The Space Between Moving Forward and Looking Back.

Anthony Ewing
Oct 6, 2016 · 5 min read

This is an article about gratitude. The space between moving forward and looking back.

We like to talk about the exact moment when musicians or artists are “discovered”. This is typically when their work is validated by someone extremely meaningful and their life changes because of this moment. Here is an wildly clear example. It may be my single favorite piece of content on the internet:

There is a very specific moment in this clip (at about 2:35) where you can actually see the aspiring musician, Maggie Rodgers’ life change. The look on her face and Pharrell’s simultaneous acknowledgement is just pure gold. “I have zero notes for that and I’ll tell you why. You’re doing your own thing. It’s singular,” Pharrell says.

In his feedback, Pharrell provided the ultimate forward momentum for Maggie. He wanted to articulate her talent and motivate her to simply continue with her great work. What an absolute gift. Maggie Rodgers was venerable in front of one of the greatest in the game, and expected little in return. What she got in return was the beginning of the rest of her career.

Artists, musicians and athletes often commemorate the exact moment that changed their career as a sign of gratitude for where they came from. Why don’t we do the same as business professionals?

All of us have people in our lives that perpetuate our career goals. My grandfather was my biggest career advocate. Talking to him made me feel like I was right around the corner from CEO of a fortune 500 company (I’m convinced that’s also what he told his friends). Mentors, bosses, and career coaches also have a lasting impact on our most important career decisions. I will never forget who I was talking to (and what I was doing) when I decided to apply for the promotion, move to a new city, or leave a company.

We also have specific moments in our career that catapult us forward in some ways. Weather its walking accross a stage to accept an award, or making the decision to start a business and go out on your own, milestone moments are typically confirmed by the people around us who believe so strongly in our ability to move forward.

These moments of “discovery”are critical shifts that often propel us forward so quickly that we may not recognize the exact moment in time.

So whether “the moment” is captured as perfectly as the above video with the a new musician and her icon, or it’s hidden in a string of events over time; why should we stop and acknowledge this space?

A few weeks ago, I booked a last minute flight from San Francisco to Chicago to surprise two of the most important people in my career at an industry event. My former boss Chuck (right) was being acknowledged as a new board member and my mentor Cathy (middle) was giving the keynote presentation. These two individuals have been a huge part of my “discovery” and I was at the precipice of making a bold move to move forward in my career.

What drew me to impulsively book a last minute flight to Chicago for a 2 hour reception? As I stood and watched Chuck and Cathy in action, I couldn’t help realize that I was there to acknowledge the past and the tremendous impact these two have have on my impending future forward… I was standing in the space between moving forward and looking back. It was a space full of gratitude.

A 24-hour flip from SF to Chicago allowed me to spend time in the space between moving forward and looking back. This space is full of “gratitude”.

Moving forward is extremely easy for me. I am a glutton for the next challenge and obsessed with the process it takes to achieve the end game. Looking back is not a problem either —admittedly, I am working on looking back with less of an eye on regret (more acknowledging the past for exactly what it was at the time). Standing there with my two mentors gave me a chance to be in a unique space between “the forward” and “the backward”. I became extremely comfortable with the fact that I had no intention of being with these two people other than to be with them at that moment.

I won’t try and define gratitude. It is at the heart of pretty much every broad philosophy on success and achievement. It is a tool that has been used to commemorate times of growth or deal with difficult times.

I do think I have an idea on where to find gratitude. It lies right in between pushing forward and looking back. It is surrounded by those moments of “discovery” where others show us the great in who we are and what we have to offer. And finally, it is in a very still place — one of little intention other than to acknowledge exactly where you are today.

So how can we use this new space? As my career takes me in a more client services direction, I start to obsess over the value exchange. Giving 51% of the value, always, in order to ensure others grow from my offerings. It is easier said than done in a world where we are adamant about landing big deals through a series of big “right hooks”, with very little focus on the long-term relationships; the years of “jabs” needed in order to ask for something in return.

Gratitude can be a great Northstar for client services businesses looking to optimize the value exchange.

Clearing yourself of intention and leading with humility can be seen and felt, even physically in your interactions. I believe my mentors knew I had no other reason for the trip to Chicago, other than to support them. Working from a position of gratitude can prevent you from overstepping the 51/49% rule that allows you to deliver for your customers.

For Maggie Rogers, her point of “discovery” was etched in a viral YouTube clip. You can see the exact moment when everything from her past put her in a position to be shot right into her future, with help from the famous recording artist, Pharrell.

I will continuously challenge myself to acknowledge these moments in my career. The snapshot with Chuck and Cathy is an artifact of an extremely pure position of gratitude. The space between looking back and moving forward.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade