12.29.2007

Rewrite Your Future

"If coach would've put me in fourth quarter we'd have been state champions, no doubt. No doubt in my mind.
You better believe

things would have

been different.

I'd have gone pro

in a heartbeat.


I'd be makin' millions of dollars and livin' in a big ol' mansion somewhere. You know, soakin' it up in a hot tub with my soul mate.

Kip... Kip, I reckon you know a lot about cyberspace. Y-You ever come across anything like time travel?"

"Easy. I've already looked into it for myself."

"Right on."


Most people have spent at least a small amount of time indulging themselves in the fantasy of going back to formative years such as high school with their present-day knowledge and wisdom, to do things over again, to set the record straight they way they'd really want it. I've already mentioned Groundhog Day in this forum,

and Hollywood has

explored similar themes

with movies like

Never Been Kissed,

The Family Man and

Back to The Future.



Or recently on the small screen, with NBC's Journeyman. Some people might have specific mortifying moments that served as the hinging event that may spawned a number of other subsequent disasters,

or conversely,

that prevented the

spawning of a number

of desirable events,

in the case of Uncle

Rico's infamous high

school football game.



For others, a rewriting of almost every moment would be in order. My life would fall in the latter category. Socially, romantically, academically, physically/athletically, fiscally, spiritually, and talent-wise-- there's not much that couldn't benefit from a serious rewrite effort.

Yes, after some reflection, I realize that I've pretty much been a dork most of my life. (Actually, it's not a huge revelation, I was at least somewhat aware of it most of the time I was going through it.)
But often, until you have the insight of hindsight, you just don't realize how much of a dork you were being.



Now, this post may seem to be a bit off-topic for this blog, but all matters of success, whether it be in a specific business model or otherwise, often come down to one's grasp on their own self-image, their integrity/character, their people skills, and their preparedness and recognition of opportunities when they meet them, so this will all tie together when I'm finished.

The attraction behind the "If-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now" kind of replay lies in a couple of factors-- the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, and the perspective gained from having that chapter of your life already closed. There's a certain sense of detachment and objectivity that you didn't have at the time. Add to that a knowledge of events up to the present (yesterday's future) and you've eliminated any significant risk factors that may have hindered you at the time.



Think about it... with your present understanding of how pathetic and insignificant were the social dramas, the crushes, the fads and the cliques of your high school environment, along with a knowledge of how local and world events would come into play for your particular slice of history, couldn't you so easily step into your high school shoes and take command of the situation like you never would have thought possible at the time? Certainly.

Most people understand, when they are indulging in this sort of revisionist retrospective, that time travel belongs in the realm of books and movies. But there is something constructive to be gained from the mental exercise, regardless.

It may seem contradictory, though... given that insight of how pathetic and insignificant many circumstances of your life then were, why bother going back?

I submit that the reason anyone would entertain such thoughts, however facetiously, is for one reason, whether you realize it or not: Because you lack the same clarity and confidence in your current circumstances.
And the presumption is, using today's knowledge to take control of yesterday's present could dramatically improve yesterday's future (today) and even today's future.
Take a minute and think back to one

of those events that you'd like to

rewrite-- you've probably already had

it in mind as you've been reading...



Maybe it's that football game you should have played in... That significant someone that you never hooked up with (or did and wish you hadn't!)... That prank at Prom you shouldn't have let yourself get talked into playing...
Or maybe like me, you'd need a complete Extreme Makeover, High School Edition.

Whatever it is, visualize yourself going through the process... Imagine your confidence level as you'd do so. Your cool hand in the face of any obstacles or confrontations. How you handle those people who just don't get it, the way you get it. Would you put up with anyone giving you any flak?

Fuggedaboudit!

And the urgency-- the priority you'd put on certain things would totally shift from the haphazard approach you had before. You'd be focused. Relentless, even.

Because you'd know.


Right?

You might not even have to change a lot-- you could keep much of the same basic framework and just upgrade everything that didn't measure up.
It would be your life, only better.

Wouldn't there just be a spark in your eyes, a twinge of excitement in your gut... like you were getting away with something really great, and no one else knew it? Sure, there'd be some unknowns, because you'd be taking yourself into some new territory for an old timeframe, but still... you'd know all the rules, you'd have the perspective, you'd know the future in all the important terms. The new territory, that's where the excitement would really come-- because you know you can't lose! Every obstacle would be just a challenge, a puzzle to solve.

It's that confidence, that attitude that would make all the difference in rewriting your past. After all, Fors juvat audentes, as the Romans would say. (Fortune favors the brave.)

Ah-hah.

Which brings me back to my earlier statement-- that you lack the same clarity and confidence in your current circumstance.

"Well of course," you might say, "if I don't know the future, I can't have the same assurance of things when I don't know what will happen!"

And that's true to a point, but I think ultimately the distinction is only superficial.

How can I say that?

Because I think the way you're handling your present situation is really not much different than the way you handled High School. You don't think so?

Oh sure, you've matured some, gained a little people skills, a little experience, maybe you got some specialized education in college, and went on to get a few successes under your belt. Maybe you've put in your time and worked your way into a respectable job, a stable relationship, maybe even a rugrat or two. But when you strip it all down, I'll bet that you really haven't changed much in how you handle life, and I'll show you why I say that.

