“Past, and to come, seems best; things present worst.” -- William Shakespeare (Henry IV) Memories are a lovely thing to possess. But they are loaded. They either spin you to happiness or may drown you into depression. The past is filled with melancholy and nostalgia. We love to live in the past, because the present is universally awful … and that’s history of human kind. If you read Mirza Asadullah Ghalib, one of the greatest Urdu poets, even he in the 1850s lamented about the era he lived in and recalled with undiluted praise, the joys of the past. “Ab to utni bhi mayassar nahin mai- hane main jitni hum chhord diya karte thay paimane main” is a couplet from one of Ghalib’s timeless ghazals. A very loose translation could be: “Now even the tavern does not have the quantum, we would normally leave in the goblet” or “Alas! Now we cannot even make available for ourselves the quantity (of the spirit) we used to leave in the glass (in the good old days). He too suffered miserably from the perilous economic forces of inflation impacting the ever-increasing price of his “select drink”.
Understanding the past is crucial to the present and the future; however, remaining in the captivity of the past, would not lead the manager towards newer ways of conducting business and thereby achieving better results. To remain on the quest of success, managers have to learn to forgive the past. The past is of the then present and the present was the future of the past, and here in the womb of now (present) is the future. By ejecting from the internalised system of looking backwards, we can wake up as leaders from the slumbers of the past, and rise majestically in the glorious present, with all its attending opportunities. Wearing the fetters of the past, you can’t breathe the fresh air of the present. The need to recall the past must only be driven with the motive to redo the present and the future. Since the carriage of the past cannot drive you to the future, it is best never to mortgage your future to the past.
The present moment … has several dimensions … the present of things past, and the present of things future (Saint Augustine of Hippo 354-430 AD). There is past that remains “alive” in our memory banks and then there is some past that resides in a “latent mode” in our minds, which is ready to spur into action at either the most opportune right time or the most inopportune wrong time, to either propel position action or to send you on down the path of depression.
The likely problems of the morrow must never be allowed to cloud, the present day decision making. The fear of the future weakens resolve of even the best decision makers. It is a trap that must be avoided. The demands of present are always different from the past; the quicker, the supervisor/leader realises this, the better positioned, he is to alter, amend, change, the course of his corporate vessel.
In the office environment, a manager or colleague who is persistently tormenting himself with the past, either of glory and success or of failure, he can never lead a change in the present, for making a formidably good future. The past undoubtedly will always remain beautiful and so would be the future, but this utopian concept is due for delivery only when the present is effectively handled -- always bear in mind, the present and not the past or future is more conducive to your existence.
Living on past glories and laurels is a major pastime of many a member of senior management. Such attitude obviously does not offer a forward looking approach to the management team that has to take up the changing challenges of the present. Story-telling from the past must be restricted for inspirational use only. Unfortunately, I have come across managers who tend to, at the altar of the past and present, put to sacrificial death, the hope of future.
Markets operate in the present and hence have a future to look into. The past behavior of markets is never an insurance against its present or predictable future trends. So decisions, solely based on past trends or data, can lead to disastrous results. It is only the present situation that has the potential to unlock the future gains. Enlightenment, about the importance of present and future relates to rising above the level of the past unpleasant experience or even of a lesser human thought. Hate of the past, must not be carried as a forward item, on the ‘live’ balance sheet of present or today. Ill will and malice, experienced in career, are elements that require quick burial in the sands of time – do not ever, if you are an emancipated and enlightened manager, “mummify” , your unpleasant experiences of ill will or hate, to your treasure chest to look at each day and to seek from it and be guided in your “today’s action”. This is perilous – a self-inflicting, injurious process.
Demonstrating, instead, enmity to bitter past and affection to the present may yield towards a positive action in future. Returning to birth place is possible but youth cannot be brought back. Those, who are forward looking do not allow for the dust of the past in despoiling the face of here and now! The good thing about past is that it is past. It dies in the present moment. Don’t chase after the past, don’t seek future; the past is gone, the future hasn’t come, but see clearly on the spot (present), that object which is now…..!” (G. Buddha). There is no future, like the present. Those managers, who live and breathe in the present, assure themselves of success, now and later, too.
It is a tormenting absurdity for a manager to be and to remain in the company of the past, whilst it is essential for him to strategise on how to prompt and use present day conditions and characteristics for future benefits.
The speed of future life's success depends upon the pace at which we put the past to death. The ‘now’ in our lives, is always a ticking bomb – the present is the funeral of the past and the birth of future. “The past is dead, the future is imaginary. Happiness may only be achieved in the eternal now moment” (Ken Keyes Je). There is no future like the present.
The author is a freelance contributor