Last month, I got to hear Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto speak at Creative Mornings.
(Creative Mornings, by the way, is a kick-ass breakfast lecture series that is 100% free. I highly recommend checking it out if you have a local chapter.)
Bill Peduto is like Pittsburgh’s version of Barack Obama – the Obama of 08 that everyone was excited about. He’s our Cory Booker.
He does appearances at local drag clubs and sings karaoke and set up a twitter account for reporting potholes. He is as beloved in this town as our old mayor was loathed. He’s a very popular guy right now.
He’s also, as it turns out, pretty smart. I only discovered this myself at Creative Mornings when I heard him talk about Pittsburgh’s past, his vision for the future, and his plans for bridging the two. The details of all that are only interesting if you live in Pittsburgh.
But something he said jumped out at me as universal.
“The lessons of Pittsburgh’s past are what got us to where we are, but we also need to let them guide us to do better in the future.”
For those who haven’t studied Western Pennsylvania history, Pittsburgh’s past includes a lot of successful industry, economic growth, and expansion. It also includes a lot of environmental pollution, economic disparity, urban sprawl, and institutional racism.
In other words:
There has been good, and there has been bad.
There have been achievements to be proud of and decisions that were destructive.
And that’s exactly my life.
I suspect it’s the same for most people.
I was inspired to hear Mayor Peduto talk about good and bad decisions made by former city leaders; I was impressed that he was willing to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses.
Acceptance is an essential part of any plan for growth.
And acceptance sees the good and the bad.
Acceptance knows that all the lessons contributed to where you are right now, and therefore all of it deserves at least a moment of recognition.
Remember this when you think about your own story.
You can be both proud of where you are and determined to do better in the future – and you can do it without shame.
Acceptance has nothing to do with shame and everything to do with constantly learning.
Are you hiding from parts of your past?
You don’t have to wear a t-shirt announcing your biggest regrets to the world, but accepting your mistakes as part of your ongoing story can be very empowering. It may even make you more compassionate towards yourself and others.
The world can always use more compassion.
What if we stopped looking at our pasts as a series of good and bad decisions? What if we could see all of it as progress, as plot points in our ever evolving stories?
I believe that perspective could set a lot of people free.
Free from guilt. Free from shame. Free from making the same mistakes over and over again in the future.
Because you can’t learn from what you ignore.
Face your past. Learn your lessons. And then, move the hell on.