I stopped off in London this week. I was travelling by train from North to South of England due to family commitments. Rail was a welcome change from road. Trains are a great way to travel…apart from the telephone signal drifting in and out all the time…and all the other people on the train making so much noise.
I had to pass through London and had arranged to meet up with an old colleague for coffee. I originally tried for lunch but schedules prevented it. Coffee – nice coffee – was still good; and made a welcome break from train coffee. OK…another thing I don’t like about trains – tasteless coffee.
It was all a bit more complicated than I originally thought as there was a tube strike in London, it was pouring with rain and there was (unsurprisingly) a shortage of taxis. I made it in time for coffee though…just.
My colleague was a consultant. Someone who was very helpful to me a few years ago when I was working in a company, in a role and at a time, when we used consultants a great deal. He still is a consultant and I have kept in touch on a regular but infrequent basis ever since.
We caught up quickly – he asked about my dad (doing much better thanks). I admired the location. We proceeded to chat about all sorts of things. But it was only as I sat on my next train (patiently waiting to connect to WiFi) that I thought a little more deeply about our conversation. And topics we had covered…and those we had not.
I realised almost all of his questions were about times when we worked together…and how often I answered with stories about my current world and role. This is all fair enough of course. I spend all my time at work in my current world and role. And I know that my consultant friend still frequently works with companies like my previous employers.
In truth, it was engaging to sit and have to think back to times and projects from a few years ago. It is amazing what you remember…and what you forget. I don’t believe it is so much looking back through ‘rose-tinted spectacles’…rather it’s that we simply remember some facts better than others. For example, without any effort at all I was able to remember the people involved in every situation we discussed (and where we were)…even if I couldn’t always be certain about precise dates or exact sequences of events we were working around.
I like the idea that we remember people and places more so than dates and times. People and places are much more interesting. It is always people who say things, answer things, propose things and resolve things. People define strategy and implement plans. People individually and collectively work out how to solve problems and seize opportunities. People have fun together.
And as I sat there waiting, and thought a little more, I realised that these are much more rewarding and enjoyable moments to remember…as well as being much more useful and helpful experiences to have. Remembering who was with us in certain situations and what we did, helps us to decide what to do next time we are faced with – even vaguely – comparable situations.
All of which could explain why my colleague was asking me those questions – after all I knew that he was still working with companies on the sort of problems I used to work on. Moreover, it was certainly reassuring…and perhaps not surprising…that I had as many stories to tell about the people I work with today…