Today I found myself visiting a building that I used to work in about ten years ago. That’s not unusual. It happens every few months or so. The building is largely unchanged from when I used to work in it long ago.
At one point I was walking down a hallway I have never had much reason to walk down, then or now. I passed a conference room and for some bizarre reason my brain decided to have a memory of a meeting I attended there about ten years ago. It was a departmental meeting and I can quite vividly see in my mind a photograph of that assemblage that day.
Thanks, Brain! I can’t remember what I had for lunch today, but by some quirk in the way my brain works, I can access a still image of a meeting I attended ten years ago.
I began to muse on what would happen if I could somehow teleport back to that meeting and tell the people in that room a few things. I pictured myself standing up at the front of the conference room table and saying things like:
- None of you in this room will ever work on a project together again. You will all drift off to other departments and other programs and other projects, and this unique collection of people will never, ever work together again.
- This room, its wall color and carpet and decor, will look exactly like it does now ten years from now.
- This project you are all working on at this moment, the one that is keeping you up at night, demanding long hours of you, stressing you out, making you wish you were working on anything but this … this project that seems so important, that seems as if it will make or break careers and the financial health of the company … will largely be forgotten in ten years. Virtually no one in the company will know what you did here or even care.
- A handful of you will be retiring within a few years and the company will move on without you. You will be forgotten by all but a few people.
- At least one of you will not be alive in ten years.
- The skills you possess today, the ones that are in high demand and that caused this program to woo you aggressively to get you here, will be hopelessly obsolete in ten years.
And then I will pause and say …
But this is an awesome team. You will do amazing things. This moment … this assemblage … is unique in the whole of the universe and of history. This moment, we are here … together … working for a common goal. Enjoy this moment, for it cannot be judged from the future. It’s value lies here, in this moment, with these people, within these walls. Time will devalue this moment. The future will depreciate this moment and diminish it. So enjoy it now. Do not wait to enjoy it later, for it will have no meaning then.
And then I will return to the future, as I did today, and hope that the lessons I learned during my visit to the past will stay with me here in the present.