View from an airplane window at the wings and flying over a scenic landscape of green hills and rivers

I live in a small colonial town where it appears things are being done the way they have been done for centuries. Tradition. As American Independence Day nears the town is in a flurry of patriotic activity from draping bunting on all of the buildings to staging reenactments and parades. Tradition. Nobody can even remember the reasons why we celebrate how we do and the literal or symbolic meaning behind the trappings of the day. Tradition. So somewhere between “this is the way we have always done it…” and the evidence provided by fading tin-type photos and the spiels made by local historians we find the reason why: Tradition.

A day doesn’t pass when I am not confronted with some version of “tradition” being the answer to why something is the way it is. Summer vacation plans being made around the family’s ancestral lake cottage, the annual summer trip to a theme park, the format for a fundraising gala, and the management of a crisis can each be viewed through the lens of tradition. Or not. What would it be like to make a fresh choice when confronted with old ideas? What would be possible to explore various new perspectives for doing something to simply see if there might be a different way of doing something? What would be possible if you held “tradition” as only one of several possible reasons for something being just so?

Remind me of what’s really going on here: We display red, white, and blue decorations that symbolize our founding ancestor’s fight for freedom from tyranny; we gather together at the lake because we want the younger generations to be connected to their family heritage; we go to the theme park because it is fun and affordable; we maintain the gala format because it is successful and engages the kind of supporter we rely upon; and the PR strategy we use promotes the most accurate image of our brand at the best price. Tradition, while a reasonable measure for some things, can also keep us passive, stale, stuck, and complacent.

Could this be why we are so obsessed with products and services and campaigns that are “new” and “fresh” and “upgraded” and “recently renovated” and “version 2.0”? We seem to cling to tradition and yet we live for current. We want it both ways…to feel traditional and important yet be current and new. We want new crown moulding but in a traditional style. We want new scooters that look like classic models. We want new dining rooms in which to eat our “old country” meals. We want something done the traditional way and yet expect a different result. A case can be made that tradition, when met with a current way of thinking, could be very potent.

I think about “tradition, and…?” For example, we set a celebration table to look like such, and what are your ideas we can try? Or, our mission has traditionally been such, and it is time we blend this traditional response to a current way of organizing. Or, a traditional school/family/marriage/community has looked like such and today it looks like this. What’s your “tradition, and…?”

Enjoy the day!


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