#5 Is your future-thinking stuck in the present?

Hello!

IS YOUR FUTURE-THINKING STUCK IN THE PRESENT?

Welcome to The Makers and a very warm welcome to new subscribers joining us this week!

The aim of The Makers is to share thoughts and ideas to help you engage more positively and purposefully with the future.

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Ok, on with the show…

Today I’m going to share with you three things:

  1. A subtle flaw in our approach to imagining the future
  2. 3 forces pinning your attention to the here and now
  3. Thinking about the end of the world

1. A subtle flaw in our approach to the future 🤨

When thinking ahead, check yourself. What’s important today might not be important tomorrow. 

If I were to ask you to think about the world in 30 years’ time, how might you go about doing that? 

Perhaps you’d reach for the latest trends in science and technology? Or gather together the most authoritative predictions on shifts in global climate or projections for human population growth?

All seemingly sensible choices. 

There is, however, one drawback in an approach that takes the pressing issues and trends of the Now and simply projects them forward. It’s that we’re framing the future within the confines of the present. 

And this can lead to some pretty short-sighted decisions. 

In 1962, Decca Records turned down a plucky four-piece guitar band, telling their manager that the band had “no future in show business” because “four-piece groups with guitars, particularly, are finished.” 

That band turned out to be The Beatles. Oops.

Then there are economic assumptions. Take ‘Tulip mania‘ in early seventeenth-century The Netherlands – where locals might have said: “invest in tulip bulbs: it’s a growth market!” After all, the value of tulip bulbs seemed to endlessly and vertigiously rise. The price for a single bulb of one variety peaked (reputedly) at levels equivalent to more than 16 years’ pay for a skilled worker. Many invested everything they had. But, the market crashed in February 1637. 

Is your future-thinking stuck in the present?

By holding on to our present-day assumptions – “things will always be such”, could we be making similar mistakes? Are we unwittingly lashing our thinking to the mast of today’s world – how the world today looks, how it feels, how it functions?

Whether through idleness or just plain laziness – if we forget to read our assumption’s use by date, the result will be the same: today’s assumptions will be baked into how we imagine the future. (Could we call these ‘stale futures’ perhaps? 🤔) 

Projecting today into the future doesn’t generate farsightedness. Rather, I’d argue, it offers us little more than ‘extended now-sightedness.’

Extended now-sightedness

‘Extended now-sightedness’ describes a type of thinking about the future based on the belief that today’s trends and assumptions will simply continue to hold. However, most assumptions have a natural expiry date. (If they were true in the first place – but that’s another conversation.) The present won’t hold forever.

So, when thinking ahead, check yourself. To really explore what else is possible, try gently reminding yourself to untether and unshackle your thinking from present-day assumptions. Ask yourself “what’s the shelf-life of this factor’s influence?” 

After all, what’s important today might not be important tomorrow. (I explore what this might mean for our long term commitments here.)

2. This week’s introduction 🤝 

An idea, concept or actionable tool to help you to engage with the future a little more positively and purposefully…

Have you ever felt like it’s nigh on impossible to escape the clutches of short term thinking? Well, perhaps it’s not your fault. In this Long Term Short video, I introduce three powerful forces that are pinning your attention to the here and now, making it harder for you to think beyond the short term and to the future beyond.

Take a look and see whether they sound familiar.

3. Future jam today 😋 

Books, articles and resources broadly on the subject of time and how we think about it…

This week’s recommendation is a podcast on the (uplifting) topic of the end of the world. 

“We humans could have a bright future ahead of us that lasts billions of years. But we have to survive the next 200 years first.” This short podcast series – “The End Of The World With Josh Clark” – explores the perils and possibilities that lie ahead for us to navigate.

Thanks 🙏 

Thanks for reading, watching, subscribing and being a Maker! I really appreciate it.

If you’ve enjoyed this edition of The Makers, you’d be doing me a kind and generous favour by sharing it with someone who might enjoy it also.

Until next time…

Best wishes,

James

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