by Frances Williams: Editor of ReConnect Africa and CEO of Interims for Development.
I recently attended an old school reunion and it was fascinating to see how the years have impacted us since our somewhat unruly school days. Of course, not all of us were there; the passage of time has meant that we have lost some, and lost touch with others.
I was also struck by the total sense of camaraderie among a group of people who haven’t interacted on a regular basis for over two decades. I’ve heard of people who go to great lengths to avoid their old school reunions; dreading the thought of having to see those who tormented their early years or of being judged by their peers for losing hair or gaining weight, for making too much money or not making enough.
Fortunately, and not just because no-one particularly expected much of any of us anyway, any sense of judgement was completely absent from our particular gathering. Back in the day, standing a round of drinks when it was your turn, and helping with fundraising for charity were pretty much all you needed to do to be accepted as a good person. All these years later, the criteria were pretty much the same (buying a raffle ticket on the night substituting for the charity fundraising requirement).
If you’re wondering why I’m giving you so much spectator room at this gathering of my old school mates, I think the main reason that this reunion was so striking is that in this sometimes hyper-competitive world, it was so refreshing to be at an event where people are taken, literally, at face value. Instead of gatherings where people talk to you while not so subtly craning over your shoulder to spot someone who might be more important; people at my reunion were scrutinising the faces before them, trying to match them to the younger versions held in their memories, and marvelling at the changes.
Instead of the “What do you do?” question being followed by a smirk of superiority or a sigh of envy, the “Where are you now?” and “What are you up to these days?” questions were usually followed by appreciative shrieks of “No!….YOU?!” or “Great stuff! I need some work done… when are you free?” or, most likely, “Nice one. Now, whose round is it?”
This was not a club that needed any minimum entry requirements other than having been at the same school. It was a reminder of a time when it didn’t matter who you were or who you knew and when the only competition was in who could get the bartender’s attention first or make it through a 13-minute Donna Summer record without collapsing on the dance floor.
Never give up
Theodore Roosevelt once said that ‘Comparison is the thief of joy” and, truly, when we are so busy marking our own papers based on our perception of what other people are doing or have done, we give ourselves little credit for our own achievements.
But, as another year draws to a close and we start to despair as we think of all the things we had planned to accomplish and have yet to achieve, it’s a good time to remember that we really don’t need to judge ourselves by any yardstick other than our own.
As my teenage daughter said, in one of those rare moments when she looks up from her iPhone, “In the end it’s always okay; so if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” Wherever you are on your path to success – whether in your career or in your business – you still have plenty of time before you finally grow up. The end of the year does not mean the end of your opportunities, just a time to reflect on what new options the coming year could bring.
The author, Dän Lee Dimke, says: “Live your life as if all your dreams have come true, and then challenge life to catch up.” Rather than kicking yourself for not yet succeeding, pat yourself on the back for having made it thus far. Perhaps it’s time to brush up on your skills or even learn new ones. It could be time to say goodbye to old dreams and to start dreaming new ones. Don’t give up on yourself, because even if where you are now is not where you thought you’d be, or where by rights you really ought to be, it’s still a great place to plan where you want to be.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I can recommend dancing around your handbag with a former prom queen and an ageing jock as a great place to start!