Conversations in Management: The New Autumn

“Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”

Samuel Butler.

Uncle Tim's BridgeIt’s all a matter of perspective. For most of history, autumn has been about endings. For farmers, it’s the end of the growing season. It means harvest time and the literal reaping of what they’ve sown. For kids it’s the end of summer and the temporary suspension of freedom. For adults it’s the end of temperate weather and the gradual slide into a more demanding winter. Thinking about endings gives autumn a melancholy and bittersweet air. Songs like George Strait’s, Chill of an Early Fall, Neil Diamond’s, September Morn and Nat King Cole’s classic, Autumn Leaves all tell of lost loves. Sinatra’s, September of My Years likens autumn to the passage of time and fosters introspection. Introspection leads to nostalgia for writers like Henry Mankell. In, An Event in Autumn, the always doleful Swedish policeman, Kurt Wallander, reflects on what’s past and what likely will never be. Laura Ingalls Wilder expresses this nostalgia sentimentally in, Little House in the Big Woods. It’s the story of pioneer life in 19th century Wisconsin. In these woods, autumn is a time of tapping trees for sap to make candy and maple syrup. It’s a backwards look on happy times. Landscape painters such as Monet, Cole, Constable and Twombly have captured the season on canvas with its shifting light and changing flora. All of it signals that something is over. Things are coming to an end. It’s time sit by the fire with a steaming mug of cider while everything winds down. But like the seasons, perspectives change and autumn is taking on a whole new look.

Today September is the new January and New Year’s Day has been preempted by Labor Day—without the bothersome resolutions. This is no accident—society has completely reoriented itself. If you work for the federal government or thousands of other governmental entities or businesses, your fiscal year begins during the autumn season. On a practical level that means the end-of- the-year closeout is behind you and you’re freshly capitalized for another year—eureka! And speaking of eureka, autumn is when the interminable boredom of baseball finally gives way to the white-hot excitement of high school, college and NFL football. Don’t forget Halloween—autumn’s signature holiday. It now rivals Christmas in terms of popularity and cash expenditures. It’s not just for kids either. Adults can have the same hedonistic pleasures at a Halloween party that they can enjoy at those oh-so-predictable New Year’s Eve parties. There’s even the added bonus of the next day’s Día de Muertos celebration to give meaning to your hangover. Whether you’re in Kindergarten or graduate school, it all begins in September (nonconformists may start in August but it’s still called fall semester!). The new autumn has it all: fresh start at work, fresh start in school, fresh start in sports and a great holiday to boot! There’s no better time for you to wipe your personal slate clean and start contemplating exciting times in the 12 months to come.

We’re at the autumnal equinox so it’s time to decide. Will you mope through autumn in an introspective haze? Or will you hop on the fresh start bandwagon? Will you ruminate or anticipate. Reflect or envision? When the leaves fall will you be thinking about endings or beginnings?  It’s all a matter of perspective, but either way you can still enjoy that mug of cider.      —Ebert

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