There is nothing more cliche than looking back at the year that's just gone by in late December and reviewing what happened. For me personally though looking back this year is far more about a lesson learned than actual events. The lesson is that if you constantly revert to your comfort zone then you will, in the end, push away those that you know that do not exist within the same comfort zone.
The problem you face is that sometimes, when you sit in that zone, you fail to realise that what you think might be interesting might in fact no longer be interesting for those that you speak to because they switch off the minute you start to talk in the same cliches and stock phraseology. You become, in the minds of some, a one-dimensional being.
Think about like this for a moment. you may very well know someone who is totally and utterly obsessed with, a particular subject. The result is that in almost all situations they will find a way of relating whatever might be being discussed to that which they know.
Unlike following the Socratic dictum that it is "better to be silent and appear stupid than to speak and remove all doubt" they have altered it to be that it is "better to relate everything to that which you know than to remain silent and appear a misanthropic social misfit". This lesson is something that not only I need to learn but Gordon Brown should learn too.*
Why would I say that? Well, just take a look at the Prime Minister's new year message. It is a message about the economy, it is a message from a Chancellor. It is a message that may have important content but it's being delivered by a one-dimensional man that is reverting to his comfort zone yet again.
The calculation is clear of course, Brown's strategy for the New Year is that he will try and play, yet again, on his strength as someone that delivered "economic stability". Putting aside the sheer absurdity that Brown alone delivered such a thing, this strategy is a dangerous one for Brown.
Even if one ignores that it is a short term tactic for a long term strategic aim in relation to the polls, Brown has failed to "get" that he's just saying the same things over and over again. Have a read of his speeches since he took over, it is always about "long term economic challenges in the face of global instability" or words to that effect.
He has reverted to type thinking that if he talks about and sounds tough on the economy that he can weather the storm of bad polls and make people trust him on the other issues outside his comfort zone.
When he's forced to mention those other issues his responses are always economic too. Unlike Blair, who could capture the mood and articulate a "vision" through his rhetoric, Brown's message doesn't contain a "vision". He does "emote" a feeling about direction, he simply sounds like a dour economist, take a look if you don't believe me.
'We will make the right decisions, not only this year but for the years ahead, to safeguard and strengthen our economy - and, by keeping inflation low, keep interest rates for business and homeowners low.'Those are the words of a man that has only one dimension and frame of reference in which he can speak. If everything and anything always come back to just one subject then slowly but surely people will switch off.
As Jack Straw conceded in a Sunday Times interview, David Cameron's message has been one to "resonate" with the wider public and Labour needs to make what they say "relevant to [peoples'] futures and not just [rest] on our laurels." Funny that Jack Straw gets it whilst his boss doesn't.**
The lesson for 2008 for those of us that can feel like socially inept misfits in non-comfort zone situations. Get over it, and step outside more often, lest you lose much that you cherish. I'll be following the lesson, but something tells me that Gordon Brown won't be.
* Yes, I just reverted to my own comfort zone but it's not the New Year yet, and this is primarily a political blog after all, so sue me.
** Caretaker Leadership candidate.