Tuesday July 15 2014

The ‘Good Old Days’ problem

By James Abola

Operating from the city of Mombasa in Kenya is the Safari Sound Band, a music band that was founded in 1976 and recorded classics such as Pole Pole, Mombasa and Jambo Jambo, which were permanently on the airwaves in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

According to one member of the band who was recently interviewed by the BBC, things were great in the good old days when the band hand just been founded.

He gave the example that, back then; he was able to pay for his air ticket and a European holiday from his pocket.

During the months of May and June 2014 parts of the Kenyan coast suffered terrorist attacks which affected tourism business in the area.

Safari Sound Band that used to hold seven performances in a week saw the number drop to just two performances in a short time. Fewer performances mean less income for the band and its members.

When it comes to money or economic wellbeing it is common to hear people talk fondly about or even yearn for the good old days just like the band member cited above.

For example, in the good old days university graduates were assured of well-paying jobs or in the good old days government owned primary and secondary schools were producing students with excellent grades and the list can go on and on.

There are three challenges with the idea of the ‘good old days’.

The recollection of previous personal economic experiences is not very objective. When people look to their economic past they often time practice selective recollection; when looking to the past folks tend to more vividly remember the pleasurable experiences and easily or quickly forget the painful ones.

The second challenge is that people get to realise that an economic experience is good or better when it is passed and they are now confronted with something that is worse. Some time ago, a lady interviewed for an accounting job with a medium sized organisation.

The lady emerged best in the interview and was among the two people given job offers but at that point she turned down the job because she thought the pay offered was too little and she could earn more money as a freelance consultant.

Unfortunately, the consultancy door closed a few weeks later. It was at that point when she realised that the ‘little’ salary was far better than no income. You could be passing by your ‘good days’ now and yet you may not realise until much later.

Thirdly, at times wishing for the good old days can be very disempowering. For example, a person will justify inability to save because now they do not have a lot of disposable income unlike in the ‘good old days’ when it was much easier to save.

What this attitude does is that it blocks the individual from taking actions that can ensure a better future. In effect, the longing for the ‘good old days’ programme’s a bad future because individuals do not take actions which are necessary for building a better future.

Pick lessons
Whether the past was good or bad learn from it and apply discipline to your thinking, emotions and actions so that you work on improving the present and future. Do not get hanged up recalling the past; find what to enjoy in the present in order to get the motivation to work for a better and brighter future. Live in the present in order to be alive and well in the future.

The writer is the team leader of Akamai Global, a business and finance consulting firm. Email: james.abola@akamaiglobal.co.uk