My first look through a telescope at an observatory can be described in one word…fascinating.

I had always wanted to look at a star through a powerful lens. When I finally had the opportunity to do so, my reaction surprised me. I was overwhelmed with emotion. It was so beautiful. It literally took my breath away. It was like looking at a diamond on a black velvet background. And the sparkle will be forever imprinted in my mind’s eye. Emotions welled as I realized I was looking at the past.

I was trying to get my brain around the concept of light years. I was looking at what was…not what is. And while this is a rather clumsy attempt at describing all that was happening in those precious moments, it affirms a common present day experience in my Change Management consulting.

One man between past and future.


I often work with individuals who desperately want to stay on planet “What Was” but, you see, what was, is now, gone.

But I can see it,” a physician once told me. He was resisting converting to electronic medical record software (EMR). He went on, “That file cabinet over there has all my medical charts in it. We should continue that practice — it’s much more reliable.” In the blink of an eye, the physician had gone from what was, paper charting, to what is, electronic medical records, to what he thinks it should be, back to paper charting. In that short time he had traveled to three planets! Planet ‘What Was’, Planet ‘What Is’, and Planet ‘What Should Be’.

Planet “What Was” is confusing because it’s just like looking at that star — you can see it but its actual existence is now history.

Planet “What Is” puts us in real time with what is current. You can be right about the past but what is current is what matters most. You need to understand that even though you can see the past, it’s really gone and you have to move on with “what is.”

Planet “What Should Be” stinks to high heaven. Everyone there is ‘shoulding’ on each other. There are piles of “should” everywhere. Yuck!


How does one get to what is when they are so easily distracted by what was and what should be? My answer, as a result of my experience at the observatory is affirmed here: in order to see what is, you must transcend.

Personal accountability is a transcendent concept.

Just as I had to embark on a study of light years to understand how it was possible to see history – now, likewise, you must embark on a study of personal accountability to see the past and its role in “the now”. This could lead to clarity that is at once both personally indicting AND freeing.


The physician who is resisting moving from paper charting to EMR laments he is two years from retirement. He brings significant revenue to the hospital via his patient base. And he’s done it all using paper charting. Younger interns who work with him watch to see how long resisting the EMR will work. Meanwhile this physician does not set an example to follow, and the interns are not prepared for life on Planet “What Is”.

More importantly, had the physician’s information about his most recent patients been in the EMR it would have been crossed referenced expediting new treatment paths to help his patients sooner and more effectively. Everyone involved (except the patient) knows it, even the physician.

Here is the behavior he has chosen to act out: “I want to be right about what was, more than I want to provide the best possible care for my patients with what is current.” And therein lies the problem with remaining on Planet “What Was”. No one TRULY benefits.

We all live out moments when what was and what is cross paths. But until we adopt personal accountability as a law of life – “own, act on, and answer for” what is so today- life on Planet “What Is”, will continue to be elusive. I chose to live and work on Planet “What Is” and remain steadfast in my search for an intelligent, personally accountable life.

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