They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” – Exodus 14:11-12
Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” – Numbers 14:3-4
During times of transition and uncertainty there is something within us that makes us want to go backwards. This is interesting, especially when you consider this:
- Joshua Slocumb was a sailor in the late 19th century who was given a boat called “The Spray”. It was a run down boat that needed some love, so Joshua grabbed his axe, headed into the forest, cut down some trees and fashioned planks (by hand). He then rebuilt The Spray and sailed it around the world. By himself. He was 51 years old.
- Sue Oldham decided it would be cool to swim to another country. So she conquered the English Channel, all 21 miles, in 16 hours. At the age of 64.
- Bill Snyder was a good football coach who retired, got a stadium named after himself, and then came back several years later to have his most successful season in 2012. At 73. (I find this particularly encouraging since he is a college football coach).
- Betty White, experiencing a career resurgence, hosted Saturday Night Live at the age of 88. It is, to date, the highest rated episode of SNL. She’s still going strong into her 90’s.
What is the point of all this? None of us is guaranteed a long life, but there is a really good chance you have not peaked yet. Your best years, your biggest adventure, your gnarliest risk might still be ahead of you.
Don’t go back Egypt now, it might be time to sail around the world!
I find this particularly helpful in my work with students, many of whom have been promised that college will be the best years of their lives. When college turns out to be the hardest years of their lives the reality can lead to frustration, to turmoil, and even depression. But that student might be years away from the pinnacle. They have plenty to look forward to.
Organizations can do the same thing. Remembering and reminiscing are important, but too often we become overly nostalgic about the “way it used to be.” Don’t go there! Your organization might be decades away from its heyday. And that’s ok.
Enjoy the moment. Celebrate where you’ve come from. But look forward to and anticipate the future because the best may still be to come!