A Tale of Two Seasons

Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison explains how we are in the midst of a multi-year cyclical reset.

Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and the author of Take Control: The Career You Want, Where You Want.

It was like the circus coming to town—only bigger. You could just feel the excitement in the air, building day by day for months. Posters were plastered on storefronts and shop windows, and the news covered it like the next big storm on the horizon.

The date was September 1971—and Evel Knievel, the world-famous daredevil, was barnstorming his way across the US and making his way to our town and the Kansas State Fair.

Like every kid, I couldn’t wait. All I wanted was for that day to arrive.

Then it hit me. Every day I crossed off the calendar not only shortened the countdown to Evel Knievel, but it also meant Labor Day was just around the corner. And there was no denying what that meant.

Today, Labor Day brings a long weekend, backyard barbecues, and time spent with people who are special to us. It also marks the start of a transitory time as the Earth shifts from summer to fall in the Northern Hemisphere, and from winter to spring in the Southern Hemisphere.

But as a grade-school kid, I knew Labor Day signaled only one thing: summer ending—and a new school year beginning.

It was no surprise. Every year, just like clockwork, the week before school started, we always went to the five-and-dime store to buy a new lunchbox and all my school supplies in one swoop—then the Sears store for corduroy pants, three shirts, and a pair of Converse sneakers.

Except—that year was different.

I was caught between two seasons—summer ending and school beginning—amid a swirl of emotions I couldn’t quite reconcile. The thought of being back in the classroom every day was not necessarily inspiring. But then I thought of Evel riding into town with all that fanfare, and my excitement skyrocketed. Not only that—I still had the last precious days of summer to enjoy.

That’s a lesson for all of us today. We are in the midst of a multi-year cyclical reset—ranging from interest rates, to how we work, how we consume, and how we are entertained.

We can’t wish away the present for a future we don’t know yet. Getting caught up in what will be, or clinging to what was, will rob us of the enjoyment of what is now.

After all, we are human beings—not human doings.

And that’s a reminder to leaders. While we’re certainly not where we used to be, and not yet where we want to be, we still need to take the time to pause.

It’s like being “in neutral”—a gear we may not fully appreciate. But without it, we can get stuck—even stall. The pause is what allows us to stop, relax, reflect—and then shift forward.

And that’s exactly what happened the day Evel Knievel finally came to town.

Cheers and applause filled the stands as the announcer’s voice boomed over the loudspeakers. Wearing a white jumpsuit and matching helmet, Evel climbed on his Harley-Davidson XR-750.

He paused and revved the engine—as if surveying that long row of 10 large trucks he was about to jump over.

With a roar, he took off at full speed and launched off the ramp—flying over every one of those trucks. We all held our breath as he seemed suspended in the air forever.

Then he landed—perfectly.

Look up, look out, look forward—but always look inward.

No matter our time or season, may we savor this moment.