A few years before the pandemic, I took a trip to London. When I arrived at Heathrow Airport, I noticed a peculiar warning sign over the moving walk way that caught my attention. It simply said, "Face direction of travel."
Immediately I considered the wisdom in its message. Like a moving walking way, life is always progressing forward. For you and me, to get to where we are want to go, we have to face the direction of travel. If we don't, we might not see what's coming. We might bump into something unexpected, or we might miss something critical and life changing. We might get derailed.
To put this into context, let me share a story. Years ago I was skiing in West Virginia as a chaperone on a youth group trip. In the middle of the day I was on a green slope, traveling as fast as I could. Now, I've skied most of my life. Green runs to me are not a challenge, and this had been no exception. The run was gentle. Almost flat. Nothing to worry about. But, as I looked back to see how far behind some of our group members were, something unexpected happened. In that short time I took to glance back, I missed seeing the clump of ice directly ahead of me on my path. With my head turned back, the edge of my skis caught the unseen ice clump quickly alternating my direction and triggering the rapid release of my right ski from my boot.
I twisted, turned, and, in an instant, went down hard. As I hit the snow with extreme velocity, the blurred world around me, which had featured passing trees, suddenly was now still. The impact literally tattooed a bruise of my keys that were in my pocket onto my leg. The whole thing was unexpected. It was painful. And it was embarrassing.
I quickly jumped up. Tried to laugh it off. Tried to pretend it didn't hurt. But the damage was done. Pride and body were fully bruised.
The lesson I learned that day (and reminded again at Heathrow) was that in life we have to keep our focus on what's ahead. Looking back can and will trip you up. Don't revel in your past accomplishments and look back while you are still moving. Looking back takes your eyes off the next thing – the next goal, and the potential obstacles. But looking forward is what exposes you to opportunities. It’s what welcomes you to new relationships, and what introduces you to new life changing perspectives. Life is NOT meant to be experienced looking back, it's meant to be experienced looking forward-- and living forward. That means the things that happened yesterday-- guess what? -- they are yesterday, they are in the past. They are not part of today. Learn from them, yes, but keep your eyes on what’s in front of you.
Also consider this. When you are somewhere you’ve never been before, do you normally take your eyes off where you are going? No, of course not. You are in a new place. Why would you look back in a place you’ve never been? Instead, you choose to keep your eyes open and look forward as you move forward. You know there are new things to see and experience all around you. Well, every day should be like that too. Don't ever get to comfortable with yesterday that you miss out on today.
The journey that you are on requires awareness and observation. Not for what's behind - but for what's ahead. Keep your eyes open. Be careful of the temptation to look back. Recognize the world wants you to look back. For instance, you might find the news littered with stories of the past. There's nothing wrong with understanding world events, but don't ever neglect what's still ahead of you. Don't get locked into focusing on what's behind like the world does. It can demoralize you. In fact, looking back can make you bitter. But looking forward and moving forward is what makes you better.
In closing, remember this, the prize, the goal, isn't in what's behind-- that's in the past – the goal is always in front of you. To help get you there you, remember just one thing-- face direction of travel -- it's what leaders do to press on!