The Day After Tomorrow Can’t Come Soon Enough — 10 steps to change your life and make the world a better place
Exclusive excerpt from Jacques Attali’s book
Jacques Attali is a rare voice on the global stage: special Adviser to French President Mitterrand for 10 years; founder of 4 international institutions: Action contre la faim, EUREKA, BERD and Positive Planet; his more than 80 books are available in 22 languages and have sold 9 million copies worldwide.
His 1990 book Lignes d’Horizon (Millennium in the English version) famously served as an inspiration for Sun Microsystem’s Java programming language. On a more personal note, I read Lignes d’Horizon as a 16 year old and Attali’s vision of “nomad devices” inspired part of my career path in mobile telecoms.
Attali is a columnist for French daily Les Echos and on attali.com. He is head of C3 AI’s advisory board. C3 was founded by Tom Siebel and is a leader in enterprise AI with global clients (Shell, Bank of America, 3M, Engie).
Attali’s 2016 book The Day After Tomorrow Cannot Come Soon Enough’s chapter 4 is a must-read. This is its first English translation which I’ve tasked myself with, with the goal to help Attali’s book reach beyond the non-French speaking world.
It’s by providing ourselves with the means to enjoy ourselves, and helping others to do the same, that we can create the conditions for a sustainable and happy world.
This is what the major faiths and non religious philosophies teach us, which all place LOVE at the core of happiness. It’s what neuroscience teaches us and it’s how those who practice “positive economy” live, those whose work is focused on serving future generations.
This means coming to terms with the necessity for urgent action, in the brief time we are given on this Earth and realizing the importance of a paradigm shift for yourself, and for others. This also entails being sufficiently incensed without pivoting to anger and wanting rather to focus on bringing altruism to the center, rationally and lucidly. It behooves us to harness a righteous anger to build, to love, to first find the courage to question oneself.
In order to fulfill this path, many will choose to settle for their own intuition, their own education, certain specific books and encounters, as well as the realization of the immense task ahead. For others, even those who are pushed into action via intuition, it’s useful to shape a lasting action by rooting it to strong values, forged as part of a process.
To complete this conscious exercise, I suggest a specific mental journey, in 10 steps.
Before reading them and putting them into practice, it’s recommended to pause and reflect, to meditate and look into yourself. This will allow you to feel and channel your rage. This means, at first, to learn to stand back and meditate, consciously, so as not to wallow in mental wanderlust, to keep one’s emotions under control, to take charge of oneself.
It’s now possible to embark on this path. Each step is significant, each step deeply commits the purpose of one’s life and will overwhelm many routines in how it’s lived, including how to smile to others. Each warrants to properly consider each word before making them one’s own. These are necessary steps if one’s goal is to act decisively and durably, in an efficient way for oneself and therefore, it will become clear, for us all.
Here they are.
- Be conscious of your own mortality
- Truly respect yourself and take yourself seriously
- Find your invariants / constants
- Forge a constantly renewed opinion of what others will do and what the world can become
- Realize that your happiness depends on the happiness of others
- Be ready to lead multiple lives, in parallel and in succession
- Be ready to face crisis, threats, critics, failures
- Never think anything is impossible
- Once these first 8 steps are complete, implement, with humility, attentiveness and reason, one or more projects giving sense and significance for yourself
- Finally, act for the entire world
1. Be conscious of your own mortality
You must always remember what we’d all like to forget: that one day, each and every one of us will no longer be here. You must realize the incipient nature of one’s passing and that of those close to you. It can be very difficult to visualize the moment of your passing, even more difficult to internalize that of your own children. It’s where your journey must begin.
Since the dawn of time everything has slowed from the particular significance given to passing for death. You must not resign yourself to death or wait for an afterlife, but rather become aware of the singular nature of your life, of the singular nature of each moment and the importance you must give to make each one the very best.
You must live each moment as if it were your last, you must be animated with a righteous anger against everything which humiliates, constraints and alienates. You must do everything to leave behind the best possible path, in a world that you would have helped to render more livable for yourself and for others.
Once you’ve acquired this Consciousness around death you must seize the serenity it allows when death is coming in an irreversible way, through illness or any other cause. You must also become indifferent to earthly ambitions, particularly the accumulation of money and power, if they’re not the means to other ends than just themselves.
Only then will you have put death in its proper perspective, when the world will exist without you and where everyone, if conditions are met, will continue to exist in the worthwhile remembrance of others.
2. Truly respect yourself and take yourself seriously
We are given so little time on this planet that it’s best to aim to use it for the greater good. This does not mean that you cannot ever enjoy leisure or rest.
You must give yourself the means to have a full life, and therefore take care of both body and mind. You must endeavour never to do anything without a clear and unique purpose.
You must strive to never accomplish, in the professional or personal realms, something that can be done by another.
Each life is unique in its very essence, and must also be unique in its accomplishments.
This is very possible, as each human being embodies a certain form of Genius, and a particular gift that one must find and nurture.
Finding this particular gift for yourself and others is one of the keys to a successful life.
3. Find your invariants / constants
In all of the possible and desirable lives you can live, there are constants and values that are the core.
These values stem from your heritage and can be faith-based or simply spiritual, civic and political.
These values help define your own ethic and thereby limits the scope of your freedom. They can extend to the whole of humankind or remain in a family or friendship circle.
