The Good Ole Days

by Ron Potter

Notice anything unusual about these medieval castle ruins?  You wouldn’t unless you knew it was built in the 18th century to resemble a medieval castle constructed in the mid-five hundreds.

Why do we have this fascination with the “good ole days”?

The Good Ole Days

I was born in the late nineteen forties.  So for me, the good ole days were probably the decade of the ’50s.  I have fond memories of lying in the front yard at night, looking at the stars, and listening to the Tigers play baseball on my portable radio.

We lived in the country about 3 miles from town.  I remember getting on my bike and riding to town and anywhere else I wanted to go.

We also lived on a piece of property with a wonderful stream running through it.  I remember leaving the house with my Red Rider BB gun.  On every occasion, my mother would say “don’t get wet!”  And on every occasion, I would come home wet.

To me, those were the good ole days.

But they weren’t all good.  I remember doing nuclear bomb drills at my school where we got under our desks.  Seems ridiculous now but that was all we had at the time.  My dad who had lost a leg in WWII built a new house in the early ’50s.  Off one corner of the basement, he built what we knew as the “storm shelter” but as I look back today, it may have been his attempt to build a bomb shelter.

Those “good ole days” were not all good.  But my memories of the good parts seem to outweigh the bad parts.  Research demonstrates that our mind enhances those good moments to the point of fantasy.  They were good but not as good as we remember.

The Good Ole Days were short-lived

For me, those good ole days were pretty much the 50’s.  The 60’s brought the sexual and drug revolution.  I didn’t understand or get involved with either.  I had a family member who dropped out of college in his senior year and moved to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.  That made no sense to me at all.

By the 70’s, I had graduated from Engineering School and was working.  I enjoyed it but it was work.  Not like the good ole days of being carefree.

In the ’80s I started a software company.  It was a new technology and it was exciting.  But still not like the good ole days.

From the ’90s on I had moved into Leadership and Team consulting and coaching.  Probably the most satisfying work I could imagine but I also had to sit in an airplane seat for 4 million miles to accomplish it.  Still not the good ole days.

So I began to wonder, are everyone’s “good ole days” short-lived and from an earlier part of their lives?  I imagine they could come from any portion of our lives but I believe they are probably short-lived.  So why this yearning for the good ole days when it was such a small portion of our lives?  A Wall Street Journal article indicated that 41% of Americans believe life is worse today than 50 years ago.

Placing our Identity in the past can be both natural and useful

I must admit that much of my identity is based on my life during the ’50s.  Life seemed to be simpler.  Life seemed to be more about community.  Life seemed to be more carefree.  I would head out the back door and jump on my bike and head in almost any direction I wished.  My grandchildren don’t have that kind of freedom today.  It’s sad to me but I also need to remind myself that every generation has probably experienced very changes.

Leaders and Team Members

I think the lesson here is to not get too stuck in our own “good ole days”, no matter how recent or distant.  I entered the workforce in the early seventies.  That was less than 30 years after the end of WWII.  America was rebuilding and the management approach of the day was built on a military model that many of the leaders had experienced first hand.  But that model was already beginning to chafe on the young generation (me) who wanted to be more entrepreneurial and innovative and not just do what we were told to do.

After starting in traditional engineering work, I saw my first microcomputer.  This was new and exciting and I wanted to be a part of it.  When I told my boss that I wanted to shift out of engineering and into microcomputers his response was “what’s a microcomputer?” I said hang on, you’ll find out.  In a few years, we had shifted the work that we had been doing on an IBM370 which we leased for tens of thousands of dollars per month to microcomputers that cost almost nothing in comparison.

Millennials

As I was wrapping up my 50 years in the business world, almost every leader I was working with was complaining about the millennial generation and their lack of a good work ethic.  I watched that generation get excited about things and put in many hours and a lot of brainpower.  They were working through something entirely new and exciting and different than any company had seen before.  It’s not that they didn’t have a work ethic (good ole day thinking) but they liked tackling things in new and innovative ways.  They were doing things differently, just like every generation before them.

As a leader, you need to keep an open mind and watch with curiosity and interest how the next generation is tackling things.  Mentor them.  Guide them.  Don’t tell them they need to do things as it has always been done in the good ole days.

Learn from them.  One of your jobs as a leader is to keep learning.

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