We have all heard the idea “It has withstood the test of time.” What does that mean, really? What can we assume to know from that simple fact?
First, things that have been around for a long time probably have value. People sometimes wonder about the efficacy of things that have been around for a long time, but nonetheless they use them. Acupuncture and chicken soup come to mind. Do you really think that they would have been around as a remedy for thousands of years if they did not work?
Second the opposite view. Things that don’t work, don’t last. That seems self-evident but many people get upset in the short run about things that are certain to go away. Maybe not quickly and I suppose that is the problem. Is there any example of communism working? No. It did take a long time to go away however.
Big government is the current craze. Won’t last! Big government is antithetical to personal motivation and without that, nothing works.
There are other examples. In the 1950’s Peter Drucker claimed that unions had accomplished their essential work, and if they were to survive they would need to politicize. Still happening. I wonder what their next rational survival step might be?
In finance, old forms are not much changed in hundreds of years. Partnerships, bonds, joint ventures and more recently corporations. Ideas around insurance and sharing risks date back centuries. The form and the availability is different now but the ideas remain. They probably work. You should probably consider using some of them. Options and asset backed securities are sexier but not so predictable.
In personal relationships most of what we know is old — very old. Ideas like marriage, family, spirituality and religion are ancient. Western cultural and philosophical ideas are at least 2500 years old. Asian ones even older. There is a lot of usable truth in Aesop’s fables. Worth the trouble to look again. Children still like to hear them.
The idea of communities is old. There is safety in numbers and there is specialization of skills in numbers. Both of these provide an advantage to the group and its members. Religious communities like Catholic parishes, frequently provide a strong basis for growth as a group. People help each other without expectation of gain.
If you have any interest in challenging a Christian fundamentalist, offer the thought that religion is an evolutionary advantage.
Building a life is not different from what you do in a Pilates class. Build a strong core.
If you are trying to find a way to build a successful life, a successful family, a successful business or a successful community, it would be smart to start with things that have “withstood the test of time.” Sometimes the new is more glitter and gloss and not much substance. If your foundation is in the proven, you bolt on new and useful things as it seems profitable. Similarly you can abandon them as required.
It is difficult to build a core on untested wisdom. There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, about a man who approached the Steinway piano company with what he claimed was a new and better way to build pianos. The Steinway response, “We will try it. Come back in 50 years and we will know by then if it works.”
If you have built a reputation or a career or a family or a life based on core values, then trying new things just because they are new makes little sense. Nothing wrong with a prototype or two, but you don’t throw them into production until you know.
It is like Pilates. When leading people, whether family, friends, clients or yourself, start from proven core values and work your way out. Simple.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. firstname.lastname@example.org