A Sense of History

August 2012

I’m writing this on Saturday to get a jump on my week. Last night I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. The brilliantly creative show showed the past, present and future of Great Britain. There was a cast of thousands of people (all volunteers) in various costumes ranging from historical to magical. I really enjoyed the energy, humor and humanity of the event. The exuberant volunteers were all sizes, shapes, and ages, and seemed thrilled to be a part of the madcap extravaganza. They were interesting characters that I would love sharing a pint and some tales with at the local pub.

As I thought about the past milestones the event depicted, my mind went to how important it is to have a sense of history in life. Perhaps I’ve also been thinking about this because I (and my siblings) have been helping my parents sort out and pack their belongs as they prepare for a move from their beloved home of many years. Being immersed in hundreds of glimpses of my family’s past — battered scrapbooks, treasured heirlooms, annotated cookbooks, grainy home movies, and faded ancestral letters — has triggered many poignant memories. It has also caused me to reflect on my mother and step-father’s lives. We have talked about such things as the provenance of the old buggy seat, the sepia photograph of my grandfather (so handsome!), the context of a letter scrawled decades before. All of this has given me a stronger sense of who I am, knowing more about my family’s past.

Sometimes it seems that we are too quick to want to move into the future. We forget the valuable lessons from the past. We lose sight of those who came before us, who worked so hard so that we might be successful, happy, and loved. I see this not just in our personal lives, but also in our professional lives. I believe it is important to know the history of our organizations: how the culture came to be, the events that shaped the company, the vision of the founders. What lessons does your organization’s past hold for you? In turn, how do you pass along not just the institutional knowledge, but the values of your organization for those that will come after you? If I can support you in exploring these questions, please ask. Enjoy the rest of summer!

Warm regards,

Sharon Keys Seal

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