In the final days of 2020, I was introduced to this magnificent book “The Sovereign Individual” by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg, through the book recommendation list by Naval Ravikant.
The first chapter excerpt on Amazon has so many nuggets of outstanding foresight. It literally predicted cryptocurrencies and the rise of personal brands, and internet entrepreneurship. It also predicted a paradigm shift in socio-political systems and the diminishing control of governments over the internet-wealthy and a possible shift over governments’ monopolistic use of violence as their prerogative for governing.
I loved everything I read there about the concept of the Sovereign Individual and how a person who can build their own brand and financial independence online can literally work from anywhere on the planet and slip through the prying fingers of taxation laws. The term “Personal Sovereignty” itself was something I heard said by Joe Rogan on one of his podcast episodes, but it is at the core of their predictions for the future of the world post the information technology revolution.
There’s this part in chapter one that stopped me in my thoughts and had me go write this post. It’s when the authors spoke about the hazards of forecasting:
“No doubt we put our small measure of dignity at risk in attempting to foresee and explain profound changes in the organization of life and the culture that binds it together. Most forecasts are doomed to make silly reading in the fullness of time. And the more dramatic the change they envision, the more embarrassingly wrong they tend to be. The world doesn’t end. The ozone doesn’t vanish. The coming Ice Age dissolves into global warming. Notwithstanding all the alarms to the contrary, there is still oil in the tank. Mr. Antrobus, the everyman of The Skin of Our Teeth, avoids freezing, survives wars and threatened economic calamities, and grows old ignoring the studied alarms of experts.
Most attempts to “unveil” the future soon turn out to be comic. Even where self-interest provides a strong incentive to clear thinking, forward vision is often myopic. In 1903, the Mercedes company said that “there would never be as many as 1 million automobiles worldwide. The reason was that it was implausible that as many as 1 million artisans worldwide would be trainable as chauffeurs.”
Recognizing this should stop our mouths. It doesn’t. We are not afraid to stand in line for a due share of ridicule. If we mistake matters greatly, future generations may laugh as heartily as they please, presuming anyone remembers what we said. To dare a thought is to risk being wrong. We are hardly so stiff and useless that we are afraid to err. Far from it. We would rather venture thoughts that might prove useful to you than suppress them out of apprehension that they might prove overblown or embarrassing in retrospect.
As Arthur C. Clarke shrewdly noted, the two overriding reasons why attempts to anticipate the future usually fall flat are “Failure of Nerve and Failure of Imagination.” Of the two, he wrote, “Failure of Nerve seems to be the more common; it occurs when even given all the relevant facts the would-be prophet cannot see that they point to an inescapable conclusion. Some of these failures are so ludicrous as to be almost unbelievable.”
Where our exploration of the Information Revolution falls short, as it inevitably will, the cause will be due more to a lack of imagination than to a lack of nerve. Forecasting the future has always been a bold enterprise, one which properly excites skepticism. Perhaps time will prove that our deductions are wildly off the mark. Unlike Nostradamus, we do not pretend to be prophetic personalities. We do not foretell the future by stirring a wand in a bowl of water or by casting horoscopes. Nor do we write in cryptic verse. Our purpose is to provide you with a sober, detached analysis of issues that could prove to be of great importance to you.”
These words right there should be written in gold.
So here is a book that is basically an extended dissertation in reading the future, where the authors are admitting that historically future predictions are fraught with all sorts of ludicrous claims that get disproven quite easily, and quite often.
These are words of courage. The authors are distinguished accomplished individuals in their fields and they are staking out too much of their reputation on their predictions, yet, they acknowledge that they might be wrong, that they might be ridiculed, and that some of their predictions may never see the light of day.
They basically say, if we’re right, we’re right, and we hope that we managed to help the reader get a better insight into how the future unfolds, but if we’re wrong, heck, who cares, no one will remember us anyways.
Such a healthy look at the importance of doing the best work that you can, and then taking the risk of releasing that work into the world to stand on its own two feet and prove itself.
We’re all afraid of predicting our own future and what our actions will lead to. We shy away from telling ourselves the necessary words of encouragement that will pull us through the difficult moments when we don’t feel like anything is working. We stop ourselves from doing the work. We don’t even get started because we’re afraid that we’ll never be that good. The thing is, so what?
What if your work isn’t good enough. So what if that your music, paintings, poems, books, designs, recipes, or woodwork aren’t good enough. If it’s something you enjoy, keep after it, keep showing up every day doing the work, day in and day out, you’re going to get better, and your talent will start to manifest itself. Talent and good work always get noticed, you just need to understand that anything worthwhile in life is reached and achieved by playing the long game.
But in order to play the long game, first comes courage, second comes discipline, third comes focusing on the work and not on the results, and fourth is to keep producing… and keep’em comin’.
This system holds great value while trying to put out your own thoughts and creative work in the world.
You must risk it and show your work, knowing firsthand how bad it will be at first, and how mediocre it will be when you get better at it, and how the competition will be ruthless when you finally get recognized by strangers as being actually good.
In the final days of 2020 and while we’re at the doorsteps of 2021, it’s a very good idea to give oneself a creative license to predict one’s success. A license to predict one’s own journey and destination, to venture out with ideas, thoughts, projects, experiments, books, podcasts, youtube channels, online stores, blogs, diets, courses and training programs, hobbies, and all sorts of personal endeavors.
It’s all about courage. Have the courage to say what you want and express yourself. Do the work that brings you the most pleasure and where you feel the most motivated. Give it your everything and enjoy the practice.
“Show your work” is the name of an Austin Kleon book that is quite frankly self-explanatory but that you should check out especially if you’re attempting something creative. Seth Godin most recently published another important book “The Practice” that addresses the same issue of following through with doing the work.
Seth said in one of his interviews something to the effect of “show me your bad work before you can tell me you can’t do it.” People stop themselves in their tracks by not doing anything simply for the fear of failure and of being ridiculed.
If we heed the advice of all people who achieved success, it all comes down to focus, practice, doing the work every day regardless of what everyone thinks or says because it’s irrelevant, and doing it all for yourself because you love yourself. No one can live your own life for you, and everyone else is busy with theirs anyway.
Indeed, it’s all about you ‘loving yourself like your life depends on it’. Even acts of selflessness and giving are ultimately self-serving because teaching, helping people out and everything that you do that makes you useful essentially brings you torrents of joy and pays innumerable dividends in reputation and goodwill.
When you start taking care of your body, eating the right food, quitting sugar and carbs, and moving your muscles, and breaking a sweat, it’s not just going to benefit you, even though it will have a direct effect on you personally. But the compounding effect of you being healthy and leading a joyful healthy life is when people around you see you as a driving force for change, try to emulate you, and ask you for tips. That’s beside the extra energy that will saturate you and allow you to do more of what you love, care for your family, and help your friends and community.
So my short advice to you today is to love yourself, have courage, show up, do something for your own sake, follow through regardless of what people may think, keep at it, be positive and be optimistic.
I will leave you with this powerful clip by Joe Rogan where he talks about the truest path to happiness. Listen to the man.
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