It's the last day of the year, so it is time to take stock of 2003. I'll spare you the diary entries and instead post a little note about what taking stock of 2003 is supposed to mean.
People are always talking about new years resolutions. You're supposed to be an optimistic forward looking, self improving, progress loving, spirited individual and for that reason you're supposed to be thinking about the opportunities for the future and not about the past. Personally I will gladly admit to caring a great deal about the past. So much in fact that I often approach the future with the direct intention of making it past as soon as possible. If I want to give it a positive spin I say that I'm goal oriented but often it feels more like the negative spin is closer to home: I dislike uncertainty which is why I'm anxious to see the future turned into past to dissolve the uncertainty.
So I actually like taking stock a good deal - which adds another pleasure to the end of the year (apart from the parties, the fireworks, the drinking and the 15 hour database upgrades).
I've spent some time thinking about the perfect stock taking question. Just asking "How was 2003 for you?" doesn't seem to cut it. The problem to be solved is striking the right balance betweeen savoring the good times of the past (sentimental memory) and counting up accomplishments and disappointments to arrive at a final score (uncertainty hating score keeping). I have landed at the following simple question: "Did 2003 end in a better way than it started?". The question serves a few purposes: It balances the sentimental and the rational looks at the past, although I'll grant that the score keeping is perhaps too emphasized. It manages to add a not of outlook on the future since it asks you to think about change. And most importantly, it is not that common a question so people have to actually stop and think about what its supposed to mean - which gets you a much more careful and much more interesting response in general.