The future is about change; both dangerous discontinuity and positive permutation. The future is very complicated. The whole of it is greater than the sum of the parts – you can’t really understand it by simply looking at it’s individual parts. And, as American writer George Will said, “The future has a way of arriving unannounced.”

In today’s connected V.U.C.A. world, everyone has the opportunity to know what’s new and what’s happening. The differentiator is how to have foresight to see what’s important, how to make sense of available options, and understand how to get ahead of the rush. We know our uncertain future will require action. Every future does. However, more important than action is a prepared mind. Yes, a mind that is prepared for the always-uncertain future; that is prepared to act – when the time is right.

You see, action is not just about doing, it is about being prepared to do.

The attack of the future can come suddenly and from virtually any direction. In this sense, the prepared mind is analogous to the martial arts, especial aikido where you absorb the motion of the attack and redirect the force rather than opposing it head on. The martial arts teach a state of readiness that allows for an appropriate and proportionate response. That response could be attack, retreat, or a clever way to manage the dilemma without resorting to violence.

This state of readiness has been described a number of ways:

  • relaxed anticipation
  • unfocused awareness
  • active waiting
  • urgent patience

Before you tune out on the martial arts speak, it is the ability to hold multiple realities in your mind without rushing to judgment, without over or under reacting. It embodies such skills as critical thinking, careful attention and discipline, cautious rigor, mastery of mental and emotional faculties, and a keen awareness of people and situations.

Prepared how? In The Prepared Mind of a Leader, authors Welter and Egmon chronicle eight distinctive skill areas to develop that prepared state of readiness:

  • Observing. Seeing beyond the obvious.
  • Reasoning. Moving from the known to the undetermined.
  • Imagining. Envisioning the future before it arrives.
  • Challenging. Pushing for higher and deeper thinking.
  • Deciding. Choosing with consequences in mind.
  • Learning. Keeping a developmental mindset.
  • Enabling. Exercising leadership from the outside in.
  • Reflecting. Looking backward, forward, and inward.

The martial arts novice tends to focus on the weapon of the attacker. The weapon in itself is inert. The intent of the one holding the weapon is far more important and potentially dangerous. You can’t really understand it by simply looking at the weapon. It’s the whole picture, the totality, that matters; that determines an appropriate and proportionate response.

In Other Words…

“Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. I have only begun to learn content and peace of mind since I have resolved at all risks to do this.” ― Thomas Henry Huxley, Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley – Volume 1

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

“Another way to be prepared is to think negatively. Yes, I’m a great optimist. but, when trying to make a decision, I often think of the worst case scenario. I call it ‘the eaten by wolves factor.’ If I do something, what’s the most terrible thing that could happen? Would I be eaten by wolves? One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist, is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about, because I have a plan in place if they do.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

“Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability…. We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” ― Thomas A. Edison

“If you believe you can accomplish everything by “cramming” at the eleventh hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining” ― Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

In The Word…

“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” – Proverbs 6:6-8

In Linked Words…

Your scary future, Part 7: how do you find comfort in an uncomfortable world?
Your scary future, Part 6; flexing and all that jazz

Your scary future, Part 4: the lady or the tiger?
Your scary future, Part 3: sense and sensibility
Your scary future, Part 2: what kind of problem do you have?
Your scary future, Part 1