History created by the Victors


“For the first time I have seen ‘history’ at close quarters, and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to posterity.”

From the World War 1 diary of General Max Hoffman

Nothing is more impactful than learning from someone who has actually experienced what they are talking about. This quote reminds us that the experience is often very different than how it is presented afterwards. I would also suggest that actual experience is often abused by perspective (and, yes, I purposefully used abused).

I have worked several places where it feels like I was in several WWI like battles. And even from those experiences I personally have written dozens of case studies that would be proof of this quote (because the case studies don’t reflect half the gore and the baffling leadership decisions). Do we lie when we present the past? No. Not really. Ok. I know I haven’t.  It is more that we may choose to leave some things out to present the “important” points.

In addition I imagine I have abused the experience by electing to highlight only what I wanted to highlight. I also recognize if maybe one of the businesses I had worked with wrote the same case study it would be presented in a completely different way. (and I would imagine that is fairly consistent if anyone presented something from a different perspective). Time affects memory. Perspective affects ‘what was most important,’ Anyway.

Perspective on past experience is funny that way. Look. I am a big history believer. I believe we can learn a lot from past experiences. And I often believe we ignore the past in the interest of only doing something ‘new.’ Well, the reality is that within everything new there is something old. The trick is to understand that what is ‘presented to posterity’ is rarely the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Because in the end it is the victor who presents the past. So. Absorb history with an open mind and continuous curiosity and it is possible you may get close to the truth.

Written by Bruce