“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
— Alan Kay
As Alan Kay, one of the guiding leaders at Apple, so eloquently expressed, the key to the future is not waiting for it to roll around but to take a proactive role in creating it. They certainly applied it at Apple where, at one time, the entire company was at stake. Market share had fallen to such a low level that many analysts were saying it could only fail.
With Steve Jobs leading the way, they re-invented themselves and the way they did business, producing new products and new lines of services such as the iPod family of products, becoming purveyors of music via the iTunes store, communications via the iPhone and, in the process, reinvigorating their traditional line of computers and software applications.
The leadership did not look for someone to save them. They dug down to what offered the greatest value and focused on inventing a future better than everyone else was predicting. I believe there are some critical lessons for political and business leaders to take from the example of Apple.
In times of uncertainty, where trust and faith in leaders and institutions are strained to the breaking point, the most powerful thing is to re-imagine our approaches to business and to life.
In fact, with the carnage on Wall Street and the sudden realization that debt has been overdone, we are now as a society we tasked with inventing a more “sustainable” way of doing business and managing our lives.
Focusing on what we want, what matters the most, and repairing or re-energizing critical relationships is part of that needed reinvention.
In times such as these, what is most critical and life affirming comes to the forefront of our thinking and decisionmaking.
What is most needed is not about being passive or waiting for the government to rescue us. In fact, to do so is to deepen and lengthen the problem.
What is needed is best captured in the Latin phrase, “Carpe Diem” (Seize the Day).
If this is our one, precious and unique life — what will we do with it in this moment?
What response will we bring to the people we love and to those in our web of work and social relationships?
Alan Kay’s advice would be to focus on creating the future we most want — and not necessarily the one we thought we were heading toward before this crisis of confidence and loss of faith and trust hit us.
A personal example of this for me is one of my brother-in-laws.
He is an accomplished architect and a hard worker.
He was recently laid off at his company due to the credit crisis and the falling fortunes of commercial construction.
Instead of grieving the job loss he has taken it as an opportunity to spend more time with his two young daughters and his wife.
Additionally, he has taken his previously neglected interest in landscape architecture and in designing beautiful, sustainable gardens and put it to work.
With his newly minted “free time,” he has done some homework, drawn some concepts and landed several projects where he is creating things of beauty, blending aesthetics with sound, ecological sustainability.
He is, in the process, reinventing himself and how he works even as he is also actively looking at other alternatives and networking with family, friends and old clients.
The crisis we are now in nationally and as part of the global economy has much that can be daunting to even the most stout hearted among us. It is easy to begin to feel overwhelmed by the drumbeat of negative news through the media outlets.
And, still, there is also opportunity to be found. We can, in this time of trial and pain, renew old friendships and important relationships. We can reach out to be thought partners with each other, leveraging our talents, creativity and courage to not only support and network with each other, but also to create a more sustainable and life-affirming pathway.
Making the time to engage with family, friends, community and, to deepen the quality of the relationships we have in our work network can only lead to better results and greater, more meaningful connectivity.
What is the future you would like to create? What elements were being neglected that you would like to ensure are present going forward?
What would a sustainable and healthy lifestyle look like?
How would you like to work and what kind of work would bring the greatest value?
What gifts or talents do you have that have been neglected but could now be brought forward?
With whom do you need to re-connect and/or create more meaningful relationships?
What will you do to ensure that you bring to fruition the life you want to lead?