Do phrases like ‘The Past is in the Past, Look to the Future’ make you look stupid?

killer cliches and moron mantras part 1

Study the past if you would divine the future.
-Confucius

We all fall back on cliches out of habit. So ingrained they are, we don’t commonly reflect on them nor even remember when we first heard them, and so can’t really be sure we’ve ever thought about them at all. What if the silly saying is secretly sabotaging you? Studies suggest others with influence are judging you by these little moron mantras. People whose respect you need, are taking notes whether you are or not.

“Most assuredly”, is your one line answer. But this is vitally important, so lets explore this one with humor, and learn how its ridiculous, insulting, dangerous, and more expensive than you realize. Not including bad Fleetwood Mac songs dozens of variations exist, they can sound like this:

Stop Living in the Past/Old News/Let it Go…/Stuck in the Past/Ancient History/It’s in the Past/Time to Look Forward/Close that Chapter/Put that Behind You/Look Ahead not Behind…/Wipe the slate clean/Forget about that now/Live in the Now

Say what you will to the grieving widow next door, but in most cases think twice on this one. Consider Wall Street, forecasting financial data to maximize earnings and mitigate risk is rather important. It’s everything. Its about predicting what will happen, and not getting surprised. This is easily accomplished by reviewing data, and recognizing patterns.

Sam: What does your crystal ball say about today? The Times says market is going to crash.

Bob: I saw the papers too. And I don’t have a crystal ball, you are an idiot. What I have is 10 years of data from which I extrapolated some likely outcomes but Sam, looking at a 3 day going up or down is valuable yet doesn’t tell the whole story. This momentary drop has precedent, in fact if the Nasdaq doesn’t drop another 20 points still it’ll be the first time in all my records that it doesn’t. So what is pitched as panic to sell papers, is actually what we most want to see, because it will suggest nothing significant at all is happening. Gut reactions from the less informed means people will be selling, so we will stay cool and be ready to buy. Oh and Sam?

Sam: Yes Bob?

Bob: You’re a newt.

You can quickly find yourself in a boardroom not a classroom and silly comments will cost you. Bob may not say it, but if you are in a meeting with him and you say something indicative of ignoring history, he won’t lecture you like the tweed jacket with suede patches wearing history professor with his civil war stories. Bob has a normal jacket, it came with pants combined they cost around $2k if you are at a restaurant he may say check please, if in an interview he may say thanks, we’ll be in touch. But worst of all is what will most likely happen, he won’t say anything. And you won’t know the damage you just caused.

He won’t say anything because he’ll be speechless, he’ll be too busy questioning to himself all the mechanisms that must have fundamentally failed in order that he find himself sitting with someone that would dismiss the value of the wellspring of data on which his predictions are made, and each dollar. It would be like saying you don’t believe in money, but far worse. A communist is worth more than a moron any day. Quite possibly so incredibly stupid and illogical that no cliche is worse, more frustrating, nor dangerous.

Adopted widely, whether it manifests as a majority vote or blind submission, if you want to wake up with a boot to the neck and a dumb look on your face keep looking to the future in awe, and living for the day. Its not the surprising end of a society, its the inevitable one.

Let us examine the individual, the consumer, the employee and take a cue from Voltaire a little sardonic wit helps to illustrate the stupidity of these sayings. Or god forbid, actually believing them.

Bob: It looks like your credit score of 300 is not going to be sufficient for the bank to issue you a loan, it seems that 5 years ago you didn’t pay off your credit cards and did nothing about it. Also you have a foreclosure from 10 years ago, a lien, a college loan, and other items unpaid.

Sam: Let it go. Move on. You need to get over it and look ahead to the future. The Past is in the past. Some people just can’t move on.

Bob???

Pretty silly right? People think this way, and they don’t always smoke weed.

History is the movie, right now is just one frame, blink and you literally miss it.

What happens when we remove appreciation of accomplishment?

Bob: I’m a Nobel Prize laureate

Alice: You “were”.

Bob: I’ve won 3 Academy Awards.

Alice: yawn, that was in the past, I don’t see how this qualifies you for anything.

Bob: my SAT score is 1600.

Alice: Dude that was high school

Bob: I was Elected the country’s President.

Alice: That was almost 8 friggin years ago you’re almost as lame as those ex-presidents.

Bob: I scored the most touchdowns in the history of football.

Alice: Today? oh way back when get over yourself.

Bob: I hold the industry sales record to this day”

Alice: And what have you done for me lately?

Bob: I attended Harvard Medical School, was Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at the Salk Institute, the Surgeon General of the United States

Alice: Don’t push your politics on me pal, you’re making this interview very divisive, that’s not what we’re about here. I suppose I still call you “doctor” even if you aren’t currently practicing?

Bob: Well I administered a charity for wayward teens for 15 years up until a couple years ago, I also minored in electronics and am registering a patent for a new learning chip for smartphones to better individualize and adapt school lessons to kids with ADD-like symptoms, on a uniquely personal level. It’s almost ten years ago we built the prototype and after some fidgeting and learning we have a beta version that tested positively, but when the subjects complete high school in 4 years their final grades will determine its true potential. I also teach jazzercise class but I’m not gay.

Alice: As if. So 15 years running a charity wow. That makes you really old. 10 ten years ago, 4 years from now, something in the middle blah blah I wasted a decade in a half and have nothing to show for it? Bob I create a person in 9 months, pick up the pace pal. Look, your little hobby sounds fun but a business ain’t a business until the check hits the bank your free charity work probably didn’t teach you that. Bob, if you’re done reminiscing, maybe we can talk about something recent? Or just relevant? We sell consumer electronics products for millenials who are not like other kids frankly, they need things instant, they want them now. We’re looking for a manager that can keep up, to help take us into the future, and not one so obsessed with the past.

