Make Friends with Your Past – It can’t be Left Behind

The idea of leaving the past behind is an offense to who you are. And the hope of recreating the past is an offense to who you might become.

Penobscot Bay, Maine


James Taylor touches my longing for the past in Copperline.

“I tried to go back, as if I could, all spec house and plywood.
Tore up and tore up good down on Copperline.
It doesn’t come as a surprise to me, it doesn’t touch my memory
and I’m lifting up and rising free down on Copperline.”

Nostalgia is grasping for a past that’s gone and won’t return. I feel it when I breathe the Maine air and relearn the accent I grew up with.

We left Maine when we were young. Five years ago, we returned for my mother-in-law’s funeral. We’re home again for a few days.

Nostalgia in small doses honors the past. But too much nostalgia is dog shit on the bottom of your shoe.

In large doses, nostalgia pollutes the present and offends the future.

I work with leaders who struggle with the present because it’s not like the past. For example:

  • Your company merged with another and your job radically changed.
  • You poured yourself into a young leader, but she left for a opportunity in another state.
  • Current success is disappointing compared to the success of your past.

Make friends with your past:

The past is never in the past.

Reflecting on the past is opportunity to consider who you have become.

  • How is your past multiplying your capacity to serve? Shrinking it?
  • How might you scorn your current team because they’re not the dream team you had in the past? How do people feel when they’re compared to remarkable others?
  • How might current opportunities go unexplored because they aren’t as good as past opportunities?

How might the past pollute the present? Expand the future?

How might leaders make friends with the past?