Learning from History

Learning from History

It wasn’t too long ago that I wasn’t at all interested with history. It seemed so irrelevant. I didn’t want to know what had already happened, I focused on what was ahead, and what was going to happen. I am not sure why my interest changed, maybe having lots of spare time at the start of the pandemic. It started when I read a couple of history books, ‘Churchill: Walking with Destiny‘ and ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich‘. Both books are incredible reads, and I haven’t finished the latter yet, it is a monster.

History’s Role in Predicting the Future

My guess is you aren’t looking for some history book recommendations and that’s not why I’m writing this. I’ve come to realize that history provides many clues to the future, and that is important for any leader. Here are a couple of examples.┬áThe Russian invasion of the Ukraine, has many similarities to Hitler’s German expansion at the start of WWII. He felt humiliated by the loss of territory after WWI and took back the lost territories of Germany. Then expanded into the traditionally German part of the Czech Republic, followed by a total invasion of the Czech Republic. Do you see any similarities to Putin’s actions? Fortunately the western nations appear to have learned from the failure of their appeasement strategy.

Leading Business Insights

In a business context, the dot.com bubble follows the exact same stages as earlier bubbles, like the railroad bubble. Both ending in crashes. Whatever looks too good to be true will likely be next. It is fair to say, what happened in the past is a reasonable predictor of what could happen in the future. Ray Dalio, the legendary hedge fund trader, knows this and has modelled economic boom and bust cycles back over the last 500 years. According to his research, the US is close to the end of a cycle resulting in a lot of conflict and change, before a new cycle emerges. He is one of the most successful hedge fund traders ever, so understanding history is working for him. You can learn more in his excellent book ‘The Changing World Order‘.

I’m not recommending you become a history buff, instead don’t ignore it. Extend your curiosity and ask what can you learn from history?