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Back to the Future

In early 2000, someone in my office started taking notes in black 9″ by 7″ notebooks. Within weeks everyone seemed to be walking around with them – including me. For the next eleven years I captured my meeting notes, to do lists and lessons learned in these handy journals. Each time I completed one I would put it on my shelf in chronological order, just like the scene from Alister Simm’s ‘The Christmas Carol.’

This week, one of my tasks was to reread all 55 notebooks (9,350 pages) to extract lessons learned I might have forgotten. I figured there would be many thoughts that had been jotted down during past change projects that would be perfect for my book. I was right. There are some great ones that were captured in the heat of the moment. Less exciting is the amount of time it takes to read 55 notebooks. I am on notebook 20 with one day to go!

Beyond collecting these  nuggets, I learned the following about the notes I took and the way I took them:

  • I created an index for the first three books and then abandoned the practice
  • Each book has a “Thank you for returning my book” inscription in the front cover, just in case it got lost, which only happened a few times when I left it in someone`s office or a meeting room
  • Our sons, Sam and Charlie ,drew in the backs of them when they joined me at the office on weekends
  • There are a lot of references to passion and energy
  • Our businesses had many highs and lows over the years
  • Training sessions were defined by the people who attend them, especially in different geographies – same content, different interpretations
  • Leaders were very quotable, e.g., “You, can’t rebuild a ghost.”
  • I have worked with so many fascinating and talented people
  • There are a lot of references to pushing the boundaries to become the best – no regrets on risks taken
  • I contemplated writing a book about learning style training design in 2000 (my concern was that it was not an exciting topic)

There are many details of our lives that we forget unless they are recorded and reviewed. George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.“  Perhaps a complementary thought is “Those who forget their lessons never learned them.“


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