Recently, I remembered my first camera – a gift from my dad – back in the late 1970s, when I was maybe 10-year-old – A Kodak Instamatic – an original, that captured my imagination. Every time I see those fuzzy, non-digital shots, it’s overwhelming with emotions – that smell, the touch or the flavor of a certain time captured romantically through the lenses of this great device.
While the need or relevance of the photographic technology has evolved over time, Kodak, the corporation failed to contemporize itself over time.
Organizations that don’t re-invent their mission – their reason for survival – are bound to head the same way. IBM (and many other corporations) did an amazing job of re-inventing its mission and delivering on stakeholders’ value – reinventing their “buggy whip” to what people really want and need.
If you look at nature, there are many things that don’t need continuous re-invention or refurbishment to remain relevant or contemporary. The smell of fresh rain on grass, the froth on the crest of the wave, clean air, warm sunshine or timeless pleasure of your child’s laughter – derives happiness wherever, whenever.
A parent-child relationship, (typically) needs no re-invention. Somehow, you hurt every time you see your child getting hurt making the saying, “You can only be as happy as your unhappiest child” a reality.
Many other relationships, while relevant, may need re-invention or redefinition. There are “reasons” and “seasons” for friends; school or college friendships are developed with a reason during a certain season. But as the school term ends, and there is not enough commonality of interest to keep us going, the friendships also fade away.
With advent of new technology, often, we hit the “Like” button to each others’ status’ or family photos on Facebook – but for all practical purposes, that’s the limitation of our “friendship”. I meet friends after decades and find that after a few sentences about where they live, or what they do – we struggle to maintain a dialog. To keep a solid bond of friendship, friends must also remain relevant and contemporary in each other’s lives.
Relationships, without maintenance and sustenance, feel the strains of time. With effort though, those common bonds can be re-energized, refreshed and rejuvenated for a very long time. True friendship, I believe, can have an infinite life-cycle! However, it doesn’t come without some work and effort.
Every time, I get together with one or more of my five high-school buddies, I feel like a child! We spent two years at Notre Dame College (Dhaka, Bangladesh) where we laughed, cried, fell and picked each other up. There’s something deep inside, that connect us in six countries in four continents. We may not exactly be relevant or contemporary at the moment we meet, but we quickly pick up where we left the last time and want to move forward into our new realities.
Like organizations, at the end of the day, our lives and relationships need to be meaningful or contemporary in the environment where we exist; one must recognize the current circumstances and renew the existing ties and bonds that enrich our lives.
After capturing the imagination of billions of people and helping us remind of our fond past, the name Eastman Kodak, may one day disappear from this earth; but with true commitment, we don’t have to disappear from the lives of the people who make a difference in our lives.
As I celebrated my 45th birthday rolled around this year, I received my first wish from a friend couple (Abdul Rahman and Fazilah Alauddin) in Malaysia. These two are special in my life because I met Abdul in college – and they became the first couple friend we had, early in our marriage. We met their extended families, friends and vice-versa. They are the Godparents of Daiyaan and we coincidentally arrived in Kualalampur in very early days of their eldest child’s life. We may not see each or talk to each other every day – but the memory of our times spent together remains fresh.
I want to keep connecting and contemporizing with my loving and caring friends, in London, Kualalampur, Istanbul, Vancouver, Dhaka or Toledo; as one grows older, it becomes clear that at the end of the day – our lives are nothing but a series of collective relationships.
To maintain these relationships, we must be willing to make the sacrifice – of time and energy – to stay in touch, to keep ourselves relevant and contemporary in each others’ lives. Sometimes it’s a holiday card, sometimes it’s a simple phone call, and if the opportunity arises a face-to-face visit. Whatever the circumstance, we must let our friends know how and where we are today. I realize that it’s a two-way street. I commit to do my part to remain relevant and contemporary.