Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Ending Twelve…

As we approach December 31st, all of our hopes and dreams will be indelibly encrypted in the annals of time and only the memory will continue. Sadly enough, the human mind never remembers the original event, but rather a memory of the memory. Through time and new events the facts of the original event gets distorted and frayed in our minds. It is only through reviewing evidence of history that the memory, or rather memory of the memory, comes to the forefront of our minds.Current research into how memories are maintained suggests that the original facts of an event can be lost forever. The research suggests that the senses take precedence over memory. In the study, the researcher took a sample of people who lived through the 1989 events of Tiananmen Square. The sample population was separated into two groups. Group A, were shown pictures of the actual events, while Group B were shown altered pictures of the event. Group A recalled the 1989 event as it occurred. However, Group B had a completely different recollection; very much in alignment with the pictures they were shown.As I watch the sun breaking the horizon, the finality of 2007 is at the forefront of my mind. For the most part, it was a good year filled with successes and tremendous learning experiences. However, as I undertake that arduous task of clearing up emails I am catapulted back to some of the most interesting events of 2007. Until this moment, I had truly lost appreciation for the events that have shaped 2007 and me, personally and professionally. Those events are now lost in time and unless I make the effort to seek them out, I will continue, as always, looking forward to tomorrow. All the while, failing to learn from the past, make the best of the present with the view of reshaping my future.Today is day twelve for cash basis firms with a December 31st year-end; the twelfth deposit day until 2008. To these firms, the race to the finish line is in the home stretch. At this point, nothing is of value but to make the “magic number”. All success is based on the achievement of that goal. However, sadly enough – it doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter because midnight December 31st marks the end, whether or not the goal is met. From that point, a new goal begins. The events of 2007 will then be packaged in the hearts and minds of everyone and we will step into 2008.Although I am not one to follow popular culture, there is a piece of music that resounds of the finality of the endings and the perpetuation history. Closing Time by Semisonic has a line that screams what we have been discussing…“Every new beginning is from some other beginning’s end”. Every event in our lives is gauged against the yardstick of beginning, middle and end. What we fail to do is to understand this continuum and learn from events. We tend to be so caught up in “what’s next” that we fail to learn from our past.Last week I had the opportunity to have lunch with a CFO of a national firm, at a time where every minute is precious. The conversation at hand was how his team has some exorbitant amount to collect before December 31st. The number, which he shared, was significantly higher than in previous years. We spoke about the number and some of the other dynamics of the firm. I came to realize that the feat that was to be accomplished was simply impossible! When I said, with my usual bluntness, Terry (not his real name) that goal is impossible. The deafening silence that resulted was pierced with a sullen ‘I know’. The conversation went down the road of what the partnership needed was a specific number; but all of the dynamics through the year didn’t point to that growth. Instead the events pointed toward 15% shrinkage of the firm.In cleaning up my emails, I found emails from Terry that marked highlights of 2007. These range from adoption of new technology, new processes and expansion into new markets. But today, none of those things matter. What matters is the end, the countdown to the end. The joys and expectations of early 2007 will culminate in disappointment and failure. Sadly enough, 2008 may be fraught with more of the same, as 2008 will begin with new budgets, new expectations, new goals and aspirations, but sadly the same practices. This process calls to mind something I have heard a while ago “insanity is the result of doing the same things the same way over and over, but expecting different results”.In reflecting on 2007, I feel that we fail to have a postmortem on events, personally and professionally, to learn from the past in order to reshape the future – to ward off insanity. Regardless of what the next twelve deposit days bring, realize that the fate of the outcome has been predestined with each passing day of 2007. Once the beginnings of 2008 rain in, take a moment, dig up those old reports, the minutes to 2007 meetings, check emails, and reflect on the actions of 2007 and how they have culminated into the outcome. Keep in mind that the past is recreated in your mind by the information you use to trigger the memory. Create the ‘correct’ image by reviewing ALL the facts – not only the positive ones. Without the ‘correct’ view of the past, the will to change the future will only be a recapitulation of what has already happened.

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