It was 1993. Driving eastbound on the 10, I was leaving El Paso when I saw a billboard for an outlet store and decided to stop for a few minutes. That’s when I saw them – Dan Post cowboy boots, tan, with the coolest Native American feather design stitched into the top. Never being one who can resist a great bargain, I bought them and they’ve been with me ever since. For 23 years, my boots and I have wandered around the world – to Europe, Asia and back, through countless airports, weekend errands and casual days at the office. They’re softer than slippers, battered and torn. I’ve repaired them more times than I can count, though the soles have begun to separate, and there’s a spot on the tip of my right toe where the leather has worn off. They’ve certainly seen better days, and it’s probably time for them to go (at least, that’s what people tell me lately). It’s time to get something new. Still, I can’t bear to part with them. They’re warm and familiar. They’re my go to shoe for any day and any adventure.
For over two decades, my Dan Posts have been my constant companions. Virtually nothing else in my life has lasted so long. Friendships and relationships have come and gone. I’ve changed hairstyles, lifestyles and loves. I’m in the middle of my midlife crisis, but still my boots are by my side. When I’m far away, they remind me of home.
It strikes me as funny how often people ask why I still wear them. I guess it’s a sign of the times. We live in an age of rapid, mass consumption. Whether it’s media, technology or fashion, we’re always on the lookout for the newest, next thing. We’re Pavlov’s dog when it comes to any device that starts with an “i”, trading up and swapping out perfectly good technology for something that barely does a little more than the last, and creating massive piles of waste here, there and everywhere. Actresses are over the hill at 40. People jump from company to company every few years, looking for the next big thing. Start-ups are exploding everywhere, revolutionizing how we interact with the world and with each other. And the old way of doing things is just “old.” It has no value. We shuffle our elders into group homes or assisted living facilities. It’s become the norm in our society. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I’ve been struck by this deeply in the past few months. My folks live much closer than they did before. For the first time in their lives, my kids get to spend concentrated time with their grandparents. Now, my mom was a teacher for eons, and my boys go to a progressive school that teaches things in new ways. In general, it really works, but my older son learns quickly by analyzing patterns, so this new age spelling thing has been a little tough on him. The other night, my mom was working with him, and I heard her spouting off cutesy phrases – “when two vowels go walking together…” etc. Kitschy, homespun learning. It was quaint. Then, we went to his parent-teacher conference, and it was more. We learned that Jake has grown remarkably over the last 30 days in spelling. Funny. That coincides exactly with the date my mom started to work with him in her “old fashioned” way.
Yes, society evolves. Values change. Technology advances. That’s all fine and good. But moving forward and honoring experience don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Our future is built on the foundation of great thinkers who came before us. Without Ptolemy, there would be no Galileo. Without the wisdom of a parent, a child would have a much harder time finding its way. History carves the path. We glance back to see how far we’ve come. We learn and look forward to see which direction we’ll head in the future. Innovation matters. So does experience. Just because an idea is “old” doesn’t mean it isn’t good or worth considering. A winning formula from the past can still be a winning formula, as long as you keep an eye on the future. And 23-year-old cowboy boots, soft and worn, still have value.
I’m going to keep logging miles in my Dan Posts as I figure out what’s next. Where are you headed in work or in life? What’s worth exploring, and what is mandatory to keep? Don’t lose sight of what (or who) helped you succeed. Your past may be the key to your future.