A basic toolkit of a hobby futurist
If I was getting a dollar every time someone said “disruption”, I would have a stable stream of passive income. We live in a time when, in many areas, what we used to do in the past stopped working, but we kept applying old frameworks until it was too late. Someone with a bigger picture and entrepreneurial spirit jumped on an opportunity and smashed the status quo into pieces. With ubiquitously accelerating speed of change, ability to adapt and transform is becoming a necessary skill.
In order to cope with the continuously increasing complexity of the world in times of uncertainty, our brains build frameworks with specific steps aimed at bridging the gap between the problem and the solution. These models are the product of our past experience. Of course, lessons from the past are essential for our development. But the assumption that old approaches will always work is not going to take us far. We need to learn to feel comfortable without immediately knowing how to approach the problem at hand. By inquiring into the wisdom of the future, we open ourselves to entirely new ideas, ranging from daily life hacks to Elon-Musk-scale innovation.
So how can we break through the pattern of replicating the past and tap into the future more? Here are three tools I use on a daily basis to shape my life by listening to the tips from the future. Some of these tools are more spiritual while others — very practical. You can plug and play with whatever is appropriate in each situation.
Ask your best mentor — your future self
I came across this technique a few times, most recently through Tara Mohr’s book “Playing Big”. The concept here is that deep inside, we all have an idea of what the best version of us would look like in the future. If we — our present selves — get in touch with our future selves (us in imaginary 20 years’ time or so) and ask for guidance, in most cases, we will get a very personalised response on how to solve a problem at hand in the best possible way. The questions you might want to ask your mentor can range from advice on finding your calling in life to tactical, day-to-day issues like how to run the difficult meeting ahead. The closer relationships you develop with your inner mentor over time, the further you can take your questions, and the further the answers will take you.
To “meet” you mentor for the first time, you can do Tara’s guided mediation which is available online. As your connection with your future self grows, you will be able to tap into their wisdom instantly, whenever you need it. It might sound too spiritual-ish for your inner sceptic but give it a go and observe the changes in your life. Even if you get a not very specific suggestion about what you should do next, the feeling of the presence of this wise supporter whom you can trust like no one else and who — you know that — had achieved the life you are striving for, makes you feel calm and confident, whatever your challenge is.
The reason we start by listening deeply to ourselves is that one needs to go through the inner journey to be able to create the change around them. The next technique stronger ties the two worlds together.
Connect to the deeper source of knowing by letting-go and letting-come
This concept comes from my favourite theory: Theory U by Otto Scharmer, senior lecturer in MIT and co-founder of the Presencing Institute. Otto visualises the journey of personal and organisational transformation guided by future as a trajectory resembling the letter U. It starts from downloading past patterns (what we do most of the time), then moves towards letting go of those old patterns, which allows us to connect to the source of wisdom. Next step — letting come — enables us to start operating in a new way, with intention and knowledge that we received through this transformation.
Throughout this journey, our current self and our best future self meet at the bottom of the U and start interacting with each other. This theory always makes me think of the etymology of the word “leadership” from the Germanic laithjan, which means a “way” or journey”, or, in some sources, “to leave” and “to die”. Whether these meanings are accurate or not, the idea that one must go through a journey and die in some sense to give way to something new, emerging is kind of romantic and matches this theory well. To become a leader for others and to lead your own life, we must let go of old patterns and continuously trail new things and prototype new ways.
Continuously adjust your mental model of the world
This set of tools complements the inner work necessary to trigger the change in us by helping us understand the world better. Similar to the frameworks we create to simplify the complexity of the world, we also develop models of the world which help us cope with the exponentially growing amount of information about it. The less biased our models are, the closer to reality is our perception of the world. The number of tools available for that would require a separate post, but here are some basic ones.
1) Search for disproof and errors in logic, not for the confirmation of your current understanding. The quality of your search improves so much when you look not only for something that would confirm your initial hypothesis but for the evidence of the opposite being true.
2) Learn to separate content from the delivery. I don’t know about you, but when I was at school, no one ever taught me this important idea. Well, maybe it was slightly touched on in history lessons about the causes of World War II. And yet, I find it to be one of the top skills one can learn: to be able to differentiate a confident speaker, giving a BS talk, lacking facts and making logical errors from someone who might be less strong or convincing in their delivery but get facts and their analysis right.
3) Use rich and diverse sources. They say that the planet’s greatest secrets are hidden on the second page of Google search — as we hardly ever go beyond the first one. Jokes aside, the richness and the quality of the sources you use to build your knowledge about the world is as critical as how you pose your question.
While each of these tools can range from very simple to very sophisticated versions, in their basic form, you can easily incorporate them in your daily life. Making future inquiry a regular practice can be very powerful for your decision-making in the present. Give it a go and see it for yourself!