“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.”




It sometimes seems like a fine line between being doomed to repeat past mistakes and learning from history. I am a history nut myself. I love anything to do with the past. As I have said I am a collector of moments and I imagine this is just another facet of that warped personal characteristic.

When I saw this quote, I finally figured out how to explain what I saw in studying the past.

Ok. Two thoughts:

There are so many people in the business world (and government) who seem very focused on ignoring history. I believe this ignorance leads to stupidity. And it is silly stupidity because with a little curiosity you can better understand that many people in the past were pretty smart. They often sought the same things we do now. And while the path they chose may not have gotten them there, there is value in walking the path to see what they saw. My point here is that smart people are smart people – regardless of the time & place in history. The business world, in particular, has put the people of old into the trash-bin of irrelevance. What an incredibly stupid thing to do. I do not care what industry you work in I will guarantee that there was someone in the past who thought conceptually wherein within the concept resides some learnings, or principles, of use today.

There are so many people in the business world (and government) who seem too focused on following the past literally.  They see things and suggest they can be replicated by turning a number of contextual dynamics into a pretzel. I believe ignorant simplistic use of knowledge or information leads to stupidity. And it is silly stupid to believe anyone or anything can replicate the vague outlines of past events into the present.

The people of old offer us learning and knowledge, not answers. Yes. I just said that. You do not follow in footsteps of the past to gain answers. In fact. About the only thing you do get following the footsteps of the old are questions. And while that may sound frustrating, I would suggest knowing the questions, the right questions, is 90% of the way to gaining a quality answer. Because if you ask all the right questions in the present, well, you are actually seeking the same thing the people of the old were – wisdom in the present.


Written by Bruce