I was stirred by a recent post about personal history on Stephen’s Adversity University. I didn’t get on with history at school. I had great teachers, but I didn’t have a head for names and places. That puts a bit of a damper on being good at it. This was compounded by my belief that nothing interesting had happened prior to 1980, when I got my first computer.
Later, as I worked across different countries, went to places and met people, I realised how important history is, even in business. In the IT world things change fast, but a countries laws and biases change slowly. They impact on how products are marketed and sold, and what people do with them. People’s history shapes their world view, and how they adopt technology.
The great leaders I have met consistently had a good knowledge of history. How is your history? Do you have a sense of personal history, family history and national history? They are important in understanding ourselves, just as much as the technologies around us. For those of us steeped in Social Media, Web 2.0 and Unified Communications, yesterday is too easily forgotten in the excitement about tomorrow.
At a personal level, having a good sense of history provides a strong psychological grounding, which is why Stephen’s exercise of writing down his personal history struck me. It can also give you a good sense of your career. At a professional level, historical knowledge enables more informed and sensitive decisions.
Grab pen and paper, or your favourite text editor. Write down each of the years since you were born and write a sentence by each. If something doesn’t spring to mind for a year, skip over it. You can always go back to it, once the creative juices start to flow. You now have a snap shot of your personal history, handy for writing that biography when you become famous.
Time for me to dig out a history book or two – I benefited from the last one I read back in April – and to keep that habit of creating a journal entry at the end of each day. History happens everyday.