Great passage from our latest company book club selection, Creativity, Inc:
Hindsight is not 20-20. Not even close. Our view of the past, in fact, is hardly clearer than our view of the future. While we know more about a past event than a future one, our understanding of the factors that shaped it is severely limited. Not only that, because we think we see what happened clearly— hindsight being 20-20 and all— we often aren’t open to knowing more. “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it— and stop there,” as Mark Twain once said, “lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again— and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.” The cat’s hindsight, in other words, distorts her view. The past should be our teacher, not our master.
I first wrote about this idea in relation to quoting a memorable line from “Her” a few months ago: “The past is just a story we tell ourselves.” In my own life, this week I learned that someone I knew had constructed a story of the past few months that was basically diametrically opposed to my own. Now, with a bit of space, I get it. Given that hindsight isn’t 20-20, and that we each construct stories to cope, and get by, there’s this huge danger that we learn “lessons” imbued with the wrong takeaways. Since we’re so often not even aware of the subtext, our baggage, the invisible layers that we’ve constructed from our past and the origin of our lessons, it’s all invisible to us. One day in the future, maybe we look back, and in a moment of clarity, see the truth for what it actually was. Maybe. It’s a very sobering thought that we can’t trust our past…that we can’t trust our memories.
I had breakfast with one of my board members on Thursday that closed with a pep talk. One of his themes was the importance of taking punches. As an amateur boxer, he was explaining boxing strategy and the importance of taking some punches to maybe set up for that one shot that you’ll need to end the fight. I’ve always had a tough time with losing. I don’t love winning, I just like it . But I absolutely *hate* losing. It eats at me. (I have a set of questions for how I parse people, and whether they’re a “love winning” or “hate losing” is a favorite. Most people, I’ve found, love winning more than hate losing. I’m the exact opposite.) This trait runs in the face of taking punches well. So now I’m thinking about how I can take the punches better and, maybe even accept losing. This flies in the face of “my programming,” so it will be a slog, if even possible. But like everyone, I want to win the war, and I’d admit that sometimes you have to be OK losing battles along the way to do so.
I got punched in the face this week. I keep reminding myself to not take away the wrong lessons. My challenge is to take the punch and set myself up for what’s next. I don’t want to be the cat who won’t sit down on a cold pot. I bristle at the idea that the past be my master vs just my teacher.
So, go read Creativity, Inc. Be careful not to draw the long lesson from a painful experience. Maybe take some boxing lessons. Sit on a cold pot.