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Why Do I Only Remember the Unfinished Work?

Posted on March 29, 2019


josh buzz

Today’s Morning Buzz is by Josh Edwards, his first ever, so be kind or not– either way connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter!!!


What I’m Listening To:  Weezer Radio on Spotify

What I’m Reading:  The Invention of Nature, Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World

 What I’m Watching: The ACC Dominate March Madness!


In college, one of my best friends, Jared, had a band with an ever changing name (Silvertone, Jacobs Hill, Zephyr), much like Pawnee’s own The Story of Mouse Rat.   As a good friend and rock and roll fan I didn’t miss a show. One of their best songs was titled “Regret,” and it was a beautiful mix of Incubus and STP with tmouse rat introhe hook being “OHHHHHHH OHHHHHH REGRET!” There was always something about that song that I liked, I just couldn’t put my finger on it at the time.

Now I know, it’s called the Zeigarnik Effect. Too often the memories we have about the past are regrets, things we have left unfinished or couldn’t accomplish. The brain has an easier time recalling the things that are grinding at us then celebrating all the things we have done.

Today let’s stop, sit and look back.  I was recently reminiscing with one of my coworkers about a project we did three years ago thanks to a conversation with #ELGL19 Keynote Hana Schank (Insert Shameless REGISTER NOW plug). By looking back and celebrating the impact of this small idea, I found the motivation I needed for the week ahead.  How can we do this more regularly? There are many strategies, but today I will offer a simple one, ask a friend.

As long as I write for morning buzz, I will work hard to incorporate conversations I have with interesting people as others always say it better than I. This month the Durham i-team had the opportunity to host Max Gigle, a new friend and graduate student at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. Why is Max interesting? For starters, he wanted to spend his spring break with us. Not to mention he worked in the Rhode Island Office of Innovation and is a fellow New Englander. Enough chit chat, let’s ask Max a few questions:


Josh: Why did you want to spend your Spring Break in Durham?

Max: I first learned of Durham i-team’s interesting work through Bloomberg Philanthropies. From the outside, Durham’s i-team seemed to be driving innovation in a dynamic environment with all the constraints most municipal governments face. As a graduate student passionate about the creation of innovation in government spaces, the opportunity to shadow and learn from a team of successful practitioners over spring break was too good for me to give up.

Josh: What did you learn about local government innovation?

Max: Two lessons (of many) from the week stick with me as I return to classes at the University of Michigan:

“Even figuring out what is wrong is progress, and progress is good.”

A win comes in many forms, and sometimes the best possible outcome is progress itself.

“We are all on the same team, so let us know how we can help out.”

While difficult for varied reasons, inter-team and inter-departmental collaboration can be a powerful and useful force for improving city programs and related outcomes for citizens.

Josh: How did a week in Durham help you think about your future?

Max: I am dedicated to the positive improvement of government functionality, and will use insights from my week with Durham’s i-team in my future career. Watching a government team improve outcomes for Durham’s community members by creating and applying innovation in real-time was both enlightening and inspiring. The welcoming members of Durham’s i-team shared applicable lessons, benchmarks to compare against my future endeavors, and strong examples to emulate after graduation. The overall experience was transformative, and for the i-team’s sharing of valuable time and insight, I am very grateful.


People enter our lives every day, but all too often we don’t slow down, listen, and learn from them. Max spent his spring break with us and it got my attention, I couldn’t help but slow down and listen to him out of interest in his commitment. His perspective provided a mirror that allowed me to look back on what we have been building in Durham over the last five years. He helped me see the “why” instead of the  “what” for the year ahead.  He allowed me to forget the things that are unfinished and celebrate how far we have come.

So, when you start to think about everything you need to do over the next month to reach your goals for the year ahead, remember to take some time to rest and reflect on the things you have accomplished remembering why you got into this line of work.


Josh Edwards is the City of Durham’s Assistant Budget Director of Strategy & Performance and leads the Office of Performance and Innovation (OPI). The OPI team helps all 26 departments accomplish Durham’s “One Vision and Five Goals,” by advancing the City’s Strategic Plan, providing a framework for data driven decision making, fostering a culture of innovation, and leading process improvements.  OPI is home to the City’s i-team, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies (@Durham_iteam), which is using both qualitative and quantitative data to better connect justice involved residents to economic opportunities.  Josh enjoys camping with his family, coaching u6 soccer, and convincing his kids that Wake Forest is better than Duke and Carolina.

All views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of his employer.

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