Younger Dr. Emmett Brown: [running out of the room] 1.21 gigawatts? 1.21 gigawatts? Great Scott!
Marty McFly: [following] What-what the hell is a gigawatt?

~ Back to the Future – 1985 (quotes from IMDB)

I’m not exactly sure why Doc Brown and Marty McFly popped into my head this morning. I don’t get it. Sometimes, I wake up with these ideas and it’s easy to put my fingers to the keyboard. I was thinking about the DeLorean, time travel, and the future. Here’s what got me to thinking.

A few years back, I worked in an organization that thrived on lunchtime board meetings. We routinely spent our lunch hours discussing the problems, failures, and breakdowns of past board members and employees of the organization.

We discussed the things the organization had attempted or tried to do in the past, and usually failed. We’d use those failures to discuss the future, and how to move forward, making sure we wouldn’t make the same mistakes again.

The last board tried implementing a similar strategy three years ago, and it failed miserably” or “Back in 2004, they tried giving away free pancakes as a promotion, and it was a total nightmare“.

We became fearful about the future. We froze up. Nothing new or groundbreaking ever was accomplished. We didn’t want to make the same mistakes again. Everything about the future became scary and unpredictable.

Of course, Doc Brown and Marty rarely dwelled on the past. What happened, happened. They were more interested in the future. But they knew that everything that happened in the past had a direct effect on the present or future. They knew the devastating effects of changing the past. After all, the past is what created the future. Doc always stressed the importance of never making changes to the past.

Did you get all that? In a nutshell, when applied to the above scenario at the organization I worked for, the past is what brought the organization to its current state. The act of dwelling on the past was really a waste of both precious time and resources. We had no DeLorean. We didn’t have 1.2 gigawatts of power to go back and change things or alter the “present.” So why even discuss it?

The better option would have been this:

“OK – The free pancake promotion in 2004 was a flop. What can we learn from that campaign? How can we make it better this time around?”

In the short time I was in the organization, I realized what a debilitating effect dwelling on the past could have. Instead of learning from past mistakes, and making adjustments moving forward, we allowed those mistakes to scare us away from trying something new, something risky, or something unpredictable. We rarely looked into the future, and when we did, we did it with scared and timid eyes.

It’s the exact same thing in your personal life. No amount of dwelling on the past is going to change things. You simply won’t be able to muster up enough power (1.2 gigawatts) to go back and change things. And yet, we constantly allow the past to shape us moving forward. We allow the past and our personal failures to scare us away from trying something new, something risky, or something unpredictable.

After all was said and done, Marty finally began to understand that the choices he made now, and in the present, would have such an effect on his future.

I can’t stress enough the importance of putting your one month, one year, three year, five year plans down on paper.

Where do you want your business to go?

What’s your vision for your business?

How about your personal life.

How much money are you making?

What kind of car (DeLorean) are you driving?

What do your friends and family look like?

Where are you working?

When you create a detailed plan for the future, you’ll be more inclined to make choices and decisions now that will take you where you want to go.

Of course, there’s always one other option.

You could make no plans at all, set no future projections, and make no future goals. You could fly by the seat of your pants and allow the failures of the past to scare you into doing nothing.

The problem with taking this route is if you make one wrong mistake, you’re pooched. Next thing you know, you’re sitting in your car at the local mall waiting for lighting to strike the clock tower at exactly 10:04…. Good luck with that.