to get the itch to write.  I was totally born in the wrong era – I need a typewriter and a permanent seat on a train.

So I am sitting here, watching the scenery that has already passed by in my rear-facing seat, reflecting on how you can move forward when you are stuck facing backward.

There are quite a few food dishes that I swore I hated as a kid.  I grew up hating them, whether it was the taste, the smell or the texture.  Then I became an adult and had someone other than my mom cook these dishes and I was amazed to discover I really enjoyed them.  My mom made solid meals, far be it from me to complain about being fed, but they just never lived up to their potential.  Please don`t tell her.

And then there are quite a few books that I swore I hated.  I loathed discussing them in high school – felt they were the obligatory Pablum we were supposed to read.  Then I became an adult and realized that there was a reason to read these books and that maybe with fewer distractions (ahumph…boys) and more actual discussions, I would have liked them more back then. Except The Stone Angel, that remains on par with canned peas.

One of these books is The Great Gatsby.  This is one that people like or hate.  I like it.  I like pretty much everything about it, and the ending in particular always stays with me:

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.“

It is the idea that as much as we think we want to move forward, and make attempts to stride into the future,  we are always drawn back to our past – something that both defines who we are and that we feel compelled to try to re-write.

This is both an individual and collective compulsion.  As individuals we get older, we have new experiences, we have goals, we reach milestones, and then we hit a loop that brings us back to some part of our past that forces us to realize that as much as we thought we had moved forward, it wasn`t quite as far as we thought.  Two steps forward, one step back.

As organizations, we live to re-define what we have already done, but as we run forward, it is hard not to feel like you have seen that tree before….and that rock, I am sure we passed that rock already…wait a minute, we have DEFINITELY passed that blue house.  And we are asked to trust that this new path, while familiar, is new and better.  It will lead us to new paths, smoother path…it will be uncomfortable and yet, this feels so familiar. Organizational déja-vu.

When change becomes the usual state, then is it really change?  Or is it like walking into a mirrored room and seeing one thing reflected in multiple surfaces, leading us to believe we are seeing a number of different things.

One of the most dreaded war cries of long-term employees is: `that won`t work, we have tried it before`.   We have all heard it.  Hell, I am certain we have all said it.  (Admit it, you did).  And it`s true.  We have tried it before, and it didn`t work, but to quote Fitzgerald, “tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther“ and hope that this is the time that it will work, that this time we will crest the wave and move closer to the green light.

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