New Year reflections (not resolutions)
As a self-confessed curmudgeonly Brit, I, of course, reject the annual pantomime of New Year resolutions. I’m with the chap who once said: “Many years ago I resolved never to bother with New Year resolutions, and I’ve stuck with it ever since.” It’s not that I am weak-willed. In my defense — if this is needed — I totally gave up alcohol four years ago and have trained myself to prefer juice, I just about manage to eat my five fruit and veg a day and, now in the fifth decade of my career, I continue to get up when it’s still dark and cross numerous time zones as my work demands. My objection to New Year resolutions is the absurdity of the idea that just because it is the first of January, I determine not to do something or to improve on something else. If you fail to win a project in May because you made a poor presentation, do you wait until the following January to fix the problem? I also don’t much care for the requirement to announce one’s New Year resolutions, with its associated likelihood of minor humiliation when, as usually happens, the resolutions are broken.
However, I do think that the winter solstice is a good time to reflect. The office is closed, the evenings are long and reasons to sit quietly by a fireplace are many. So, I have been reflecting on our new office in Cape Town, South Africa. This is the first time that we have established a branch office, so it reflects our strong commitment to the region as well as to our South African associate who has returned home to head up the office. I have also been thinking about the site office in St. Petersburg, Russia, that we are just setting up to manage a new Four Seasons project there. And, I have been thinking about — while at last enjoying — my long yearned for new home in Wales, some 200 miles away from our office in London.
It’s really not so long ago that these geographically diverse locations would have seemed a daunting prospect, involving expensive telecommunications, many airplane trips and numerous car tires worn thin on UK motorways. While personally not exactly being the first to embrace the emerging technologies of the past decade, I now realize just how much of a boon they are to practices such as ReardonSmith — a medium-sized professional firm that relies above all on providing a timely, informed and individual service to clients around the world at a competitive fee. So, we will Skype, have conference calls and handle emails on the go, share information at the click of a mouse and send vast drawing packages from London to Baku in 10 minutes. In the process, we will reduce our carbon footprint, relieve some of our stress and see a bit more of our families. By and large, I find myself approving of this time we now live in where technology is enabling us to work in different ways and more informally without having gone so far as to replace the value of face-to-face human interaction. Indeed, technology has perhaps increased its significance, since bothering to travel to a meeting when there are other options is, in itself, a statement of commitment.
All of which brings me to the reflection of Babatunde Olatunji, a Nigerian drummer and activist: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”