Getting Ready for the Future

“There’s a reason your windshield is bigger than your rearview mirror. What lies ahead of you is more important than anything behind you.”  

I heard this quote recently and it got me thinking. Here we are, just a few weeks into 2016. I’m not sure what the future will bring, but one thing is certain—it’ll be a lot different than last year.

And that “car” we’re driving keeps going faster and faster, with no top speed in sight. When we helped Cisco introduce “the Internet of Everything” not long ago at Cisco Live, most of the tech experts attending the show hadn’t heard of the idea. Today, it’s everywhere, no further than the phone in your pocket.

Which only goes to show that for every change, there’s an opportunity—if only we can recognize it and make something good or useful out of it. There are some among us who always do. Those visionaries with an uncanny instinct for knowing what’s coming next and capitalizing on it, like Jobs or Bezos or Musk.

What habits can we learn from these extraordinary entrepreneurs that can help us be better? Three things come to mind:

  1. Stay curious Children have this gift naturally, perhaps because they have so little past. This is where the windshield comes in. It’s amazing what we can learn just by keeping our eyes open. It’s all out there, waiting to be noticed. But we must look actively, not passively, or we’ll miss it.
  1. Challenge our assumptions Everything we’ve ever learned is in the rearview mirror. We have to let go of old ideas or there will be no room for new ones. The trick is to gracefully surrender our assumptions to the new reality rushing at us.
  1. Pour on the imagination Once we spot a trend, or have an insight, it’s time to put on our thinking caps. Linus Pauling said, “The best way to get a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” It’s all about getting that picture out in front of us clearly in our minds and letting our imaginations do the rest.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it can seem a little overwhelming, imaging this big future rushing at me where so much of what I’ve worked so hard to learn is constantly becoming obsolete.

But then I think, would I really want this year to be exactly like last year? How boring would that be? No, the only way to live life fully is by throwing out the old maps, opening our eyes and putting the pedal to the metal.

Here’s wishing you great success in this wonderful, mysterious, exhilarating new year.