“It is not the critic who counts; nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
What an intense year we’ve left behind. It’s daunting to imagine what’s ahead…
Now, I’m beginning to get it, that being friends with a futurist ain’t always easy. We’re always sending an article*, quoting a fascinating new fact, or trying to turn you onto a big idea. But forgive us. Often the things we read, the conversations we seek, the projects we witness being built at the edge, and even the passionate, usually well-informed debates we indulge in give us a fair amount of hope…and make us eager to share. Taking the long view also attracts us to stats that show we’ve never lived in more peaceful, prosperous or healthier times…and allows us to step out of the habit of only focusing on the pixel of this very moment. Having finally attended my first World Future Society conference and Burning Man this year, I can verify: we are quite perky people.
It’s clear, however, many are less sure we’re headed in an encouraging direction. There are serious concerns about growing income + resource inequality, a corrupted + increasingly polarized national political system, potentially devastating climate changes and the horrifically violent reactions of those who either feel alienated from or disempowered by the changes they believe are coming… (deep sigh).
Standing in the middle of this narrative tug-of-war are business leaders and intrepid entrepreneurs. Many of whom sense the shifts, but, I’ve observed, often only poke their heads up long enough to discuss the new cultural values being ushered in by Millennials, the fast (like really fast) advances in technologies of all kinds and the eroding social and institutional structures rocking the ground underneath us. The temptation is to continue using aging economic yardsticks to measure “progress”, which then encourage the doubling down on “proven” strategies of the past.
So as we look to the year(s) ahead, the question dangles: what is the right strategy: Be optimistic, bold and disruptive? Be wary and protective? Rely on the fundamentals? I have my bias… though it’s likely some wise combo of these approaches. I’m certain, however, the way forward requires us all to be IN the game. There are huge issues and extraordinary opportunities laying at our feet, and they demand we ALL actively build the future we want to create. It’s an extraordinary time to channel and employ our curiosity, empathy and sense of personal agency. And it’s critical we model and support this for the youth in our lives since they must become better prepared for their self-directed destinies (and current education efforts haven’t caught up to these new realities just yet, have they?).
This isn’t theoretical. There are several issues dominating our attention this year and include: 1) the shaping of future-forward corporate cultures, 2) keeping the tech of the future human, 3) the equitable distribution of productivity + prosperity, 4) preparing for a world with less work and 5) better addressing society’s mental health. These each deserve more air time so we’ll dive into these in the weeks ahead. For the moment, here’s a quick update on what’s on our plate right now:
My collaborator Emma and I launched Cultural Acupuncture to help accelerate our collective understanding of the shifts we sense. Sharing the work of many of the PYNKrs (people you need to know), we’ve been excited to offer a constant drip of tangible evidence of what is both possible and needed. Support has been great (it’s fun to a be a HuffPo contributor) and the conversations all this kicks up are rich. But the ultimate goal of any of this is to spur action and I longed for the chance to put all these ideas and observations into practice. I was eager to prove they are doable and to learn what it takes to successfully implement them.
Luck + timing conspired and I was invited to help shape the cultural infrastructure for what could be one of the most relevant companies of the future (… uh, we hope). It’s early days for the Lucid team but hugely exciting. And its’ required that we slow Cultural Acupuncture, as I’ve been immersed in learning a whole lot more about artificial intelligence and what it takes to tackle increasingly complex problems, application development “stacks”, talent needs + expectations, the key aspects of organizational culture, the special joys of the start-up …and the responsibility we carry when choosing to bring a damn big idea to the world. I’ve been revved, confused, grateful, tired, stretched and in awe most of the year!
So this quote above means even more to me now. It’s damn easy to point and criticize… and quite humbling and invigorating to jump into the arena and build something new.
With that, we wish you another bright, bold year. I believe its’ never been more possible to create the future you want to exist. And more necessary that we each do. Thank you for your courage and vision and really big thinking. Let’s keep building! And daring greatly…together.
Nancy (+ Emma)
ps. As a head start to our next essays, here are a few articles we’ve been digging into lately that we find fascinating (yes, we just can’t resist….):* A special thanks to my fellow REXers + Lucidians and to Emma for all you share!
Inequality and Modernization [may require a Foreign Affairs subscription]