It’s a family tradition in the Weir household to have pizza every Saturday night. It’s the highlight of the week and something everyone looks forward to with enthusiasm. So ingrained is the tradition, pizza now signals the arrival of a new week better than a calendar does.
When one of us asks if we’re having pizza night as scheduled, a sense of satisfaction comes with an affirmative response, and disappointment sets in on the rare instances that the tradition is forgone. Calling our pizza night a tradition is not an exaggeration. In fact, the weekly event is now in its third generation.
When I was a boy, we’d make Chef Boyardee pizza right from the box and, as I grew older, we’d order from our favourite pizza parlour. Since then, we’ve gravitated back to homemade pizza and now I make the dough from scratch.
For 20 years, my Saturday mornings have begun with making enough dough for four pizzas and making sure we have the topping ingredients needed for later. Two decades and four-thousand pizzas since I began kneading, the ritual is still latent with experimentation.
What’s the best flour for the dough? The best cheese? Sauce? What’s the best way to cook it?
It's about tradition
But it isn’t just about the pizza; our family tradition also includes the rare treat of eating casually together in the living room. When I was younger, the TV was tuned to “The Wonderful World of Disney”. Now, we watch shows from my childhood such as “The Brady Bunch”, “I Dream of Jeannie” and “The Partridge Family”. I’m not sure the kids really like the shows, but they certainly do pizza night.
Over three generations, the only real change in the tradition has been the night of the week that it occurs. Growing up in America, pizza night was Sunday, and in Dubai, it’s Saturday. Both signal the start of a new week.
Even though my kids love pizza night and our other family rituals, I don’t know if they fully grasp their depth. Still, I’m sure they will one day, as traditions bring special significance that stay with you for a lifetime.
Perhaps I’m naturally nostalgic, but I don’t think tradition is about returning to the past, rather it’s about continuation and shaping the future. After all, the word literally means to hand over, or to give for safekeeping.
Traditions are important as both living reminders and sources of identity. They teach us about life and tell the stories of where we came from and who we are as people. When carried forward in the right way, they bring a certain spirit and substance to our lives, and even to our work.
The Weirs do love pizza — personally, it’s my favourite food — but for us, pizza night is really about coming together, touching base and connecting in preparation for the coming week.
In the same way that pizza night has given my kids an intimate insight into my own childhood, workplace traditions can give your employees valuable insight into the history of your company and can nurture a sense of purpose, belonging and, even, pride. The stories from yesterday are important in shaping the future.
There’s something about understanding your past and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself that instills confidence and motivates you to do more.
I believe that yesterdays do matter, but I also believe that you should never carry them as a burden into the future. A tradition isn’t about repeating the past merely because it happened.
To me, traditions are about tomorrow. They can give you something to build upon and look forward to with anticipation.
Don’t dismiss traditions out of hand because you mistakenly associate them with looking to the past. There is nothing regressive about continuing a legacy.
In fact, the longer ago it began, the stronger it’s impact can be today. Far from a step back, following tradition can mark a firm step forward.
— Tommy Weir is the CEO of EMLC Leadership Ai Lab and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.