Jan 14

Does your past define your future?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Does your past define your future?

This time of year is a time when many people resolve that they need to do things differently in life. After a period of reflection over Christmas and the New Year they take stock and decide to alter course. In doing so, they often constrain themselves by paying too much attention to past experience and not enough to where they want to get to..

Skunk Baxter

If you have read my articles previously, you will know I am partial to a musical analogy from time to time. Hence let me introduce you to Skunk Baxter. For those of you who don’t know him, Jeffery Allen “Skunk” Baxter is best known as a guitarist (rock, jazz/blues) with Steeley Dan and the Doobie Brothers amongst others. Quite why he is called Skunk is a matter of conjecture and he has preferred to keep the reasons to himself. Baxter worked at a music shop in Manhattan when he was at High School, which led to him meeting Jimi Hendrix in 1966 and playing bass with him in one of Hendrix’s early bands.

After working with a number of bands on the East Coast, he moved to the West Coast and joined Steeley Dan when it formed in 1971. A long career in music followed and he ultimately ended up working as a music producer. He has an extensive discography.

The Next Phase

In the mid-1980s, Baxters interest in music recording technology led him to wonder about hardware and software originally developed for military use. At the time, his next door neighbour was someone who had worked in missile development and was instrumental in him becoming self-taught in missile defence systems. After writing an influential paper on a potential missile defence system for ships, he was invited to start consulting to the Pentagon. As his consulting career developed he was invited to become the chair of a Congressional sub-committee and his innovative thinking in the field is widely recognised. More recently he has been involved with some NASA initiatives.


On his Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Baxter) Baxters’ occupation is listed as musician, songwriter, producer and military advisor. Baxter continues to contribute and perform musically, yet also continues to contribute to technical matters in his field of engineering.

This isn’t unusual – Brian May (of Queen) has made notable contributions to astrophysics and Professor Brian Cox played keyboards for D:Ream.

What is notable is that they didn’t feel defined by their musical success and either continued other interests (May and Cox) or developed new ones (Baxter).

The past doesn’t define you

This is classic fixed versus growth mindset which originates from the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck.

Imagine if Baxter had decided that all he was, was a musician (fixed mindset), he would never have challenged himself to develop interests outside of this field. He is a good example of someone who hasn’t limited themselves by being defined by their past (growth mindset).

The key question is, are you limiting yourself by deciding that what you have done is the only thing you can do in the future?

If you are still reflecting on year end thoughts or have decided that lockdown has shown you that something needs to change, what do you need to do to choose growth? Remember this can mean different (because growth is about learning) rather than bigger and better…


“The past doesn’t define you, It prepares you.”


If Baxter can re-invent himself, what is holding you back? If you want some help to find out, why not give us a call?

Is it time to make 2021 the year you #Startsomething?

No comments yet.

Leave a Comment

reset all fields