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In my Lifetime

By Jim Selman and Shae Hadden

None of us really knows where the world is headed. So how do you, as a leader, talk about the future?

In my lifetime - Photo by Shae Hadeen

In my lifetime – Photo by Shae Hadeen

Here’s some food for thought. I am 80 years old. Until the last few years, I was fairly confident I wouldn’t be around to witness how this particular era we’re living through would unfold. Amazingly, I am still here and still very curious about many things, including: artificial intelligence, the elevation of human consciousness, climate change, political polarization, environmental degradation, space travel, personal robots, global governance, and the extension of the human lifespan. I’d also like to gain more clarity on whether mankind is moving in a positive direction.

Until now, my view has been (and I believe I’m not alone in this) that many of these issues or possibilities are long-term and, therefore, it’s not worth contemplating, let alone worrying about, their outcomes. However, I am revising that view.

The drift of history is accelerating. Changes that used to take a generation to settle in and become “the way it is” now occur within a few years, sometimes months. Breakthroughs are happening every day in virtually every field. No one knows where it’s all heading.

“Boy, I’m glad I won’t be around to see the future.”

I am not fond of conversations that express this or similar statements that give up on life. Such pessimism is usually accompanied by hand wringing, head shaking, or retreating into smug clichés, such as “We lived during the best of times.”

Dark “end of times” thinking is easy; it’s the default for most people because the drift of history habitually follows trends. And most of the current trends are pointing in the wrong direction. Optimistic or positive conversations, conversely, have an entirely different energy. But they require you bring imagination, possibility, and commitment to the table.

Our conversations are our life. Each of us has a choice about which ones we engage in.

To break free from this negative thinking, we need to, first, pause and remind ourselves that our talk about the future, in some ways, is like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It creates the future we’re discussing.

Secondly, while it’s healthy to be realistic about facts and probabilities, both you and I always have a choice in what we say and how we listen. Since none of us knows where the world is headed, it is both prudent and wise to choose conversations that add value to the relationships or groups we are part of.

For this reason, I am committed to expressing my gratitude for the opportunity to witness the resolution, or at least a definitive direction, to the questions that interest me and that concern the future. This allows me to spend hours musing and conversing with others about how we achieved it, what breakthroughs we made, and how magnificent it was when mankind finally came together and began to tackle the numerous global and technological challenges that once appeared to threaten our way of life, even our existence.


© 2024 Jim Selman