Creating Your Best Tomorrow, Today
By Bruce Rosenstein
One-third of all Americans are dissatisfied with the future facing themselves and their families, according to a recent Gallup survey. And even among those who are satisfied, their optimism about the future is the lowest it’s been in 40 years.
The good news: you can create your own future. Better yet, you can do it simply and systematically as part of your everyday life, inside and outside the workplace.
Peter Drucker, the legendary father of modern management, approached the future with a forward-focused mindset, as something to be created and nurtured in the present moment. The takeaway for today: make choices and commitments, and take action, with tomorrow in mind.
Don’t leave your future to chance or fate, or to the whims of others. Instead, unlock and live your best future, beginning in the here and now. Start with these five keys, inspired by Drucker and imagined for today’s fast-moving, uneasy times:
1. Make friends with uncertainty and change. Nonstop uncertainty and change are the new normal. From disruptive new technologies to breakout businesses, turbulence abounds. But as Drucker said, “The most effective way to manage change successfully is to create it.” This requires seeing change as an opportunity, not a threat.
Quick tip: Identify three to five role models — people you know or who are in the public eye — who seem to be adept at navigating the future. Think of Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s new senior vice president of retail and online stores, and former CEO of Burberry. Much of Apple’s future success rides on Ahrendts’ decisions and actions in the coming weeks and months; and she must execute in one of the most high-profile executive positions in the retail industry.
2. Look for and find the future. Be mindful of what Drucker called “the future that has already happened.” That is, anticipate the effects of actions and events that have already taken place but have yet to fully unfold. Tap into the work of future-related thought leaders, think tanks, and business and academic organizations.
Quick tip: Form a specialized book club that focuses exclusively on women and work. One book to consider: Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream by Whitney Johnson. A successful music-major turned-financial executive, Johnson helps women identify their dreams, and then do something concrete to make them happen. This is increasingly important in today’s ideas-are-no-longer-enough zeitgeist. Meeting in a group to discuss these topics helps provide mutual support, and a sounding board for turning your own dreams into action.
3. Practice relentless self-development. Diversify your interests, remain relevant, develop a powerful personal brand, maintain a global outlook, and create work that benefits others. Consider the inspiring career journey of Frances Hesselbein, who went from leading Girl Scout Troop 17 in Johnstown, Pa., to revitalizing the Girl Scouts of the USA as the organization’s CEO. Today she serves as CEO of the world-renowned Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, formerly the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management. Hesselbein and Drucker (who was a pro bono consultant for the Girl Scouts during Hesselbein’s tenure), also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Quick tip: Self-development, said Drucker, requires “learning new skills, new knowledge, and new manners.”
4. Remove and improve. Odds are that in your career or company there are activities, practices, products, or services that have outlived their value. Perhaps you have been serving on a board that’s taking more of your time but delivering less satisfaction. Take control by intentionally removing what no longer makes sense, something Drucker referred to as systematic abandonment. Then, with what remains, apply kaizen: steady and incremental improvement. The combination of systematic abandonment and kaizen can be made easier by an approach using beginner’s mind. Shunryu Suzuki, founder of the San Francisco Zen Center and author of the classic book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, writes: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” In her work coaching and advising business leaders, Bruna Martinuzzi, founder of Clarion Enterprises and author of Presenting with Credibility, challenges clients to adopt the beginner’s mind approach. This isn’t easy for most leaders, she says, but it can pave the way for continuous learning and development.
Quick tip: Ask yourself, “If a particular practice in my work weren’t already in place, would I start doing it now?”
5. Determine your goals beyond the workplace. Besides writing, teaching, and consulting about management, Drucker also talked about spirituality and the importance of having what he termed existential goals. He proposed asking yourself the big questions of life, such as: Who am I? What am I? What do I want to be? What do I want to put into life, and what do I want to get out of it? And what do I want to be remembered for?
Quick tip: What are your answers to these questions? Think about how they’re most relevant for creating your future. If you are going to think deep questions, your mind has to be clear enough to do it honestly and thoroughly. Mind-body activities such as mindfulness, meditation and yoga can help you concentrate, feel better and get more focused. In her new bestseller Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, publishing impresario Arianna Huffington writes: “Through mindfulness, I found a practice that helped bring me fully present and in the moment, even in the most hectic of circumstances.”
Bruce Rosenstein, a former USA TODAY writer/researcher, is the author of Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way: Developing and Applying a Forward-Focused Mindset (McGraw-Hill). Visit brucerosenstein.com.