Conversations in Management: New Year’s 2015

If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.  

                Yogi Berra

New_Years_SunriseWhen I was a kid, I always expected to “grow up.” I remember needing a chair to climb on to the kitchen counter and yet still having to stretch to get what I wanted. As I scrambled down I thought to myself, “One day I’ll be able to just reach for things.” I remember too, sitting at the table with my feet dangling above the floor and thinking, “Someday my feet will touch.” Late in my career at Memorial Elementary, I recall alternately staring at the clock and watching the traffic on Grand Avenue and reflecting that one day I wouldn’t have to go to school. And so it went: one day I’d have a car, one day I’d have a girlfriend, one day I’d stay up late to watch the Tonight Show. Though I wouldn’t have framed it this way at the time, I thought that one day I’d arrive. I’d grow up and know everything I needed to know and have everything I needed to have. Little did I know….

I’m ashamed to admit that I was well into my 20s before it occurred to me that I’d been on the road a long time and still hadn’t arrived. I also reluctantly concluded that this side of the grave I never would arrive, as Yogi Berra put it, there—wherever there happened to be. And so, with a mature appreciation that I’d never grow up (affirmed by a multitude of friends and colleagues), I determined to make the most of the journey. But how to begin?

Fortunately for me, and I suppose all of us, the Babylonians created a system of getting your life in order, emptying the bucket of your bucket list and fulfilling your every dream. The technique is known to us today as the New Year’s Resolution. “Pshaw!” you may be saying, but anything with such an ancient pedigree has to have something to commend it. In fact, the Journal of Clinical Psychology reports that nearly 65% of us will be making resolutions this year. In times past, many folks were discouraged from making resolutions because it was an often arduous exercise. Those Babylonians for example, sat for days over their clay tablets before scripting their resolutions in cuneiform. Today we Google them on our tablets and can find the most popular, or the kindest, or the healthiest resolutions without much effort, or for that matter, much thought. There are even niche resolutions. One enterprising group has come up with 49 New Year’s Resolutions for Twentysomethings. That’s a lot by anyone’s standards, but there’s a good deal of overlap in the areas of managing one’s social life and what to do when you can’t get a date. Others, however, have a more general appeal like number 31—treat your parents to dinner, or 37—talk to your grandparents instead of treating them like the furniture (or words to that effect.) Sadly, these two resolutions have a statistically insignificant success rate while number 17—jump into a pool/the sea/a lake fully dressed scores close to 100%. That rate may be misleading because the lab-coat contingent tells us that only 8% of New Year’s resolutions are successfully achieved. Still, 8% is better than nothing and so you’ve got to believe those Babylonians were on to something.

Whether your resolutions are old school (lose weight, get fit, save more) or trendy (text less when drunk) keep in mind that life’s a journey and meant to be enjoyed. Happy New Year!       —Ebert

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