How To Thrive In An Unpredictable Future

Change is the only constant, but thanks to science and technology, the rate of this change is ever increasing, and making the future far less predictable.

It’s hard to know how much control we have over this change, as monetary greed and a passion for pushing the limits has us constantly on the edge of our seats. The next big thing means big bucks, and people want that cash now, not tomorrow, so safety and careful consideration are giving way to speed and the ability to adapt when things go wrong.

As new products and ideas hit the water, so to speak, the ripples get larger and less predictable. It gets very hard to settle down, there is no rest before another wave. The effects can disrupt many aspects of life, from how we relax to how we create, from how we work to how we find love.

What were once sure-fired money making, success driving professions, are now under threat. People are finding cheaper and more reliable ways to get things done, which is usually with the help of machines and artificial intelligence, this means people are being left having to find new jobs and industries to work in.

If the rate of change continues to increase, people are going to be bouncing around all over the place, never settling down, always on edge.

Whatever your definition of success, how do you find it in a world that could become uncomfortably unpredictable, unusually chaotic, and surprisingly volatile?

Change can be a good thing, for many of us novelty is an important part of our lives. But without stable footing, if we lack the feeling of control over our circumstances, that novelty leads to dread.

I believe there are 3 skills that can provide this stable base. These skills themselves are not immune to change, but if we learn and master them, they give us the tools to reinvent and remodel ourselves in the face of change — they make us immune to the unnerving aspects of change, and able to find success and happiness within the waves.

1. Entrepreneurship

Starting a business isn’t for everyone, and that’s not the reason I’m listing entrepreneurship here.

Instead, there are skills involved with this art that carry over to other areas of life.

One such skill is being able to spot opportunities. Not just any opportunities, but smart opportunities.

The difference between a good entrepreneur and someone else is that the entrepreneur always has one eye open looking for gaps in what exists, improvements that could be made, and areas ripe for growth.

They’re not restricted to one industry, they are multifaceted and ready to let go of one idea — even if they loved it — when another more fruitful one comes along.

This doesn’t only apply to business, it applies to every facet of life — from who you work for to who you date, from where you live to what car you drive. If one door closes, many open, we need the skills to pick the best one.

Another important skill that comes with being an entrepreneur is that you must learn to fail. Those overnight success stories aside, the majority of startups fail.

Even after all the research is done, what seems like a clear money-maker is still subject to the unseen success-governing forces. Unknown unknowns are everywhere, and will be even more so in the future.

“Running a startup is like being punched in the face repeatedly, but working for a large company is like being waterboarded. ”— Paul Graham

Failure is the road to growth, but only if you know how to handle it. Practicing failure builds grit, you learn how to pick yourself up, adjust your course, and learn from your mistakes.

  • Learn to Spot Opportunities & How to Fail.

2. Psychology

It’s always confused me why — at least at the school I attended — psychology wasn’t taught.

I was forced into classes for physics, biology and chemistry, and while these are useful, why on earth wouldn’t the understanding of one’s own brain and mind be just as — if not more — useful?

We need to know how we work.

“Like all science, psychology is knowledge; and like science again, it is knowledge of a definite thing, the mind.” — James Mark Baldwin

Psychology will teach you why you behave the way you do. And also, why others behave the way they do.

It will give you insight into who you are, why you think what you do, but most importantly, it will give you the skills to control and manipulate your inner life.

Self-help books are notoriously lacking in facts and research. Psychology is not.

If you want to harness your willpower, combat prolonged stress, form lasting habits, or dare I say it…be happy…psychology is the science behind how to do it.

  • Learn Who You Are & How You Work.

3. Philosophy

This is a field that’s lost some of it’s luster over the last hundred or so years. I think it needs to make a comeback.

If psychology teaches us how we think, philosophy gets us asking why.

It has us questioning everything, delving deep into what we think we know and even what it means to know anything at all.

The best part about all of this questioning is that — as many philosophers have already found — there are often no right or wrong answers.

The result of your searching can lead to ambiguous, counterintuitive, and frustratingly uncomfortable answers.

We don’t really like having two competing ideas in mind at once. Naturally we want certainty, we want to know what’s right, or at least be able to form a strong opinion.

But philosophy teaches us to be ok with uncertainty, we learn how to live with dissonance in our minds, to be happy with not having reduced the possibilities.

“Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect. ”— Bertrand Russell

Philosophy also helps us go beyond our mortal shortcomings. By this I mean that we are not by nature a rational or logical species.

We have a long list of biases (that you’ll learn about in psychology), we do not think in numbers nor do we objectively evaluate our decisions.

One study showed that when the emotional center of our brains is malfunctioning, we can no longer make decisions. Our emotions drive our behavior, but emotion is notoriously rash.

Logic and reasoning are skills that we need to learn, and philosophy is what can teach us.

Many people have been stressing the importance of teaching computer programming as a means of thriving in the future, and while I agree to an extent, I think logic is the field that underlies programming itself.

  • Learn To Accept Ambiguity & To Think Logically

The Future Is Yours

Taken together these subjects make for a rounded and prescient mind. They give you the skills to adapt to and accept what becomes of the world — in both the best and the worst of times.

My biggest hope is that schools will include these subjects as prerequisites. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that they should be taken over other subjects such as math, science, or english, but that they should be placed on the same level and given the same credence.

As for the rest of us, these subjects make for useful skills to pick up as we go along. There are ample places to learn easily and cheaply online, and these 3 fields could have a life-altering impact on whether you thrive or dive in the future.

You might like to start here, with a selection of courses and books within these fields.

2 Comments

  1. Craig
    January 13, 2016
    Reply

    I enjoy your writing, but beware your grammar. Look at the sentence, “It get’s very hard to settle down, there is no rest before another wave.” The word “get’s” should be “gets.” After all, you’re not trying to say “get is,” are you? Nice post, overall. Keep it up.

    • January 13, 2016
      Reply

      Fixed! Thanks your careful eye Craig, I appreciate it.

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