How Does the Past Motivate Us Today?

Note: As I finished last week's post on "Forgiveness," it hit me that there is another dimension of the past that I hadn't yet explored. So, let's do a little time travel this week and review some wisdom spanning over 400 years from 1564 to 1978 to the present.  Previous installments of all previous blogs can be found on my website at

Remember this fella?

"All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages."

Known as the Bard, William Shakespeare penned this verse for his play, "As You like It" in the late 1500's. He was onto something then, though I am not sure he saw it the same way I do today.

I agree with his first line completely in that we are born onto a stage and into a play that has been ongoing, but our script is handed to us in bits and pieces over time by our first and primary Directors - our parents.  Next we get more lines for our scripts through our social constructs; religion, school, friends, enemies, work, etc. Put together, I believe you can view all of the above as your very own psychodrama and the rest of the Bard's words from "As You Like It" will fill in the blanks of your play. For most of us, this is sufficient, at least to give us fair reviews for our life performances. 

However, I wasn't even getting fair reviews for my life performances. I was alienating people, losing good friends, trashing my personal relationships, and then, a marriage. Suddenly, a big life epiphany came to me as I was learning about forgiveness (last week's blog) in the 1970's. That was the realization that I had the power to write an entirely new life script! That was a big realization for me, especially since I also realized that I had been trying, in vain, to follow the one that was written for me when I was born. And, coincidentally which, just didn't fit.

But now what? I couldn't find any scripts that I liked and also fit me; the answer was that I had to write my own. This is not easy to do, no matter where you are in your life timeline, but I found it was harder to do in my late 20's, since I had memorized my "lines" so well from birth.

Part of the answer came from a book I read in 1977; "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," by Robert L. Pirsig.  A cross-country motorcycle trip with the author and his son serves as the backdrop for the story about how the author seeks the answer to an age-old question, "What is quality?" and other values related inquiries. He does find the answer to that central question, but for me, finishing the book was just the beginning of a long journey.

Undaunted by winter weather, I set out in late November 1978 from the New Hampshire coast to ride my motorcycle to Seattle, WA to start writing a new script for the rest of my life.

As in the quote from the book , as I rode across the thousands of miles of America (4500 miles in 9 days); while the future was not clear, the past seemed to be fading the farther away I traveled from my roots in NE and approached a new frontier on the Pacific Coast. The ensuing 16 years was an exciting time with the start of a career, many adventures, new friends, a new marriage, children, and growth; both personally and professionally.

Let's conclude by time traveling forward to today and what I have learned since that memorable motorcycle journey across the country 37 years ago. Once again, Pirsig's main character and alter ego, Phaedrus, sums it up best for me:

"Most people stand in sight of their spiritual mountains all their lives and never enter them, being content to listen to others who have been there and thus avoid the hardships. Some travel into the mountains accompanied by experienced guides who know the best and least dangerous routes by which they arrive at their destination. Still others, inexperienced and untrusting, attempt to make their own routes. Few of these are successful, but occasionally some, by sheer will and luck and grace, do make it. Once there they become more aware than any of the others that there's no single or fixed number of routes. There are as many routes as there are individual souls."

Once again, thanks to Mike Ware, for advance reading and proofing.

Next week: How Do Old Scripts Get in Our Way in the Workplace?