A new auld lang syne


As I write this, I’m on holiday break from “real” business communication. But I never take a break from sharing a monthly blog post. To have a little fun while honoring my self-imposed publishing schedule, I’m finishing 2023 with a semi-autobiographical poem inspired by a song I can’t get out of my head.

When New Year’s Eve approaches, I always find myself humming Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang Syne—a song people seem to love or hate. It was first released in 1980. Here’s Fogelberg performing it live:

By revealing that I know and actually like this song, I may be showing my age.

But maybe not … because the Backstreet Boys covered it in 2022. Their harmonies are beautiful. But the grownup boy band left out the final stanza, replacing it with a verse of the original Auld Lang Syne.

That’s a miss.

I’ve always loved Fogelberg’s poetic ending to this song about reuniting with a long-ago love. On Christmas Eve, they bump into each other in a grocery store, wind up sharing a six-pack in her car, and compare notes on where life has taken them. Nothing more happens. They don’t make out in the backseat or run away together. They share beer and conversation, then part ways.

“And as I turned to make my way back home, the snow turned into rain.”

What a lovely line.

Fogelberg’s poem is autobiographical—a mostly true story told in 12 short stanzas full of familiar images that make the scene oh-so-relatable to anyone who’s bumped into an old flame (or just imagined doing so).

That’s what poets do: they string together words and images that make us see, imagine, and feel. And as I’ve said so many times before, that’s what the best business communicators do, too. When we can stir an audience to see, imagine, and feel, we can motivate them to take action, and that’s how business moves forward.

Because I can’t get this song out of my head, and because I enjoy rhyming and storytelling, I challenged myself to rewrite Same Old Lang Syne from my point of view. The first few stanzas are fiction. The colleague is invented, the conference isn’t real, the lunch never happened.

Even so, the story is “true.” The situation is inspired by so many conversations with clients who are frustrated by heavy workloads, unrealistic deadlines, and unpredictable expectations. And the support I offer is consistent with the way I coach those clients to face their challenges with courage and creativity.

Enjoy the story, and contact me any time you need a creative conversation partner in the year to come.

Met an old colleague at a conference
The lines at coffee breaks were long
I saw her scowling as she scrolled her phone
And I asked her what was wrong

She didn’t know that it was me at first
But then my name tag caught her eye
She tried to shake my hand but dumped her drink
Then she heaved a great big sigh

“Sounds like someone’s feeling stressed,” I said
While she sopped the coffee spill
“Overwhelmed” she said “by work demands
But you probably know that drill”

I shudder at a flood of memories
To-do lists long and schedules tight.
“Yes my friend I know the pain you feel …
Let me take you for a bite”

We talked about the role she has
We talked about her dreams
There are pros and cons in every job
And she really loves her team

She said she’d taken on a new project
That could use their clever minds
If only management would let them change
Instead of “do it like last time”

I told her she could be a force for change
If she had the courage to
Ask “what if,” “why not,” and “how about”
When proposing something new

I said she’d have to keep her spirits up
When resistance wears her down
She said, “I’ll call you when I need someone
To knock ideas around”

We’ll talk about her rationale
We’ll talk about her plan
We’ll strategize and talk things out
And always say “yes and”

We’ll focus on her strategy
We’ll focus on her goals
We’ll even cover sanity
‘Cause stress can take a toll

Our meal was ending so I paid the check
While the server cleared our plates
We set some time when we would reunite
Not just once but many dates

We parted ways and I felt satisfied
Our moods both lighter than before
Creative partner is the role I play
And it’s a job that I adore

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