Dwelling on the past can either be a recipe for sadness or a springboard for new ideas.
It can remind us of how we overcame adversity, took a new road, mastered challenges and seized new opportunities or stayed on the old, familiar road while it fell behind the times, became obsolete and no longer took us on the right journey.
Yesterday, an old school friend emailed some photos of our old country, Rhodesia from the 1960’s and 70’s. Most of them were of bush scenes, mountains, elephants and other animals. All stark reminders of an era long gone, a happier more simple time.
The one above, and I am hoping that I am not infringing the photographer’s rights as it seems to be in the public domain, shows the “strip” roads which were widely used in Southern Africa in the first part of the 20th century. According to Wikipedia, by 1945, there were 3300 km of strip roads in Southern Rhodesia. (For the sake of being historically correct, the country was previously called Southern Rhodesia.)
Driving on those roads was an adventure, for oncoming vehicles to pass, each had to move to the left, steering the passenger side wheels on to the dirt shoulder while keeping the driver side wheels on the left hand strip of tar. (Most countries South of the Equator in Africa drove on the left.) When the dirt shoulders and centre strip had been washed or worn away, it could get quite exciting with neither driver wanting to move too early and risk damaging tyres or wheels.
This was in the days before ABS, power steering or radial tyres.
I was reminded how far personal transportation had advanced since those days by a documentary on BBC about the latest technology being built into vehicles. Systems that will allow cars to communicate with one another, warn of vehicles in blind spots, make reversing safer, alert drivers who are wandering out of lanes, even cars that drive themselves.
A whole new industry has been created for computer and communication technology specifically designed to make vehicles safer and easier to operate.
This is not a post about smart cars, but the transformation from strip roads to driver-less cars in 70 years is a good indicator of the scale and speed of change seen by the baby boomer generation.
Products and whole industries have been invented or developed, grown, matured and become obsolete during that same period. Fax machines, typewriters, 8 track stereo, tape cassettes, rotary telephones, bulky TV and computer monitors, VHS, video hire. Others are on the downward slope to oblivion, CDs, probably cable TV in its present form.
There are some products and services that have morphed into others while only retaining a small, specialised part of their original market. Two way radio communication sales have been eroded by smart phones and wireless providers in most urban and many rural locations.
Very few buck the trend, there are few exceptions. Partly from nostalgia and partly from a real or perceived quality advantage, sales of vinyl records and players have been increasing. Remember the LPs and singles of the pre-cassette and CD days?
There are enthusiasts in many spheres who keep the memories of old brands and ideas alive. Vintage car collectors, re-enactment societies, artisans using traditional equipment, but these are collectors or traditionalists with hobbies, few likely to generate a widespread resurgence in popularity for their passions.
One of the greatest changes affecting most of the countries in the developed world, and one which will affect those countries rising up the ladder of economic development in the future, is the effect on long term employment in the traditional model.
When products and services can be created, developed, become obsolete and forgotten in a cycle measured in months or years instead of the decades or centuries in the past, life time employment with one employer or in one industry is doomed.
Automation and the export of jobs to developing countries eradicates or changes many other jobs.
What does this all mean to us?
It means that we have to rely on our own skills, our ability to change and to think differently, no matter which generation we are part of. Generations X & Y have the added burden of raising and educating children in an increasingly uncertain world.
Millennials and school leavers are being launched into a very different world to their parents and grandparents. With higher debt levels, fewer “formal” job prospects and a murky window into the future.
It’s not all bad, The Internet has provided huge earning opportunities that were unknown 10 years ago. It has also allowed any one with an Internet connection to access more information on more topics than can be absorbed in a lifetime.
Most importantly, it has given all of us no matter our age, the chance of creating our own destiny.
Back to the strip roads for a moment. The next development, as funds became available, was to fill in the space between the strips with tarmac to create a solid paved road with a width of 9 feet. Passing vehicles still had to put two wheels in the dirt but it prevented the too frequent, sickening lurch as the driver side wheels plunged into the soft dirt between the two strips.
There are still hundreds of kilometres of these “9ft tar” roads in regular use in Zimbabwe, sadly as a consequence of Zimbabwe’s disastrous economy, many of these have degenerated into dangerous obstacle courses with more potholes and dirt than tarmac.
We all have the choice of taking the new road to a brighter future or staying on the old road trying to navigate the potholes.
The roadmap for the new road is education, training and action, taking the first step in that new direction.
I have been following Chris Brogan for over two years, I am a regular reader of his newsletter, bought his recent book The Impact Equation, subscribe to his new Owner magazine and recently joined his daily email programme for Owners. The last includes membership of an active and supportive group on Google+.
Of the many “gurus” I have followed either briefly or for longer periods, during my four year journey along my own “New Road”, Chris is one of the very few that consistently gives good, solid advice without promising instant riches.
With that experience, I have no hesitation in recommending two of his programmes for any of you wanting to take your own “New Road”.
Mastering the Digital Channel – an 8 week course designed to help you build your on-line presence and make it work for you and your business.
Blog Topics – A weekly post with blog topic ideas and writing advice.
These are affiliate links, you will not pay any more if you buy a programme through them, but I may receive a commission.
Which road are you going to take?
The new uncertain one, or the old one with its potholes?
Give us your thoughts in a comment.
Typewriter photo by freedigitalphotos.net