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Senior Correspondent

Blemishes captivate just like the negative past. 

The dark past draws you backward into futile conversations that solidify rather than solve. Complaints always focus on the past. Problems pull backward, but solutions draw forward. 

You become what you talk about. 


I’ve been thinking about conversation topics. I know better, but I’ve slipped into conversations that spiral around the past. Everyone, it seems, wants to solve the past. I spent years captivated by negative history. It’s easy, sometimes fun, but inevitably futile.

Leaders can drown in complaints, problems, weaknesses, and low performance. Unless you intentionally turn forward, you’re pulled into the negative past — something that can’t be changed, developed, or improved, only built upon.


Recurring topics of conversation determine where you go and what you do. Persistently talking about the past translates into repeating it.

Stuck people focus on the past.

Leaders solve the past by moving into the future. It’s the only way.


Talk about the past with the future in mind, tenaciously.

Rather than focusing on, “Where have we been?” say, “Where are we going?”

Shift from past tense to present and future tense language.

“What are we learning?” is better than, “What did we learn?” The latter takes you back while the former pulls you forward.

“What was done?” is only the beginning component of a, “What’s next?” conversation.

“Next time, we’ll . . .” improves on, “What went wrong?”


Problems and failures are inevitable (even useful), but don’t focus on the pimple. Step toward solutions or you’ll become what you complain about — a pus-filled volcano waiting to pop. Forward facing speech combined with forward focused action creates your future. Backward facing speech and backward focused action repeat the past.

Develop forward looking ways to speak about the past. Move toward your future, not away from your past.

It’s foolish to ignore the past.

How do you balance a backward view with a forward orientation?

How can leaders shift conversations from inactive complaints to forward facing action?

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