Words & Sports

Remember When Things Were Going Great?

Ah, the good old days! 

The Buffalo Bills in the ’90s, the Chicago Bulls in the ’90s, the New York Islanders of the ’80s…. 

None of those organizations are particularly notable now, but each had an exciting, golden age that fans love to look back on. 

People like looking back in general. It starts with the words, “Remember when”.

For example, a lot of people in my industry say insurance used to be easier. It was easier to do business, there were more deals to be had, and all of it seemed simpler. Now, low interest rates are stressing the carriers and everybody is scrambling to keep up with tech.  

To an extent, all that is true. The insurance business has changed—a lot of industries have. The Buffalo Bills went to four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s but hadn’t even made the playoffs for 17 years until they’ve gone on this run in the 2020’s. Sometimes the past really was more successful than what we have at the moment. In other cases, the past was just different. It can be hard to tell. Memory can have such a rosy glow.  

The question is, what are we going to do now, in the present? 

We can talk about the good old days and learn from them. But if we spend all our time only rehashing old memories, other people will pass us by because they have their eyes on the road ahead and we don’t. 

The reality is that as industries change, some opportunities fade away and others come to the front. Social media basically didn’t exist fifteen years ago, and now we have marketing and networking tools they could only dream about back in the old days. 

So you did well a decade ago. Good for you. But that doesn’t limit you, and it doesn’t prop you up, either. The important question is what are you working on now? 


The SportsE Community Has A Say on “Remember When Things Were Going Great”

This comment below is from Mike Elkins of MLE Law in Miami, Florida. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.We’ve known Mike for a few years. You can hear the story of how we met, why Mike has a podcast, and how content is changing the legal world–all on our podcast here: Entrepreneur Perspectives. We wrote this article where Mike played the central character in the story. And yes, Mike is a die-hard New England Patriots fan. 

“Remember When is the lowest form of conversation” – Tony Soprano

The phrase “Remember When” offers an interesting paradox. On the one hand, reminiscing can provide us with warm thoughts of past experiences. It can also remind us of lessons learned–hopefully preventing us from making the same mistakes in the future.

On the other hand, too much “Remember When”, and we’re stuck living in the past–a likely rose-colored version of what the past truly was. And we end up doing damage to the future. Whether it’s sports, business or relationships, “Remember When” has a place, but it’s limited and should be used sparingly.

So how do we know the balance for “Remember When?”

Look no further than Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

While the Patriots have dominated the sports landscape over the past 18 years (9 Super Bowl appearances, 6 Super Bowl wins), you rarely hear Belichick or anyone else from the team discussing past success. Belichick is famous for removing all signs of past seasons and victories from the facility when the NFL calendar turns to a new season. When asked about past success in press conferences, Belichick always reminds everyone that it’s not about the past or the future but about the short-term goal in front of them, to win that day.

That’s not to say that Belichick ignores the past altogether. To the contrary, Belichick routinely engages in “Remember When” in discussing things like, the evolution of the kicking game, great historical players, lessons in American history, appreciation of American war heroes, and making players learn the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Belichick routinely has historically great leaders speak to the team and discuss something significant from history.

All of the above are “Remember When” scenarios. Notice, however, what’s absent … at no point does Belichick “Remember When” on his own greatness or the past greatness of the current players/team.

In applying the same principle to business, it’s important to reflect on past events, but not to become too fond of your past successes.

In opening my own law firm just three short months ago, I have had some early success. However, I take great care to always remind myself that those early successes are over. In true Belichick form, I repeat to myself “We’re on to [insert next project here].” The legal profession, like professional sports, has a short memory. Your big trial win today will have no influence on whether you win or lose your cases going forward. Harsh, yes. Reality, yes.

I do, however, engage in “Remember When.” I consistently look at past failures for lessons. I spend an inordinate amount of time studying individuals that I believe are/were great leaders and try to extract lessons that work for my business.

When success happens, it is to be enjoyed, otherwise, what’s the point? However, for long-term success, and long-term growth it’s important to keep short-term success, short term, and be wary of too much of the “Remember When.” If you think you might be enjoying the short-term success too much or living in the past, just go back to Belichick and “Remember When” he kept repeating: “We’re on to Cincinnati.”

By Mike Elkins, SportsE Contributor

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