Posted: June 23, 2014
The futurist: Betting on your future self
What would you have told you five years ago?Thomas Frey
Every day we wake up different.
Moment by moment, our lives are changing. Much like a strobe light with flashes of memories jumping through our minds we randomly recall where we’ve been.
It happens something like this:
…and then I woke up
…and then I was eating food
…and then I was taking a shower
…and then I was in the office
…and then I was in a meeting
…and then I was driving
…and then I was staring at myself in a mirror
…and then I was getting on a plane
…and then I was speaking in front of a crowd of people
…and then I was sleeping again
Moments come and moments go. We have no idea where they come from, or where they go, but every moment changes us.
The person we were as a baby is different than who we were as teenagers, and that person has morphed and changed a million times along the way. We don’t even look the same.
So when we think about ourselves in the future, we have to ask, “Is my future self going to be more valuable than my present self?”
Will the person we become five years from now be more talented, wealthier, healthier, better looking, better educated, or have a better circle of friends to network with?
There are many things we can do today to improve our future self. We all intuitively know this, but sometimes we need to be reminded. We can read more, exercise more, take a class, find a better job, write a book, start a business, invent something, meet new people, expand our social network, or do many other things.
We are all placing a bet. Each of us is somehow betting on our future self. But here are a few things you may not have thought about.
Communicating with Your Past
If you had five minutes to give advice to the person you were five years ago, what would you say? How would you coach yourself to do and say things differently to improve your life today?
We spend money on expensive food, beauty treatments, attend seminars, travel to other countries, and go to fitness clubs all with the expectation of being somehow better in the future.
So what would your future self recommend you do differently today? What advise would the person you become, 5 to 10 years in the future, give you today? Perhaps “future-you” would tell you to stop being so lazy, quit watching so much television, stop playing video games, be more outgoing, study harder, stop eating crappy fast food, stop spending so much money, or start hanging out with people who want to make a difference.
To put that into perspective, what would “present-you” advise “past-you” to do? Wouldn’t it be similar?
Return on Investment
So exactly how much have you invested in your future self so far? And how much more are you willing to invest?
Will the person you become five years from now be more valuable than you are today, and if so, how will this “value” manifest itself? Will you have more earning capacity? Will you have a higher social status? Will you be better liked, better informed, or better positioned to launch your next career move?
Will you be leading a life that is far more fun than it is today?
Was it worth it?
Is what you’re doing today going to pay off?
Colleges today are going to unusual lengths to justify the massive rate increases that have happened over the past couple decades. For students, the return on investment, calculated in traditional ways, has dwindled into the negative territory as a far higher percentage of graduates are forced to accept jobs that don’t require a college degree.
But it’s not just college. Did the self-help training you went through back in the 1970s give you any meaningful results? Was the last job you accepted a good career move? Did your marriage counseling pay off? Is the lawyer you hired a net-preserver or a net-drainer of your personal assets?
It even goes deeper than that. Does my bed help me sleep at night or is it part of the reason why my health is deteriorating? Does my doctor care more about me, or the commissions he makes as kickbacks from the drug companies. Are the politicians we voted for a net-positive or a net-negative as far as my life is concerned?
For some, it’s easier to put everything into perspective by making it about money. Did we make money or lose money? Yet money is such a tiny piece of what our lives are about.
Other ways of calculating ROI might be:
- Did we gain friends or did we lose some?
- Are we generally happier now?
- Do we feel more confident?
- Do we have a higher status in my community?
- Do we have more influence?
- Are we making progress on the things that matter most to us?
Preparing for the Future Today
Why is it that other people seem to know so many more things than we do?
We all have the same number of hours in a day. So how is it that a simple conversation with one of these people will leave us in awe or inspired, or perhaps bewildered or overwhelmed?
The answer is probably more straightforward than you think. We all have our own blind spots, and those who are great experts in one field know very little about other fields. And yes, some of us are simply wired to operate at a much higher frequency.
But in the end, those who have risen to the top and become the people we most admire have simply wagered a bigger bet on their future self.
They have done whatever it takes to get where they are today.
”Will the person you become five years from now
be more valuable than you are today?”
Realistically though, what kind of relationship can we have with our future self?
Should we ask our future self for advice on tough decisions? Since we don’t exactly have the ability to Skype call ourselves 5-10 years in the future, how can it possibly matter what “future-me” thinks about “present-me?”
The answer, it will matter a great deal when you get there. And you’ll hate yourself if you haven’t paid attention to the future.
Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker. At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come. His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.