Business Advice

Nostalgia is bad for you — and really bad for your business

Ian Whitworth /

Remember the good old days?

How good were they? Things were simpler. People had more respect. Young people got outside and weren’t just glued to their phones all day.

Are you nodding along, giving in to the sweet embrace of nostalgia, like slipping into a warm bath after a stressful day?

Sorry to pop your bubble, but nostalgia is bad for you, and really bad for your business.

It creates permanent dissatisfaction with the now you live in. It makes you resistant to change. It makes you old before your time.

Happy memories are lovely. Dwelling on them is unhealthy. You don’t notice each tiny change in your viewpoint, but step by step over time you can turn into your racist Facebook-loving aunt.

The endless good-old-days cycle

I meet plenty of business people who love to complain about conditions out there.

  • ‘Never seen it so hard.’
  • ‘Customers haven’t got money.’
  • ‘Creditors pay much slower. Not like it used to be.’

I ask when ‘it’ was, and they’ll say 10 years ago.

But I knew them 10 years ago. Back then they were saying the same thing, yearning for a previous set of good old days, while other business thrived around them because they weren’t run by nostalgic whingers.

I’m not saying it isn’t tough for a lot of businesses, particularly for rural and regional ones at the moment. But tough times call for better strategies than just wishing for a time machine.

Complaining is not a strategy.

Nostalgia kills your interest in new ideas

No business has a right to survive forever in its current state.

Your business antennae need to be switched on at all times for new opportunities, and by that, I mean stealing ideas from other industries. It makes you look like an innovation wizard, rather than an idea burglar.

The business world now is jumping with new fun ways to change how you do things, and don’t fall into the trap of thinking all great new ideas have to be tech-based. You don’t need to shut your pet store and open a startup that delivers individual Schmackos via drone to good dogs in yards while their owners are at work.

(Can someone do it though? I really want to see the video.)

But there are lots of new ways to improve your pet shop if you’re alert to how customers are changing. That takes lots of reading, observation and random conversations, which you will find the time to do if you’re serious.

It’s really exciting and one of the best things about business, knowing a transformational idea might be just around the corner.

Nostalgia makes you fearful of the new. When that happens, you start surrounding yourself with people who feel the same way, both personally and online. Because that’s reassuring and makes you feel like things aren’t your fault.

No new ideas will penetrate your barricades. The doom clock starts ticking.

Old things aren’t coming back no matter how hard you wish

Some industries have an absolute right to wish it was the good old days. Like the recorded music industry, which revenue-wise went from Merck pharmaceutical cocaine to Aldi nitrous pods in a couple of decades.

Nobody in the music industry could have stopped that tide going out.

Brainy music guy Brian Eno put it best, describing the riches that came from recorded music as a one-off historical blip, like how whale blubber was a source of untold wealth for a few until gas lighting was invented: “Sorry mate – history’s moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber. Eventually, something else will replace it.”

That’s just how it is. Your complaining about how bad things are now isn’t going to change a thing, and it’s not going to help you find replacement sources of revenue.

The urge to bring back the good old days gave us Trump and Brexit. At this point, the number of good old days restored is still sitting at, ahh… zero.

Spend less time on Facebook

Speaking of things that brought you Trump and Brexit: let’s talk about Facebook. God knows there are plenty of reasons to hate Facebook but none more than it’s mostly about looking backwards. It’s a crusty mausoleum of old and old-minded people posting:

  • ‘Only 80’s kids would remember this’;
  • ‘Who remembers when you had a Nokia phone with one game – Snake – and that was GOOD ENOUGH FOR US’; and
  • ‘Remember when entertainers had real talent, not like Post Malone I mean really just look at him’.

Shut. Up. Close your Facebook and stop looking backward all the time. Every time you say ‘remember when’, you’re becoming a less interesting person.

I watch people my age describing 80s and 90s tech to younger people. In their minds, they’re delivering a fascinating historical perspective. Their audience is bored senseless and rightly so. My father never dadsplained carbon paper or typewriter ribbons to me, because he recognised they were really boring. What a gentleman.

Feel the savage lash of the memes, millennials!

Millenialphobics can’t keep good staff

Viewed through the Facebook prism, all young people look like a threat.

Nostalgia makes you suspicious of younger employees because you watched the Simon Sinek video and now you’re one of those ‘get off my lawn’ employers. Did you share or like that thing?

‘Simon Sinek nails it! At last someone brave enough to call out these lazy entitled millennials for what they are share if you agree!’

Snap out of it, gramps. Here’s a direct translation of ‘you can’t get good staff these days’. It means ‘good staff don’t want to work for you these days’.

Here’s a handy chart on how employee skills and attitudes are distributed.

Please stop with your articles and videos saying people are at the bottom of the curve because of when they were born. That is basically astrology. They are not a ‘lazy millennial dickhead’. They are a lazy dickhead, a timeless concept.

There is no age limit for forward-thinking

Don’t tell me you’re too old to adapt because you’re not a digital native or some defeatist bullshit.

My uncle is 80-something and one of the happiest, most positive people you’ll meet. He still has a super-successful national retail business that’s in its fifth decade. Did he get disrupted by the internet? Does he go on TV complaining about it like Gerry Harvey? Not at all.

He recognised online retail was simply a better version of the print catalogues that had been a core part of their success all along. Add decades of fine-tuned instincts for what makes people buy via mail-order, add it to new technology and it’s a powerful combination indeed.

He’s doing just fine, thank you. As a bonus, he seems about 20 years younger than his age, because he loves doing what he does in 2019 as much as any time.

The best time is now

I can’t speak for all business people, but for my business partners and I, the best time is now.

That’s not from some deep mindfulness philosophy. It’s because as our business grows, more and more interesting opportunities keep popping up. Some of them are strange indeed, and they’re kinda the best ones. It feels like even more entertainment is in store if we stay open to whatever the universe serves up.

In no way would we prefer to be back in any of our old days. It would be as bad as going back to our old haircuts.

This article was first published on Motivation for Sceptics.

NOW READ: How to tell if an innovation project is doomed from the start

NOW READ: If you’ve never experienced failure, you’re not taking enough risks

Advertisement
Ian Whitworth

Ian Whitworth is a reformed branding and advertising creative director turned entrepreneur, who co-founded corporate audiovisual company Scene Change.

FROM AROUND THE WEB