Don’t Look Back

Good leaders learn from the past. They don’t yearn for it.

Have you ever winced as you’ve listened to respected and successful leaders reminisce about past events … over and over again? There’s nothing wrong with the stories; context guides us. It’s probably more about the proportion of recalling the past compared to living in the present and leaning into the future.

Two recent experiences have prompted me to reflect on why I shouldn’t long for the past. First, Ann and I are reading through the Bible this year. God gives several negative examples of people who longed for what used to be. The primary example was the nation of Israel, whom God had freed from slavery under harsh Egyptian rule. Even though God miraculously guided them and provided for them, some leaders continually longed for the certainty of Egypt rather than the promising – but uncertain – future God had freed them to seize. The desire to choose slavery over freedom seems ridiculous, which is precisely the Biblical author’s intent.

Second, our organization shifted email systems from Exchange to Google Apps two weeks ago. Like you, I’m constantly under the email pile and had developed my own systems and shortcuts to speed up my daily workflow. Google’s approach to labeling and archiving email is very different than Outlook’s. I’ve been frustrated as I’ve attempted to use my decade-old habits to process email quickly. I’ve gotten lost in the new menus. My fingers don’t naturally land on the correct keys for shortcuts.  I’ve accidentally deleted a few messages I meant to archive. It’s taking much more effort on the front end to learn the new system.

To get around this awkwardness, I kept my old Outlook client open for a few days. Even though it felt more comfortable, in the end it just doubled my time and tempted me to yearn for an inferior system. Yesterday I decided to “burn the ships.” I disconnected all old pathways to email, calendar and contacts. I’m all in now. Still learning, all in, and not looking back.

Where do you find your heart longing to return to the false safety of the past?


By Ken

Dr. Ken Cochrum (DMin, Bethel University) is Vice President of Global Digital Strategies at Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in Orlando, Florida. An avid cyclist and aspiring guitarist, he also holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas and a Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. He recently co-founded, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital strategies. He previously served as vice president of Cru’s student-led movements worldwide. He and his wife Ann spent 13 years in East Asia where they raised their two children. Ken blogs regularly at

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