Look backwards to move forward – or something like that.
About 2550 years ago the Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius advised “Study the past, if you would divine the future.”
With the future coming at us faster than ever (it seems), I thought it might be a good thing to toss a thought or two about “the future” your way. And don’t worry, the good thinking won’t come from me. I’m too stressed.
Last night my wife told me that she’d like to talk about our family finances this weekend, that with our three girls in their early 20s (all single and now in serious relationships), she’d like to know how prepared we are to pay for any upcoming weddings.
See why I’m stressed? Wouldn’t you be?
So while I’m not really sure how looking back in time is going to help me with my pending “future” predicaments, I think Confucius was right.
Certainly, his advice flies in the face of today’s popular “forget the past, embrace the future” sentiment, but Confucius isn’t the only thinker standing on this mountain top.
Futurist David Zach believes that understanding our history – especially while we’re in the midst of living our present – is the best foundation for creating the closest thing to the future we’d like to have. Only by elevating and expanding our field of vision, will we be able to discern the crucial differences between “fads, trends, and principles,” an awareness and knowledge essential in effective strategic and future planning.
I heard David speak at a NSPRA conference in San Antonio, TX in 2000. He’s presented at many other workshops for educators, designers, and organizational leaders all over the country. In reviewing my own 13 year-old conference notes (studying history per Confucius), I’m still amazed at how insightful he was.
When we were starting school this fall, I was excited that our SCN feature writer Kym Reinstadler was able to interview David for our scnforyou.com site. Here’s a direct link to the article. It includes links to David’s website, too. If you’ve got a few more minutes, check it out.
If Kym were to interview David Zach again, I’d ask her to ask him a question for me: “As a father, should I consider (and hope) that my daughters’ current boyfriend status is more like a “fad” – or should I just plan accordingly and accept that this whole marriage thing is really more like a “principle?”
Tom Page, SCN managing editor