Depriving people of deserved recognition, past accolades, and dismissing qualifications has what should be obvious consequences like removing incentive to do anything as no matter how well you do its “in the past”. Good luck with choosing random people for a position because you ignore a degree from ten years ago. Don’t bother to tap the resources of experts. What are the odds they can save you time, prevent common mistakes, and increase the chances of you succeeding. If you want to win at something why waste time listening to a 4X winner. Why that’d be like asking Tiger Woods for help playing golf, I mean he’s retired now right?

But how about consequences for mistakes? We can’t leave that out. Here’s some examples.

Bob: He murdered 12 people!

Alice: Um, way to hold a grudge.

Bob: He’s a convicted child molester.

Alice: Gosh one mistake ages ago.

Bob: She fucked the whole football team, while we were married, on our anniversary, and my birthday, 3 years in a row!

Alice: OK well clearly you can’t get over things. I think it’s creepy that you’re obsessing.

Bob: My partner locked me out of my own company, domains, websites, phone lines, resigned clients under his name. I just lost my home this is crazy, talking shit behind my back just killed a project my only way to survive, it was worth more than you can imagine now orders are coming in I can’t fulfill I can’t refund fast enough without a place to work from and dont want to throw away money when I’m starving. It’s crazy, and now my closest friend told me he was warned to distance himself and turn me away.

Alice: Whoa. Watch it with the blame game. Failure is often associated with excuses and accusations. Look you need to move on, you’re better than this. You have to let go.

Close all the prisons, open the asylums. We don’t need police. Sorry St Peter, you’re fired. Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights out the window! Deeds, titles, loans, rip ’em up. Tenure? 401K? Stock options? Paid sabbatical we agreed to that a decade ago get over it Jonesy. Hey son about that college fund, we uh figured since it was so long ago that you probably long since forgot so have fun at JC. In fact nobody do anything, say anything because anything you do wait…ok its now in the past. And all promises and warranties are worthless, trust entirely erodes from your peer to peer pipe dreams to institutional trust of yesterday, certainly the rickety bridge in between that we walk on today.

Who draws the line anyway? Do we have some innate sense common across the globe to say what is valid past and what is old history? It’s a cop out. Fear of loss may be stronger than desire for success but without recognition of success or consequence for failures there’s no reason to do something or not do something. Nothing significant has changed with humanity, and most things repeat. Everything is obvious unless you aren’t paying attention. Until you do, the rest of us actually cannot assume everything is obvious, and must concede for sake of the weakest links that in fact nothing is obvious, and sense not common. But it doesn’t have to be that way. C’mon, do it for the symmetry.

The rotation of the sun is ancient history, yet dismissing it means never knowing when and where the sun will rise. History tells us what food is poisonous, what tools work for what jobs, who deserves trust, what destroys freedom, what makes societies flourish, what makes your skin healthy, what party is going to take the white house, and who your enemy is, and who is manipulating you. The goddamn newspaper is history before it reaches your hands.

Smart people look for data, dumb people ignore it. There is no context for even comprehending the moment you are in without history, and what happens next good or bad is determined by what happened before. Dismissing precedent and pattern, the most obvious of assumptions can now not be made.

To dismiss success and ignore failure is to recreate an environment that only exists for infants. Shielded from the harsh rules of nature, and softer rules of men, the infant can be permitted to live this dream world as long as the parent is there to provide it. And any adult that entertains it is simply ignoring literally everything.

There are consequences to ignoring consequences. And there is an old saying about those who ignore history.

It’s a lazy cop out. Strive for success, be inspired by it let it encourage you to know that something is possible. Or throw that away by being threatened by it, indulging feelings of inadequacy, and envy. Consequences don’t need to be removed so you feel free to fail. The game works, trust the rest of us that know that. If you’ve been saying it absent mindedly and don’t feel this way, good lord stop and make today the day you distinguish yourself from as many “moron mantras” as possible

Looking ahead is great, and you should pay attention to where you are going but the rear view can tell you if you’re leaving a trail of destruction behind you. Ignoring this is reckless, and selfish but mostly self defeating as without paying attention to cause and effect you won’t learn anything, and will dramatically increase the number of mistakes you make and simply stand slack jawed scratching your head when things work out exactly wrong. If you think predictions are psychic powers, and forecasting is weather, you will be missing what is easy to see, we all have the same world in front of us, and the same data. Most things new in technology are logical, obvious, and inevitable. Most things trending from fashion to protests, are pushed, instigated. And the trail is in plain sight, for now. Most things political are obvious too, but only when you turn off the TV. Watch CSpan, check the voting records, scan the world headlines, know the players, watch the markets, you’ll get it if you care enough to.

If you do believe in these cliche sentiments that is your choice. But know you are choosing to be reckless and look stupid. Are your silly little statements making you look stupid? Yes. I promise. The only way it wouldn’t be the case is if you are perfectly surrounded by the exact wrong set of people, and all of you artificially insulated from the realities of the natural world. In fact its literally while making you look and even become stupid, perhaps the most ignorant thing you can possibly say. So, fix it. Instead of small talk take a stab at maybe throwing a retraction out there to a boss a colleague, a loved one, your bartender, etc. “you know I was thinking about this thing I used to say and gosh, I think I even said it to you. In retrospect I must have looked like a moron…” This shows maturity, responsibility, it shows you think, and that what people think of you matters beyond the superficial. These are startlingly rare qualities. I can’t think of any time it wouldn’t impress me except the case you sound insincere.