Let's go back in your mind to that moment or that set of circumstances in High School that you were going to rewrite, but this time, just let it play out the way it really happened, the whole ugly reality.
How did you deal with people then? Specifically, how did the authority figures in your life make you feel? Parents, coaches, principals, teachers. What about your competitors? Whether in athletics, your social circles, that geeky chess club, or even the other guy that got the girl. How did you react to the pressure?
What about those rediculous pep rallies? The inane homework assignments?
How did you feel about yourself? How engaged were you really with the world and your own destiny?
But you couldn't just quit, I mean it's High School. It's what everyone does! Your whole future was riding on it!
Didn't it sometimes feel like High School was the whole world, the whole universe even, and your lot in life would be forever set by all the people in it, their standards, their opinions, their accomplishments-- like it would forever be the frame for the whole picture of your life?

Whew! Pretty hard for some people to delve back into all that again. But it all seems so silly now, doesn't it? That's why that detachment and objectivity I spoke of earlier is so valuable in our little retrospective.

But I just claimed that today probably isn't all that different for you. How can I say that?

Let's skip up to a little more recent period of your past.
Say, your previous job.
How did your bosses make you feel? How did you deal with them? And what about your co-workers... that jerk that swiped the deal you were trying to close, or got that position you wanted. What about some of those rediculous company meetings, the mind-numbing paperwork?
How did you feel about yourself? How engaged were you really with the world and your own destiny?
But you couldn't just quit every time you felt frustrated, I mean, it was your living. You had bills to pay, mouths to feed.
Didn't it sometimes feel like that job was the whole world, the whole universe even, and your lot in life would be set by all the people in it, their standards, their opinions, their accomplishments... but that's just silly. That was the old job, right? You could tell them all a thing or two now, right?

Hmmm... But isn't there something familiar about all this?

Now the office or work site has changed, the boss and co-workers have changed but underneath...

Oh yes. It's not just the same way your destiny was forged in high school, it's the way you're living now.

So you'd go rewrite yesterday's present with confidence and flair but you won't do the same with today's present? Why not?

Since you didn't take control of yesterday's present to make a better yesterday's future (today), what makes you think handling today's present the same way is going to make you look back on tomorrow's past (today) any more kindly that you're looking at today's past now?

Won't your tomorrow self be laughing just as ruefully about your today self as your today self was just laughing at your High School self?

So... has all this been just a long-winded way of some kind of lame "Carpe Diem" pep talk?

Not exactly.

Because we're in a rare moment of history-- one in which, in economic terms at least, we actually do know the future.

We know that a large percentage of American, even global business will be shifting to the internet, to e-commerce. We know that like previous technologies, e-commerce is following an S-curve of early adoption, critical mass, and rapid growth before maturity. We have economic experts and futurists projecting the internet and e-commerce to have greater impact on history than the industrial revolution.

We know at in roughly the same period of time, that the Baby Boomers, the largest economic force in American history, will reach their peak spending years. We know that as they reach that spending peak and begin to decline, they will shift a great deal of spending to health and wellness as they age.

We know that in previous economic revolutions, there was a shift of wealth from the previous economy's industries to the those who seized on the emerging industries, in spite of great economic insecurity-- even depressions-- which occur in the course of the revolution. (Example: Electricity, the telephone, the automobile, the petroleum industry and radio all reached critical mass and produced great wealth for those at the forefront of those industries in the same period of time that the Great Depression seized the United States.)

We can assume that the old economy (primarily manufacturing) attempts to stay competitive will mean a continuance or incease in companies who outsource or "right-shore" their production. This will continue to strengthen Asian economies and weaken old-economy employers in the US -- regardless of Union attempts to squeeze more from them. Combined with the global nature of the new economy allowing even white-collar jobs to be moved offshore, this will spell continued instability for US employees.

(On a personal note, this blogger has already been affected by these changes -- having my previous employment in a high-tech professional environment replaced by offshore, lower cost counterparts-- whom it was my last responsibility to train before they replaced me.)

We can also reasonably project that as the Baby Boomers cut back, the US economy and the US Government's tax revenue will experience a crunch, while demands on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security increase. It is also reasonable that many of the Boomers will be wanting to unload themselves of real estate in exchange for smaller, warmer, and/or less maintenence-intensive properties (i.e. condos and other retirement properties), adding to the number of properties in the housing market-- thus decreasing the overall value of a key economic indicator.

So we know specific industries will be growing in the future, and certain sectors which will struggle, and that US employment will likely suffer unless/until we adapt to the emerging economy and the economic wake of the Baby Boomers and subsequent smaller generations.

So let's see... in order to rewrite our future today, we need to move towards being involved in the new economy, moving away from dependence on employment. We need to find something that helps us take advantage of the critical mass and rapid growth phase of e-commerce currently underway. (A bonus if we can also tie in health and wellness.)

So what's relation to our High School revisionist fantasies?

It's this: For all those times you've said "If only I would have known then what I know now," this is the time when you can actually do something now for what most people will soon look back and say "If only..."

But in reality, even without the unique glimpse into the future that we have today, if you've had at least one job prior to your present job, you already know your future in the most significant respects. There will always be the coworker that you can't stand but have no choice but to work with until one of you leaves. That dread that falls over you at the end of your weekend. That grip of anxiety when the boss is around. The inane politics that seem all-consuming to those involved at the time. That money squeeze before your next paycheck. The vacation that takes forever to arrive and then is over before you can enjoy it.

And then for one reason or another, the job ends as it always will, you move on. All those things that were so vital in the moment become trivial in retrospect. You run into your old boss sometime later and wonder why they seemed so intimidating at the time.

Nothing like your present situation, of course. (Uh-huh. Who are you fooling?)

The thing is, you and I are where we are now because of the way we we played the game in yesterday's now, and if we are now still playing in the moment instead of playing for the future, tomorrow's now will look remarkable like today's.

So go on... rewrite your future.

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