American historian Henry Glassie once said, “History is not the past but a map of the past, drawn from a particular point of view, to be useful to the modern traveler.” It’s a perspective shared by real estate investment professional Coe Juracek, a lifelong student of yesteryear and the managing director of the investor coverage group of Crow Holdings Capital. Here are three ways Juracek says the study of the past can help in present business.
1. Humans Will Always Be Humans — And They Follow a Pattern
“People always think this time is different. But as somebody who’s studied history over a lot of different periods of time, it’s never different,” says Juracek, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from Duke University and a Master of Business Administration from Southern Methodist University. “People haven’t changed, and we’re not going to change. It’s never different.”
There are obvious examples in world history writ large, Juracek notes, like the rise and fall of empires from the Egyptians and Romans all the way to the British Empire. Human beings have an innate desire to expand and grow — a lesson applicable to the business world.
People are also often reluctant to change and can be slow to take on new ideas. An example of the former is the centuries-long devotion to the feudal system in many different cultures, and an example of the latter is the response to early scientific discoveries, like the world being round. But when an idea takes hold — like the Enlightenment — it can spread rapidly, like wildfire.
Knowing these basic lessons from history aids business professionals in understanding the environment in which they operate. It not only helps them understand trends and market cycles but gives them the tools to react, says Juracek.
2. Studying History Teaches You How to Think
Juracek acknowledges that while the route from a history major to a senior role in investment management might not be a common one, it’s nonetheless a useful one.
By studying history, he says he developed the tools required to analyze and explain problems in the past and then see patterns otherwise invisible in the present — a critical perspective that helps him understand and solve issues.
The study of history is also the study of economics, diplomacy, and politics, giving the student of the past an understanding of these disciplines in a historical context rather than in isolation.
History is also an intellectually rigorous field that gives the student robust and transferable practical skills like analytical and problem-solving abilities and the competence to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.
“It really was not by design at all, but it ended up being rather perfect. I wanted to do history,” says Juracek, admitting that at the time, he didn’t have a career path in mind.
While other students focused on European or ancient history, Juracek sought out classes that would give him a more holistic worldview.
“I made up my own major consisting of classes that studied the intersection of the West and other cultures throughout the Colonial period of history,” he shares.
Juracek studied the European entry of Japan during the 19th century, early Chinese-European relations, and the history of the Spanish in South and Latin America.
“All these intersections were fascinating to me,” says Juracek.
And that degree has served him well.
“I think a good, solid foundation in understanding history helps you understand how to think. It also helps you understand how to see the world,” Juracek says.
3. The Study of History Is Also the Study of Cultures
The business world is as much about connecting with people and understanding their motives as it is about supply chains, financing instruments, and profit and loss statements. Knowing the needs and motivations of your counterparts and competitors is crucial. And for Coe Juracek, the study of history is invaluable to such ends.
As he entered the workforce and began traveling to many of the places that he had studied in his college days, Juracek found that his natural fascination with different parts of the world and their cultures served him well.
“I was a history major because I liked it. But what I’ve found, now that I’ve been doing this role for about 10 years, is that every step I’ve taken couldn’t have been better training for what I do today,” Juracek says.
Juracek’s work takes him to meetings with clients and prospects all around the globe. One day he could be meeting people in Korea, and the next day, the Middle East. His passion for and knowledge of history and cultures is often the X factor in helping him connect with the people he meets.
“It’s really funny — and my colleagues sometimes jokingly give me a hard time,” says Juracek, of his natural inclination to want to learn about the places he visits or remember obscure facts he learned in school. “I’ll go to a meeting in Oman and happen to know something about their country. I’ll talk about it, or it will come up. And people are surprised that an American walked into the room and was talking about their history.”
As a result, thinks Juracek, he’s able to make a better impression and a deeper connection with the people he meets in his business life, no matter where they’re from.
Coe Juracek’s philosophy invokes the famous quote by Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana, who wrote in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
But while many people see this common human trait in a pessimistic light, Coe Juracek sees hope in it.
“You can learn so much from history,” he insists.