Sometimes it’s really hard to get excited about the future. It’s much easier to look back on the things that made you happy with a sense of nostalgia. Some people do that by looking back on happiness they found in relationships, some find it in products they love, others find it in special places they visited, but reminiscing about the things you know, is always easier than imagining the things you don’t.
When I was growing up, the pastor of a church I went to always reminded his congregation that, “No matter what age you are, the best is yet to come”. I liked him. He was one of those people who always had an optimistic view of the future, (I guess you’re in trouble if you work for God and you’re not optimistic about the future, but that’s a whole different conversation).
I’ve always preferred looking forward to looking backwards.
I’ve had quite a bumpy life at times, so perhaps part of the reason for that is self preservation, who knows? I’m sure a psych would have a clever explanation. Maybe that’s why I like riding my bike so much, there are no rear-view mirrors! I remember watching Vanilla Sky just before my 30th birthday in 2001 and writing a quote Penelope Cruz said in my notebook in big letters, “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around”. She was fantasizing about the future and how tomorrow is more exciting than yesterday. There is always the chance for a fresh start. I liked that.
I started a new job recently. It’s both exciting and scary, so I’ve been looking back on some of the people who have inspired me in the past, in order to try and make sense of the future.
Two of my favourite human beings are Raf Simons and Billy Beane. Two completely different characters, but both romantically linked in my mind. No, NOT like that… romantically linked in a different way ~ by beautiful things they have said.
Billy Beane was the GM of the MLB team Oakland A’s. He was a superstar after breaking all kinds of MLB records, but he found fame outside of baseball when Michael Lewis wrote the book Moneyball about him, and it was made into a film starring Brad Pitt in 2011. It’s a GREAT film.
There is one particular scene where Brad plays Billy and he is trying to decide whether to follow his head or his heart. Having achieved almost everything he set out to do, he was offered the chance to join the iconic Boston Red Sox, in a deal that would have made him the highest paid GM in the history of sports. Unsure of what to do, he watches a sentimental piece of game tape with his partner Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill). Taking a deep breath after pausing for a moment Billy says,
“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
Billy was planning his next step, but he didn’t want the nostalgia of the past to cloud his judgement.
Fast forward three years to 2014 and I am watching Dior & I. Probably my favourite documentary, not least because it convinced me to leave my comfortable job at Salesforce, for the chance of creating something special at IBM. The star of Dior & I is Raf Simons, ex-creative director of Jill Sander, and the newly appointed creative director of Christian Dior.
The film follows Raf through his first few weeks at Dior, where he is tasked with modernising one of the world’s most iconic and traditional brands. He has some quite extreme ideas for taking Dior forward, but his challenge is respecting the history of the brand and the legacy of the past.
Of course Raf succeeds by balancing the original and the modern perfectly, but only because he manages look at the future in a different way to everyone else. The ateliers and management at Dior were very precious about the past and resistant to change, but they realised that the house needed to move forward. Raf was chosen as the person best suited to this huge task because he had a unique view of the future.
“The future for me is romantic. I don’t understand people who say the past is romantic. Romantic for me is something you don’t know yet. Something you can dream about. Something unknown and mystical…”
If you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend it. Especially if, like me, you work for a large company with deep values and traditions, that is going through any kind of transformation.
People often quote Oscar Wilde when thinking about the future, especially when things might be looking a little dark. “Everything will be OK in the end…” he is alleged to have once said ~ “…and if it’s not OK, it’s not the end”. These quaint words seem like the perfect bumper sticker quote for anyone facing difficult or challenging times, but they risk leaving us fantasising about the future in a way that might not be helpful or productive. It’s easier to focus on the weeks, months or years ahead, than it is to focus on today.
Tomorrow requires more vision. Today demands more action.
The problem, especially in the world of technology where I spend most of my time, is that it moves too fast. The great modern philosopher Ferris Beuller once said,
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it”.
Raf Simons decided that life was moving too fast. He realised that working at Dior didn’t afford him enough opportunities to express himself creatively and he left. He accepted a role with much more freedom as the creative director of Calvin Klein a few days ago, but his view of the future is as romantic as ever. When talking about how he was going to focus on today and not get too distracted by long term visions he said,
“The fashion world doesn’t know when to stop, so you have to make sure there are sublime moments everyday”.
So that’s my ‘takeaway’…
Life moves pretty fast, but remember the past. Keep an optimistic and romantic view of the future… but try to create sublime moments each and everyday.