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Magazine Issues » March 2022

Opinion: The perils of misremembering

Elizabeth_PfeutiWisdom is found in the most unlikely of places. 

In the 1992 classic, Sweating Bullets, the lead singer of Megadeth, Dave Mustaine, opines that “Hindsight is 20:20”, but crucially adds that “looking back, it’s still a bit fuzzy”.

Even if we can see where we went right or wrong on certain events or actions, our past is full of misrememberings.

Earlier this year, for reasons I’ll expand on in another column, we took a day trip to Leicester, where I spent three very happy years as a student. But as we drove down London Road – the most direct route from the student accommodation area to the university – I was amazed by how much I had misremembered.

As a modern language student, I would make this journey every weekday, walking or cycling the couple of miles or so to clock in and soak up knowledge (and cheap lager). At weekends, we would wander into the city centre for a mooch around the shops or a chat with Gary Lineker’s dad, who ran a fruit and veg stall on the market. 

I assumed all these memories were fixed and accurate in my head. I’ve certainly bored people with detailed stories about university antics and hangouts over the years. But driving through what I thought would be familiar roads, trying to point out places of interest to fellow travellers, I realised much of what I thought I remembered, was actually just a figment of my imagination, or at least my own subconscious filling in the gaps. 

Clearly, cities are a constantly moving canvas, reflecting changing trends and economic cycles, but to the extent I didn’t actually recognise the city centre at all? I was truly shocked. 

Apart from giving my age and educational pedigree away, how does this relate to fund management? 

As the world (we hope) begins to return to normal, let’s not misremember how things were at any point in the recent past, as it will significantly impact the decisions we make in the future. 

The most obvious misremembering comes from the commute and working practices pre-pandemic, where I have heard sweeping statements about fundamental and lasting changes based on the very recent past.

While many of us may have enjoyed being released from the schlep into the office each day and being able to take lunch in the garden, we would do well to remember the business issues it created. 

Aside from the agony of learning how to work Zoom/Teams and navigate VPNs, businesses have struggled to recreate a collaborative spark virtually,  and to nurture a company culture through those spontaneous water cooler chit-chats and quick drinks after work.

Equally, some workers – in the City of London particularly – hated being stuck at home as the pandemic raged around us. Many are already back in the office and looking forward to welcoming other colleagues. 

Aside from the obvious horror of the last two years, there are certainly learnings about work/life balance that we can draw from them, but we need to be honest about the failings too.

If we create working policies around misrememberings, they will fail and ultimately impact the businesses we operate.

While impatiently staring at the departure board at Liverpool Street, it’s all too easy to conjure up what we think is a flawless image of the recent past without questioning the accuracy of our memory.

By Liz Pfeuti

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