(The following is a presentation made to Creative Edinburgh‘s Glug on the 9th October 2014)
I CAN’T REMEMBER exactly why, but a few years ago I was in the United States for a futurist-mentoring event, and as it came to a close, I asked everyone in the small group to whisper something for me to bring back.
Each wrote something down and every so often I listen to these whispers from the future again.
I am more and more convinced, we have to listen to the whispers which come from our futures in order to become who we can be in the present.
ESSENTIALLY DREAMWHISPERING is deep listening, diving beneath the surface of someone’s life by asking questions in order to hear the whispers or signals made up of skills and passions and experiences and dreams.
It’s thought some whales can hear each other across distances up to a thousand miles away. These are weak signals and are a helpful reminder of how quiet some whispers may be.
What I aim to do is amplify these through the lens of the future.
OF COURSE, THERE’S no such thing as the future, there are only possible futures, but we can be shapers of the future, including our personal futures.
Everything around us and which fills our world is the result of the imagining and creating of many, many people.
We go to the future to understand the present.
I thought we could look at three different ways of understanding how the future is formed.
THERE IS THE FUTURE we predict – from things we can measure, trends, habits, data, and such. This is the expected future.
The thing is, for this future to emerge, nothing must change on our graphs and bell charts.
This is a big ask.
ONE OF THE THINGS about the universe we live in is its randomness. We experience randomness as events and when we anticipate events, we play these out as scenarios and suggest possible or plausible futures.
One of my antiheroes, Nassim Taleb, talks about the kinds of randomness we find in the worlds of Mediocristan and Extremistan – and Extremistan is extremely difficult to predict or anticipate. The defences at Fukushima Nuclear Plant possibly imagined the biggest tsunami possible in the 1960s – but not for the one bigger than this.
THE THIRD KIND OF FUTURE is the preferred future, which takes in all our skills and hopes and experiences and reimagines them.
This future emerges from our choices – maybe in reaction or response to not liking the expected future (more of the same) or the events shaped future (what if it never happens?), or wants to initiate something (I have a dream …).
True for societal and cultural futures, these three ways are also helpful to understanding our personal futures.
AT THE MOMENT, I’M WORKING through a course on The Science of Happiness, which is trying to get to the more concrete things about what makes a person happy and what effect does this have on a person’s life.
IT RECOGNISES HOW some people are just happier than others – their baseline happiness.
Then there are the things which happen to people – controllable or not – which we overestimate how happy these make us.
Then there’s the happiness which comes from the choices we make. You might be ahead of me – this sounds like expected, possible, and preferred futures.
How these comprise our happinesses are what caught my attention.
THE PEOPLE TEACHING the course reckon around half of our happiness comes from our baseline or genetic happiness.
Only around 10% from things from events and happenings.
Which leaves 40% to personal choice.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking we can change a lot of stuff with 40% … especially when it turns out some believe we can change ourselves at a genetic level.
IT’S NOT EASY, THOUGH. Choices can be frightening and we can wish we weren’t able to choose – “What do you think?”
So, we’re looking at an epic journey for many.
Now, I ought to say, I’m wowed by many of the young people I work with, the choices they make and what they’re doing.
It took me until 45 years old to have a clue, and now I have a soft spot for people like me, but there’s always hope.
ECONOMIST OTTO SCHARMER reckons there are three thresholds we have to overcome on our epic journey.
Judgement: overcoming old ways of thinking and judging, including about ourselves.
Cynicism: overcoming our emotions of disconnection, from others, our world, and our future self.
Fear: overcoming fear to let go of what we know and have to take hold of the future which does not exist.
AS I’VE SUGGESTED by the analogy of diving beneath the surface, this is about bringing out the amazing things within people, rather than putting anything new in.
People have in their lives patterns of talents and dreams they often don’t have a radar to pick up, like someone who can build great friendships may not see this is a superpower.
If writer David Shenk is right and we don’t know what Humans are capable of yet, then this is also true for each one of us.
THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF WAYS these talents and passions and experiences can be mixed, which is another way of saying we are innovators, we innovate our lives and then we innovate the things and thoughts our lives touch.
The more we know about why we do the things we do, the more we can innovate.
THERE’LL BE SO MANY POSSIBILITIES some things will have to go. So why not the stuff we strips the energy from us? If you can.
Identifying your superpowers is crucially important, identifying your kryptonite is even more important … because it’s hard to let go in order to take hold of.
Your kryptonite will always be your kryptonite. It’ll never become anything else, so develop and use your powers.
I’M NOT SAYING this stuff is easy but I am saying it can be lifechanging.
WE DIVE BENEATH the surface and open our minds to see there’s more than WYSIATI, about others, our world, and our Self.
Author Umberto Eco is said to have a library of 30,000 books, many of which he hasn’t read. They are a reminder to him of what he doesn’t know.
WE DIVE BENEATH the surface and open our hearts to how others see and understand things by entering their world, including the amazing things they can do and we cannot.
When we understand what others can do, we also better understand what we can do.
WE DIVE BENEATH the surface to identify what we must do and open our will to act, to test fly, to prototype.
We’ll fail and falter, which is great because we’ll learn loads, and then we try again.
And maybe we’ll begin some stuff with people we met on the way; this has been my experience with several initiatives.
AND DID I SAY, none of this is easy, but is can be amazing.
It all begins with hearing a whisper from the future and doing something with it.
And because it’s from the future, people won’t get it at first.