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Four Ways to Use the Past to Ignite Passion

To disrespect the past is to insult those who built the present. It’s difficult to insult people and get them on the team at the same time.

Wise leaders connect the future with the past in ways that ignite vision.

Four ways to use the past to ignite passion and vision:

  1. Honor the dream that gave birth to your organization. “Our organization exists because someone dreamed a dream. You and I are here because of them. How can we honor their dream?”
  2. Admire the vision that enabled people in the past to let go of an unsatisfying present. “Someone in the past said, ‘We can do better.’ Their dissatisfaction ignited vision. How can we translate dissatisfaction into forward momentum?”
  3. Recognize people from the past who gave themselves to the dream. Challenge your team to courageously grasp the baton and run forward. “How can we reflect the character of those who brought us to this point?”
  4. Celebrate the sacrifices that brought you to this moment. “Women and men gave their energy, talent, and resources to bring us to this moment. How can we carry their commitment forward?”

How to be selective:

Is it time to take risks? Tell stories of those who stepped into discomfort for the the cause. Is it time to sacrifice? Remember all the sacrifices that brought you to this opportunity.


  1. Dreams of the past that need to be re-dreamed today.
  2. Qualities of people in the past that will ignite and sustain momentum today.
  3. Behaviors from the past that will move the ball down the field today.

The past is the story you tell about your history.

Keep the future in mind when telling stories about the past.


Publicly honor team members who can tell the story of how your organization began.


Sometimes you need to break with the past. Celebration is a mistake in those cases.

How might leaders use the past to ignite passion and vision?

Who do you need to honor from your past? How can you emulate them?

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