future is always a version of the past, but fate ignores your past


“You can’t alter the past. The only thing you can alter is the future. People write stories pretending you can alter the past, but it can’t be done. All you can do to the past is remember it wrong or interpret it differently, and that’s no good to us.”
Diana Wynne Jones


“Undoing history is a waste of time. Ignoring it is even worse. However, repairing the injustices of the past in time, now that is plausible.”
Joshua Isbell


One of the topics that seems to bridge strategic thinking in business and thinking about life is our relationship with the past and the future. On both we consistently rummage thru the past seeking some answers for the future, consistently wonder if our future is fate or ‘fit’ <whether it is of value to utilize what we learned from the past> and all the while, for the most part, we avoid the present until it can no longer be ignored.

What that means is fate, and the future, will always appear to rush upon us. In other words, it doesn’t happen, until it does.

As we wander through the wretched in-between, between past and future, for the most part the present plods along day after day, lulling us into thinking that any future we may fear <uncertainty falls within this realm> will always be somewhere in a distant future. Uh oh. Until, all of a sudden, the fated doom we predicted is upon us and all the time and days we could have turned that particular fate aside or bent our path toward a different fate, well, has passed. The truth is within every plodding day is actually a day in which you could impact your fate, in other words, fit your future to you. Tomorrow, in terms of our ‘doom fate’ thinking and scenarios, may never come, but that doesn’t mean all the todays are inevitably linked in a chain toward SOME fate. It may sound banal, but it will always be a ‘today’ which will be the time we have to divert less-than-desired fates – in other words, we ‘fit’ our future if we use the present well and choose our ‘todays’ wisely.

So how do you discern the right “today to do something” <because it is absurd to suggest investing 100% of your energy and focus 100% of each day>? Well. Simplistically, there is always a chance in something happening by doing something. When someone, anyone, takes action to attempt to make something happen, that something becomes more likely. So doing something is better than doing nothing. That doesn’t mean you should just ‘do something’ <I would also note doing nothing, choicefully, is doing something>. But what I would suggest is that ‘day to do something’ should be judged by how you can create your fate, not recreate your past. I say that because we’ve all seen our situations change and whether we like it or not we will see it change again. But, let’s be clear, life is never a race to restore a past situation nor does one have to hurry to meet the future. Sometimes simply watching offers the most productive opportunities. Ponder that last thought as I would suggest most of us have zero interest in attempting impossible tasks. Investing energy in a task which time has passed or is not possible within the existing context is wasted, or less-than-optimal, energy. I would also suggest attempting to go back to a past state is simply to accept defeat. We must always progress, create something new. It will never the same as it was and trying to recreate the past are the actions of fools and foolish desires. I will suggest this attitude is freeing – in business or in life <strategy>.

The trick is to take what has happened to you and learn from it instead of being trapped by it.

Which leads me to horrible events.

Discerning truly horrible events is a topic in and itself. Suffice it to say not everything is a crisis nor is everything horrible if it goes bad. I would suggest almost 97.5% of mistakes <I made up that number> in business and life are survivable, hence, horrible is relative.

With that as context, no event in life is so terrible that one cannot rise above it. Now. Some people think some events are insurmountable and some experiences change you forever. That could be true, but I tend to believe it is only true if you deem it to be true. The terrible events and experiences reside in that past – they are over and done. What that means is if you cling to it and let it shape you, you are doomed to live it forever. In other words, you are granting it power over you. What you should do is accept it, set it aside, learn from it, and shape your future as you wish it to be in spite of what happened. This taking your fate in your own hands rather than having your past dictate your fate. Look. I am not guaranteeing this will insure success, but, well, if you do something, something is more likely to happen. That’s it. No guarantees, but increases probabilities.


“Remember the past, plan for the future, but live for today, because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.”

Luke the Evangelist


Which leads me to engineering, or re-engineering, our fate.

The present is never neutral and in order to grasp fate, and the world, we have to engineer and shape some concepts which nudge the world. This means we are ‘of’ our environment and still can ‘to’ our environment. That’s kind of important because if we perceive the present as something that can be engineered, we go about shaping it. I would also argue that if you use conceptual thinking to navigate reality you are more likely to gain better understanding not only of the environment, but have one foot in some understanding, or at minimum ‘sense’, of the future. This does not mean you need answers before doing anything only that the ability to conceptually get some grip of reality before acting is useful. I cannot remember which philosopher said this, but knowledge actually aggregates around concepts and conceptual thinking means that concepts get redesigned, and reengineered, as knowledge aggregates. This means concepts naturally shift to meet emerging environments (the future) – and knowledge has a new basis for new learning. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the “re” part of the re-engineering. The entire point of the piece today is the future is always some version of the past yet your fate will be indifferent to your past. So the “re” is how someone uses the past as a launching pad, not an anchor. The past doesn’t dominate your view, or bias, of the future but rather it should fuel alternative paths and concepts. You have to disassociate yourself from the idea the future will look like the past, yet, find the aspects within the future which the past lingers.  There are always lesson which can be drawn from similar past experiences but they will be lessons of analogies, not parallelisms.

In the end.

Everyone, and every business, faces horrible events, all have opportunities to reengineer one’s fate and fate will ignore your past – if you do. But ignoring the past doesn’t mean being untethered from it, just not completely tethered to it. Look. The present will never really demand heroism, just engagement with the present. So, the only trouble you can run into is to keep standing back from it or turning aside from it when given an opportunity. The truth is the horrible mess of life is your life. No more, no less. There is no sense in waiting for it, or anything, to get better, it’s better to just stop putting off things, live it and engage. Yeah. There will be horrible events ,but I will remind you that everyone thinks courage is about facing death without flinching. But almost anyone can do that. True courage is facing the horrible messes, and messiness and uncertainty and ambiguity, of the Present without flinching. Enduring the boredom, the grind, the messiness, and the inconvenience found in doing what is right, not easy. And through the un-flinchingness and endurance you ‘future fit’ what you have in the present and, well, go on. For the future is always a version of the past, but fate, in the end, ignores the past. Ponder.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Written by Bruce