Have you heard the story about the stockbroker and his slow speedboat? It seems he’d spent several people’s fortunes on a boat that would make drug runners drool. But no matter what he did or how he handled it, his high performance boat sluggishly waddled in the wakes of the local bass boats.

The crew at the marina checked out the engine and everything else and couldn’t find a thing wrong. Then one of them put on a mask and snorkel for an underwater inspection – to find that the boat was still attached to its trailer.

Pick a moral – any moral – to the story. But more importantly, take some time to apply what you find to your own life. The baggage we carry from other times and places may have been perfect for then, but can be worse than useless if it’s inappropriate to today’s life. The tools that got you where you are may not be the best ones to get you where you want to be. It doesn’t matter if it’s emotional, habitual, financial or any other kind of baggage, if it doesn’t fit, find a way to quit.

State-of-the-art healthcare for America’s founding fathers included bloodletting. George Washington began his final hours with a sore throat. While draining 40% of his blood supply – 82 ounces – in less than 16 hours may not have killed him, it didn’t help him survive. The bloodletting was accompanied two procedures which [1] raised blisters inside his throat and [2] encouraged painful vomiting. Suffocation could not have been an easy death. And I don’t think these procedures are taught to today’s medical students.

Be it in medicine, business or warfare, survivors are those who either pioneer change or quickly adapt to it. You may have heard the phrase about generals always fighting the last war [which is usually the one they trained in]. But when they don’t adapt to new conditions, they lose. The infamous charge of the Light Brigade demonstrated what happens when military officers are drawn from social connections, not training – and when sword-bearing cavalry charges into a funnel of entrenched heavy artillery. Compare the weapons and tactics of the 18th and 19th centuries with the 20th century’s evolving trench warfare, aerial combat and jungle warfare against either traditional or guerilla forces. Are any of these strategies and tactics appropriate for today’s lone-wolf terrorists?

Just because something was accepted centuries ago doesn’t make it appropriate for today. Are we still using yesterday’s tools or another generation’s or culture’s approaches to live our lives in today’s world? Our ancestors didn’t live in today’s world. They developed solutions to the problems they faced, which probably differed from those of their ancestors. Third world citizens don’t live in suburbia, so I doubt that middle class suburban solutions are totally appropriate for their lives, either.

It’s wonderful that we honor the past. But we need to live in the present. Doing something the way it’s always been done is wrong if it’s inappropriate to today’s environment.