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The Power of the Past

The past never goes anywhere. It is with us always. In the culture of the “now” we risk losing out on the transformative power of recollecting that which has passed away. Reflecting upon personal gains and losses through the lenses of accumulated experience and knowledge guides one towards a more meaningful life. Ignoring the past is folly.

Know where you’ve been to get where you’re going. A new book by John P. Schuster, author of Answering Your Call, offers readers a guide to discovering how your past can be an asset not a liability. The Power of Your Past: The Art of Recalling, Reclaiming, and Recasting is published by Barrett Koehler, a leader in the industry dedicated to creating a world that works for all.

John P. Schuster is a principal of the Schuster Kane Alliance, Inc. He serves on the faculty for the coaching programs at Columbia University and the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara. With real-world examples, anecdotes and empirical evidence, Schuster shows readers how to reclaim positive past experiences to guide our future and to reinterpret and recast negative memories in light of life’s lessons.

Contemporary culture places emphasis on the now at the expense of the past and the future. The failure to learn from our mistakes and extend the lessons from our successes is how and why we get “stuck” in our lives. Living in the moment becomes cliché if one merely becomes detached from the past and the future. The danger is a pervasive form of amnesia where we lose sight of who we are and our purpose in this life.

Schuster’s model of self-examination requires a reflection upon those influences which evoked or compressed your identity and life story. What things in your experiences brought out more of who you really are as a person? Who or what forces compelled you to diminish aspects of who you are? The answers lead one to rethink one’s current status and act in accordance with such revelations.

It is the last chapter of this very deep book that I found most compelling. “Using Suffering to Grow,” is a means of honoring the past and requires hard work in processing loss and grief.

“When absorbing the sadness of the loss, we must concentrate on bad guys to demonize, or black holes of sympathy in which we get to play the cosmic victim of terrible circumstances. Demonizing and victimizing are the sources of those stories in which we can get so woefully stuck,” (p. 182). Schuster’s writing for leaders in business and management, policy and finance, education and law draws upon the readers’ hearts as much as their minds.

“The suffering that started off challenging our being and our ideas of what life is and should be ends up opening our heart, expanding our identity, and connecting us forever to the human family and life” (p. 184). The power of the past is the redemption found in reconciling previous experiences with how and why it brought one to the present, to the “now.”

History never goes anywhere. We can always look back for the answers to our future.

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