#242: An Instructive Letter from My Back-to-the-Future Self

In the Back to the Future trilogy, Marty McFly travels back in time and then into the future using a time-traveling DeLorean. I loved that DeLorean. It was a great looking car, but more importantly, it enabled Marty to go back in time. Marty could see where his younger self went wrong and helped him straighten out his life.

Back to the future

I don’t have a DeLorean, much less the specially equipped version that enables time travel. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get advice from my older self.

And you can as well—that is, get advice from your older self.

I just finished reading David Green’s (Hobby Lobby founder & CEO) book, Giving It All Away…And Getting It All Back Again. At the end of his book, Green suggests having your 80-year-old self, write your younger self an instructive, yet loving, letter explaining what it means to live a meaningful life.

What a great idea!

My Back to the Future Letter

It’s a bit like traveling back in time to advise your younger self. My 80-year-old self wrote an instructive letter to my 40-year old self. This letter included five key points that frame what I consider important elements of living a meaningful life:

1) To have a great marriage that honors God. Barb and I stood before God in 1980 and made a promise to each other. The older I get, the more precious she is to me, and the more important that promise has become.

2) To raise my daughter to use her gifts and talents to serve God. I can’t think of anything more important than raising a child who loves Christ and dedicates her life to serving Him.

3) To raise my special needs son in a way that helps him be all he can be. God entrusted this special boy’s care to me. It is incumbent on me to reflect Gods love to him and help him grow into a loving and considerate young man.

4) To use my gifts and talents to serve God wherever He places me. Who knows where God will lead me over the span of years He has allotted to me? Wherever God leads, I will use the gifts and talents He has given me to serve Him.

5) To be a faithful steward of the resources the Lord provides. The resources the Lord has placed at my disposal need to be invested carefully and faithfully to advance the Great Commission.

My younger self’s view of a meaningful life included different things like “be successful in business” and “save a lot of money to enjoy a comfortable retirement.”

Mind you; there is nothing wrong with being successful in business or saving money for retirement. The Bible supports both (Proverbs 12:11, Proverbs 6:6-8).

But my 80-year-old self realizes there are fewer years ahead of him than behind him. From this perspective, being successful in business and saving money for retirement is just not as important.

It is far more important to raise children who live lives that honor God and for my own life to be a Godly example to them.

My life journey has been a long way from perfect. Looking back on my 66 years, I realize I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. I wish my 40-year old self had gotten this letter sooner. But if I take the advice of my 80-year old self now and focus on these five things I will one day stand before the Lord having lived a meaningful life.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What advice would your older self give you? How would that advice change how you live your life today?

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Category: Personal Development | Values

 

#241: How to Prepare Your Organization to Recognize A Shifting Paradigm

Plus A Bonus Whitepaper

Horses as the primary mode of transportation, candles used for lighting, wood used for cooking and heating, windmills for pumping water, wind-up mechanical watches, and mimeograph machines, are all extinct. These were not bad products, but none the less they are gone.

Shifting Paradigm

What happened? Paradigm shifts occurred. Technology made new products possible, new products replaced old products, and in many cases, created whole new markets.

The ability of leaders to recognize these types of paradigm shifts in the future will make the difference between companies who are successful in the 21st century and those that are just hanging on.

What is a Paradigm Shift?

The greatest paradigm shift of all time came when Jesus preached the gospel. The impact of that simple message has been felt throughout the world. People changed, societies changed, and governments changed, all because of one man and His message.

The word paradigm comes from the Greek paradeigma which means “model, pattern, example.” In his book Future Edge, author Joel Barker provides his definition of a paradigm: “A paradigm is a set of rules and regulations (written or unwritten) that does two things: (1) it establishes clear boundaries; and (2) it tells you how to behave inside the boundaries in order to be successful.”

Think about some “minor” industry changes. What would you have done if you had known about the following technology paradigm shifts in advance?

  • FAX machines,
  • Personal computers,
  • VCR’s, Laser Disks, and DVDs,
  • Cable television,
  • Cellular phones, or
  • Streaming audio & video?

The list of industries created in the last ten years numbers in the hundreds! The list of industries that are gone also numbers in the hundreds. Companies that want to survive well into the 21st century had better be adept at managing change, and able to forecast paradigm shifts.

Don’t Trust the Experts!

Often, experts who develop technology don’t even understand the import of their actions. Simon Newcomb, a noted astronomer, said in 1902, “Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.” In 1913 the American Road Congress reported that “It is an idle dream to imagine that…automobiles will take the place of railways in the long-distance movement of…passengers.” Thomas Edison said in 1880 that, “The phonograph…is not of any commercial value.” If you want to recognize paradigm shifts you might want to look to someone other than the “experts” for answers.

Getting Started

If you are a manager and you want to develop an organization capable of forecasting, recognizing, and taking advantage of paradigm shifts then the following points will be helpful:

Forecasting

Get a group of individuals together and have them write “future” scenarios. What will this industry look like in 20 years, 50 years? These “future” scenarios will help you see major paradigm shifts. If you’re in the home building business, you may see the concern for the environment as a precursor to a major shift in home building technology; new heating systems, new building materials, new super insulation materials, etc.

Get another group to write about what problems exist in the industry today, and to forecast future problems and needs. For example, if you’re in the plastics business you might consider oil supplies as a future problem. You might see pollution control legislation as a problem. You might see a need for a new type of plastic that will meet certain consumer needs, etc.

Flexibility

As managers, we tend to focus on problem-solving. In the crush of our workloads, we tend to be very comfortable with current solutions to problems. What we don’t realize is that there are new ways of doing old things and that we must be willing to accept these new solutions, even while the old solution is still working.

Search and Reapply

Search and reapply is a big opportunity area for most businesses today. One department gets a good idea and uses it to solve a problem, but nobody else in the organization ever hears about it. We need to create systems for publicizing ideas throughout our organizations. Next, we need to teach people to constantly look at the way other people do things as fertile ground for ideas that will help them do their jobs better.

Listen

As a manager, you need to understand that the people who have the ability to spot paradigm shifts are probably working for you right now:

  • They are the young people who have not been so socialized by years of experience that they are capable of seeing things a different way.
  • They are the experienced people who just took on a new job.
  • They are the odd ducks who are always challenging the status quo, never content with the way things are; they are forever trying to change things.
  • They are the inventors who get ideas and build prototypes. They often don’t even realize how valuable their ideas are in terms of solving other problems.

Now that you know who is most likely to spot paradigm shifts, make it a point to listen to them, and record their ideas. You never know when what seemed like a silly idea for one project will turn out to be a brilliant solution to another project.

One Final Thought

Any organization that wants to be successful in the 21st century will need to be:

  • future oriented; capable of anticipating changes in technology and consumer needs,
  • innovative; not only in the way they apply technology, but in the way they approach it, and
  • focused on quality; total quality will be the bare minimum in the next century.

To be successful, you will need all three of these components; not one or two, but all three. Getting to the point where your organization has these attributes may represent a major paradigm shift, so you might as well start right now.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, Shifting Paradigms – Building an Organization that Leads Change.”

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of shifting paradigms, including:

  • Understanding what a paradigm shift is,
  • The Swiss Blew their Opportunity,
  • The Fall of Books and Magazines, and
  • Forecasting Paradigm Shifts

You can download the whitepaper here: Shifting Paradigms – Building an Organization that Leads Change.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What are you doing to recognize and leverage a paradigm shift in your business?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

Category: Skills | Change, Innovation