Looking Backward…Moving Forward
Why do you look over your shoulder?
Whether you’re driving or riding, glancing in your real view mirror or peeking behind you is important for safety — and perspective. I have a bad habit of dwelling on the past. But sometimes looking at where we’re coming from is important. It helps us avoid crashes. Having just come back from Interbike, my head is filled with touring/racing analogies. So please bear with me.
In business and in life knowing where we’ve come from (and what’s behind us) from can be critical. Here are five times you should look back in order to move forward…
- Avoid bad patterns. Whether you choose to hang out with the same types of toxic people (colleagues, clients, and “friends”) or make similar business mistakes, you need to recognize those potholes that can send you off course. We’re all going to blow a tire at times, but making new gaffes is better than repeating the old ones. Don’t be a crash dummy. Look up too. Prepare for inclement weather and pack your protective gear.
- See who’s gaining on you. We often focus exclusively on the here and now or on our plans for the future. Competition in business can creep up on us and, if we’re oblivious, we’ll wind up losing the race or wiping out. Do not discount that new company or competitor. Study them and figure out how you can keep yourself and products/services one lap ahead.
- Identify your riding team and pit crew. We may lose touch with business contacts or personal connections who have been fiercely loyal and instrumental in shaping our present/future. I recently reconnected with Tony Coretto, who I worked with many years ago (25+) on revolutionizing Citibank’s customer targeting programs — long before technology made it simpler. Some of the principles we applied are still alive and well today, although the methods have changed. I also reached out to my co-author of our book “Don’t Hook Up With the Dude…” Lindsay E. Brown. I’m embarking on a new venture and perhaps I’ll “ride” with her again. People you’ve worked with and for can also provide great, reliable and mutual business references. I also touch base periodically with friends from high school and college (and even grade school). They are great reminders of who you used to be before life’s pressures sent you off course. That helps you keep in touch with the “real you.” Be sure to be kind and helpful to the new riders too. Once people have achieved success they fail to reach out to those who are struggling. Mentorship and accessibility will pay off in the long run.
- Build your confidence. The business world has moved with incredible speed, and we sometimes lose our swagger and faith. Just because you didn’t build an app or launch a new tech-driven business, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable of doing amazing things in the future. Having perspective on how to build a business and revive it when it gets a flat tire are important skills in any era. You may just need a new set of wheels.
- See how far you’ve come. I always look at (but don’t obsess over) my Facebook memories. They are a great reminder of how my business, insights, and personal/professional choices have evolved over the years. I can see who my true friends (in work and life) are. Even looking at where I was a year, month, or day ago can help me view the progress I’ve made and chart my course as I pedal (or zoom) forward.
However, as you look back, don’t ever be afraid to head down that unchartered path or test ride that new vehicle. Just be sure to wear a metaphorical helmet…and pack a snack!