They form the framework within which you feel comfortable with yourself. When you take action, or not taking action, you’re not betraying them.
It’s essential to find these values in the very deepest well within yourself, to make them explicit and to tell others how important they are to you.
If your quest for them was deep enough, they will form the challenges around which your very existence can resolve. These challenges are so important to harness within yourself because others are willing to exert death to destroy our values.
4. Forge a constantly renewed opinion of what others will do and what the world can become
You must be curious and inquisitive without any preconceived notions. You must strive to analyze the world and its multiple facets.
Empathy — the capacity to view the world as others do, without judgment and understanding their interests- is an essential skill. It behooves you to try and understand their values, their own constants and invariants; what they’re looking for, why they act as they do. This analysis must be performed even if their actions can seem egotistical, disloyal and hostile.
This will allow you to become aware that the world can bend towards darkness, even as you do view this as a foregone conclusion.
You need to accept this righteous anger as a fuel for action, and a fuel to build yourself and to save yourself. It’s also the key to understanding your relation to others.
5. Realize that your happiness depends on the happiness of others
You need to become aware of the interdependent nature between yourself and the world. You need to realize that personal failings stem from being blind to facts, and to being resigned to the plight of others.
You cannot be truly successful if your path does not involve bringing good to others. You need to realize that being altruistic to future generations is in your own self-interest.
No one can be forced to tolerate being or sharing with others, until you understand that it’s in your interest as a worker, consumer, citizen. You should also come to the understanding that helping others, especially future generations, is useful in a self-centered manner. This is how the shift from a liberal society to an altruistic one can occur. This is also how we can channel anger before it becomes destructive.
The fate of the world rests in our ability to become altruistic, not because it’s imposed on us, but because we welcome, want it and feel it as our calling on a rational and emotional level. This is the result of the previous 5 steps.
6. Be ready to lead multiple lives, in parallel and in succession
Being mortal means that we’re unsure there is an afterlife, or that we will be reincarnated on this planet, therefore nothing should stand in our way to lead multiple lives. These multiple and parallel lives should revolve around projects that are original, personal and sincere.
You should resolve to work on several professional projects, both in parallel and in succession, as well as more personal projects. This will allow you to discover more than one way to accomplish them, as well as meet new people along the way to your personal growth.
You must also realize that it is by helping others to become themselves that you can accomplish your own life project.
It’s therefore best to focus on the “AND” rather than the “OR” and to look at interdependent personal fulfillment, in a loyal and transparent spirit. This is how you will combat aging and death: you’re only as old as your projects are.
7. Be ready to face crisis, threats, critics, failures
The 6 previous steps are there to prepare to be resilient and brave, to understand what can be gained from your failure, without blaming others. It’s also to never extinguish the righteous anger you must maintain against humiliation, frustration and alienation.
You must assist others to maintain their free will and judgement, even at the price of your closeness to them. You must also be ready to respect the life choices of others and their opinions, even if it goes against your own interest. Sadness is not incompatible with altruism.
You must learn to live with grief and sorrow, especially if you survive a natural catastrophe, an accident or a terrorist attack. You must also refrain from the guilt of a professional setback or a personal failure. Your goal must be to focus on the essential: becoming yourself.
8. Never think anything is impossible
You must wish for the unexpected, think the unthinkable and act without waiting for any of them. You must also refrain from admitting the impossible nature of any project (except if it involves a scientific demonstration or a moral exclusion).
You must also realize that when confronted with two projects deemed impossible to undertake, one will allow the other to become possible.
You must be ready to learn and transform yourself as often as necessary and only necessary to accomplish your projects.
9. Once these first 8 steps are complete, implement, with humility, attentiveness and reason, one or more projects giving sense and significance for yourself
These projects should be as rooted, ambitious and realistic as possible. Given what we covered above they should be as altruistic as possible, in order to attain the most egotistical goals. Becoming yourself is an altruistic objective, in as much as pleasing others pleases one’s ego.
You should focus on projects that will benefit future generations and teach them these very 10 steps, as well as to be loyal and altruistic.
You must choose projects with enough humility that they can be challenged by facts.
Your projects must be fuelled by righteous anger as well as mind and body.
10. Finally, act for the entire world
In order to be true to what we’ve covered, do not slip into a state of perpetual criticism of the state of the world and refuse to become yourself or help heal the world due to your status as a spectator.
Your personal projects cannot be accomplished if the world truly becomes hellish and therefore you must act for the good of the world, by all means at your disposal.
You must join organizations and become involved in politics, without making it a career. You must also never let others monopolize leadership positions.
Once you’ve attained a level of consciousness of the state of the world and of the calling to change it, you must act. The world will change through these seeds that have been planted. Billions of conscious and united people will change the world because they’ve become altruists.
A global plan to modify the course of History is necessary. Beyond seeds, an irrigation plan is useful.
Thousands, millions and soon billions of our fellow humans have come to this understanding and this realization. They make up the sparks of hope. They’ve accomplished this analysis of our world. They have chosen to become themselves and understand that it can only happen through altruism.
They are teachers, doctors, farmers, executives, nurses, entrepreneurs, workers, students and many more.
They look at the world differently, asking the only worthwhile question: “what can I accomplish for the greater good ?”
They find their path and shine through with happiness. Their actions are beginning to bear fruit.
It’s helping to blow up the old world, just as capitalism blew up the feudal system.
Now is the time for the very best of our world.