Rearview. (A Prologue To The Year Ahead.)

Commercial Law
busine, munns, greenlights, matthew, rearview, future, retrospectoscope, real, risk, management

Written By: Phil Kabler

{And here we co with another single-word entitled article. We all know by now what that means – demi-literate (as opposed to semi-literate) ruminations ultimately leading to a conclusion involving proactive risk management and its application to life and business in-general. And, apparently, quite a few hyphens and dashes…..And that would all be correct.}

Let us start with a new book I purchased, Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey. No, I have not yet read it (it will work its way through a stack of about 20 books 1), although I have listened to the author reading and discussing a section through the Calm ‘app’. ( I am a subscriber.) And yes, I greatly admire Matthew McConaughey and his projected ‘always-on cool’ personality in his movies, interviews, and even television advertisements. 2 But as I thought about the forward-looking implications of the title Greenlights, and the year which has just concluded (I will not give it credence by typing out those digits…), I found myself drawn to the yin of the word ‘greenlights’ to its natural yang ‘rearview’. 3

It is not logically or practically possible to move forward until one has gone through the past. Which, in-turn, causes a person or a business to undergo positive and negative experience and add to the learning-curve from that journey. That knowledge accrual process causes the parties involved to observe, absorb, adopt, and adapt those past fact-sets to future fact-circumstances. So, for a person or a business to proceed onwards through its ‘greenlights’ it has to pay attention to its ‘rearview’ to understand how to survive and even thrive.

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The first law firm partner worked for in 1985, the late Thomas J. Harlan, Jr., was a seasoned trial lawyer, and he taught me of an intellectual game he called the ‘retrospectoscope’. One could never be wrong when looking through this imaginary device because they already knew what occurred. During my own 35+ years of practice, I periodically take out that tool when someone complains how something which is done could have been done better.

The ‘retrospectoscope’ is by definition a rearview-oriented tool which can assist a ‘user’ with developing its plans for the future. Of course, there is no such thing as an actual ‘retrospectoscope’, but that notion ties directly to the repeated proactive risk management underpinning of this series.

When a  business analyzes the data from prior transactions over time – such as return or call-back rates, vendor reliability, accounts receivable, loan rates, or insurance claims – it can (and should) use that same data to design its future. And, when done fully and properly, it can (and should) also accommodate for anticipated changes in its internal and external environments, whether those be repeated, minor, major, or world-changing in nature. Do you think this is just theoretical ‘pie in the sky’, that it does not actually happen in the real world? Well, on December 27th just gone by, the President signed a tax law update which will have implications to individual, family, and business taxpayers in 2021 and beyond. 4 When know that well-informed taxpayers will study, plan-around, and apply those changes to their benefit. And that is just one area of interest. What about always evolving science, technology, finance, and regulation changes?

So it sounds all too cute to discuss Greenlights, the ‘rearview’, yin and yang, and the ‘retrospectoscope’, but the people, families, and businesses best positioned for the future are the ones which pay close heed to the past, intentionally plan for risks which could go awry, and remain clear-eyed and flexible for ongoing changes.

The ‘rub’ – never stop learning. Because planning for known and unknown risks is less ‘expensive’ that remediating those risks.

Proactive risk management in-action. QED. (And thank you, Matthew for the inspiration.)


1 Currently I am working-through Coolidge by Amity Shlaes. Much as you will see in my brief note about Matthew McConaughey, I suppose I greatly admire President Coolidge’s image of calmness in apparent spirit and paucity of words. As a maturing minimalist, I am becoming an adherent of the ‘the less is more’ approach to living.

2 Watch this and you will know what I mean.

3 I researched and wrote my undergraduate Senior honors thesis about Chinese history and philosophy.

4 Click here for more information on the tax laws.

Note: The materials in this piece are based upon this writer’s business school lectures.


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For more information, call Philip N. Kabler, Esq. of the Gainesville, FL office of Bogin, Munns & Munns, P.A. at (352) 332-7688, where he practices in the areas of business, real estate, banking, and equine law. He has taught business and real estate law courses at the University of Florida Warrington College of Business Administration and Levin College of Law. And he is the President of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association.

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NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and readers should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding their legal matters, as every situation is unique.

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